UCI’s Love Affair with Cinema

David Conley/New University

Typically, initial perceptions of the UC Irvine paint it to be an example of a neutral campus; pop culture entertainment rarely touches our school.

However, since the inception of the university in 1965, several famous movies have filmed a scene or two on the campus grounds. Additionally, UCI has been the alma mater for numerous people who’ve made a name for their selves in Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world.

I first present to you the most famous movies that have filmed on the UCI campus.

“Ocean’s 11” (2001): In 2001, acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh and his star-studded cast filmed on the UCI campus for a scene where Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his team had to steal a “pinch” to create an electromagnetic pulse. The scene was filmed at the Gillespie Neuroscience Research Facility part of campus, and it took place over a weekend when the university was closed. During the weekend production, Clooney and the rest of the cast and crew had a late-night dinner on campus, too!

“Poltergeist” (1982): In 1982, moviegoers were scared for many reasons when they saw the infamous ’80s horror movie “Poltergeist.” However, what most of you may not know, some of the scenes were filmed at Langson Library, specifically when Steve Freeling goes to visit Marsh Lesh, the person who exorcises the spirits from the home. Think twice about studying alone late at night there!

“Conquest of the Planet of the Apes” (1972): The fourth entry in the now six-film saga of the world being controlled by highly intelligent primates that enslaved the human race also used UCI’s unique architecture. If you look very closely at the opening sequence of the film, you’ll recognize that it was filmed on the steps of the Social Science Tower leading to the ring.

The most noteworthy scene filmed here, though, was when the apes storm through the university administration building to revolt against their human rulers. That metaphor still occasionally raises questions among students, faculty and UCI administrators on who amongst us are the humans and the apes.

Vinson Gotingco/New University

By now, you should have the feeling that UC Irvine has had more exciting entertainment history than you previously thought. On the other hand, the university has been prominent as an alma mater for people who have moved on to finding success in film, television or music outside campus. Listed below are several people who have illuminated that status since graduating.

Joseph McGinty Nichol (McG): Graduating from UCI with a B.A. in psychology in 1990, McG began his career as a music video director, directing for several famous bands of the 1990s that included Sugar Ray, The Offspring, Korn and Smash Mouth. He then moved on to directing mainstream Hollywood films, most notably the “Charlie’s Angels” films and fourth entry in the internationally acclaimed Terminator franchise, “Terminator Salvation.”

In addition, he has executive produced numerous popular television shows of the 2000s, most notably “The O.C.,” “Chuck” and “Supernatural.” Today, McG is still a recognizable face in Hollywood, and he recently released his latest film “This Means War” on Feb. 17.

Jon Lovitz: Six years after graduating from UCI with a degree in theater, Jon Lovitz became a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” There, he became perhaps most known for the character was Tommy Flanagan, the pathological liar. He remained with the cast for five years until he moved on to pursue roles in both movies and animation.

His most notable voice role in animation was as Jay Sherman, the title character of the short-lived cult animated series “The Critic.” He also voiced several recurring characters on “The Simpsons,” most notably Marge’s ex-prom date Artie Ziff. Lovitz can also be seen in supporting roles for many comedies, which include “The Wedding Singer,” “Rat Race,” “Little Nicky” and more.

David Benioff: David Benioff graduated from UCI in 1999 with an M.F.A. in literature. His first novel, titled “The 25th Hour,” was published in 2002 and later adapted into a screenplay for a feature film that starred Edward Norton and was directed by Spike Lee. His success from “The 25th Hour” led to him writing films that included “Troy,” “The Kite Runner” and “Brothers.”

His biggest and most recent success though, was co-developing the highly acclaimed HBO series “Game of Thrones,” which was based off of the novels by George R. R. Martin. He has co-written a total of eight of the show’s 10 episodes, and the series is set to begin its second season this April.

If you look at those examples, you’ll see that UCI hasn’t began the careers for internationally known pop culture icons. However, keep in mind that it doesn’t matter how well-known the college is that you attend; it’s how well you choose to utilize your major in the real world after graduation. And these aforementioned iconic films and UCI alumni are an inspiration to all students here that aspire to enter into the illustrious world of entertainment.