‘Times’: N.J. Yokels Gape at Whirring Picture-Making Contraption

20061025passaic.jpg
Kids and movies meet in Passaic, from today's . Photo: The New York Times


Leave it to the Times to turn a unremarkable detail — Michel Gondry is filming his next cinematic flight of fancy in Passaic, New Jersey, and using residents as extras — into a poignant upstairs-downstairs tableau of clueless locals worshipping at the feet of the French auteur. See, it turns out, urban New Jersey and Hollywood fantasy are different! Who'd have thunk it? The "Metro" section supplies all the shocking details.

• Kids in Passaic are unglamorous: Meet 17-year-old Vincent Oliver, first seen "peering through wire-frame glasses" and breaking into "a gleeful metal-mouthed grin," "braces glinting," at the sight of Danny Glover. "Vincent shook his head, half in a swoon," the paper of record records. "Nothing like this had probably ever happened in Passaic, a struggling, multiethnic city about 12 miles west of Manhattan. Nothing like this might ever happen again."

• Passaic residents are grateful and humbled by the attention: "For reasons that still confound residents of Passaic, who have somewhat of an inferiority complex about where they live, Mr. Gondry not only chose their city as the location for his latest film but was also inspired enough by it to weave its townspeople into the plot."

• Gondry's munificence is vast: "Frank Heins, 41, who used to live in a trailer in the junkyard where he works, was able to join the Screen Actors Guild after landing a small role."

• But it is not limitless: "After giving so many people in Passaic what might, or might not, have been their big break, [Gondry] said many had turned to him for career guidance, hoping, in a way, that he takes them with him when he goes … 'But I'm not going to fix their life. And that's something that makes me a little sad.'"

It makes us sad, too, Michel.

Director Puts New Jersey Town on Film, and on the Map [NYT]