The brick and marble of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus will double for the brick and marble of Harvard University in "The Social Network," a movie about the creation of Facebook that will shoot here Monday and Tuesday.
Top-billed Jesse Eisenberg, the star of the hit "Zombieland," plays Mark Zuckerberg, the computer whiz who came up with the structure for Facebook. Eisenberg will make the trip to Baltimore for shooting on the Hopkins campus. Justin Timberlake, who plays Facebook's founding president, Sean Parker, has not been penciled in for any Hopkins-based scenes. The film has been shooting in Boston in October and will return in November to Los Angeles, where it will wrap in February.
"The Social Network" director David Fincher previously made "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." Baltimore lost that film to New Orleans because of Louisiana's aggressive film-production incentive program. The location manager for both films, Bill Doyle, says that Hopkins has never before been used to play Harvard, and it was not the obvious choice. But the suggestion that Hopkins could "cheat" for Harvard came from within the "Social Network" team. And Doyle says the relationships Fincher and Doyle had developed with the Maryland and Baltimore film offices, along with Hopkins' cooperation, made the decision to come to Baltimore easy once they began scouting here.
"Maryland has the best film commission in the business, that's for sure," says Doyle. "I told [film commissioner] Jack Gerbes I would make up for 'Benjamin Button' some day. I don't think a two-day shoot makes up for that, but it's a start."
Gerbes responds, "Any time you have the chance to get a filmmaker the stature of David Fincher, you grab it."
Dennis O'Shea, Hopkins' director of communications and public affairs, says that Gerbes' presentation of Hopkins' Georgian-style architecture helped cinch the production's interest - and that the quality of the project helped sell "The Social Network" to Hopkins. Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing," "Charlie Wilson's War") wrote the script from research Ben Mezrich conducted for his controversial book, "The Accidental Billionaires." Doyle says the screenplay is an original creation, and early credit lists do not mention Mezrich.
O'Shea says "minimal disruption" was the goal for both the university and the filmmakers. Except for one daytime scene on Monday, the shooting will take place at night.
Debbie Dorsey, director of the Baltimore Film Office, says that some shooting will take place on Charles Street at night, but no re-routing is expected.
In a university announcement released early on Tuesday, O'Shea wrote, "Johns Hopkins is pleased to host the filming, in part as an economic recovery effort....the film industry in Maryland has been hard hit by the recession, leaving many local industry crews without steady employment."
"The Social Network" plans to employ 75 to 80 local crew from Sunday, when preparation starts, to Wednesday, when the production packs up and goes.