Tina Fey plays a Princeton admission officer in her new movie. (Photo: Courtesy Focus Features)
Princeton plays a prominent role in the new Tina Fey and Paul Rudd film, Admission, opening nationwide March 22. The stars were in town last summer to shoot a few scenes for the movie, which is based on a 2009 novel by former Office of Admission reader Jean Korelitz.
Admission is the latest in a long line of films that feature the campus or the University — though the two don’t always go hand-in-hand. In Harold and Kumar go to White Castle (2004), for example, the title characters briefly visit Princeton, but the scenes were not filmed on campus; in Scent of a Woman (1992), on the other hand, real Princeton buildings stand in for a New England prep school.
Princeton’s film debut came nearly a century ago in the 1915 silent film Satan Sanderson, according to a 1999 PAW feature story by film historian Steven G. Kellman. In the early days of talkies, the University was portrayed as a Roaring ’20s party school in Varsity (1928), starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers. The story did not go over well with administrators — or alumni. One letter to PAW called it “an infantile and unusually moronic screen exhibition.”
After Varsity, the University became more cautious about its on-screen portrayal, only granting access to more flattering films like the biopic Wilson (1944), which biographer A. Scott Berg ’71 called the “most orange-and-black movie” in Princeton’s filmography, with campus scenes (filmed in color), music, and the Locomotive cheer.
More recently, campus scenes have popped up in the life stories of physicist Richard Feynman *42 (Infinity, 1996, with Matthew Broderick as the lead) and mathematician John Nash *50 (A Beautiful Mind, 2001, starring Russell Crowe).
Other films featuring Princeton scenes include People Will Talk (1951), Class of ’44 (1973), I.Q. (1994), One True Thing (1998), Across the Universe (2007), and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009).
What’s your favorite Princeton film? Share your picks in the comments below.