Media Life: “Protocol” showing to bring back memorable Auburn movie moment

Superstar actress Goldie Hawn, hot director Herbert Ross shot scenes in Old Town
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Rolling the 1984 Goldie Hawn movie “Protocol” will also give Auburn a chance to roll out the memories. “Protocol” will be screened under the stars starting at about 9 p.m. Wednesday outside the Old Town Post Office. The film is the first in a series of outdoor Auburn Movie Nights this summer. It’s a replacement for “Phenomenon,” which Disney had a hard time saying “yes” to for an Auburn showing. But it’s a fitting one nonetheless, given its connection to Auburn. “Phenomenon” touched down for filming in Auburn for more than a month in the fall of 1995, bringing stars John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker and Robert Duvall to Old Town and its environs. But before there was “Phenomenon” – which is normally judged the quintessential “Auburn movie” – there was “Protocol.” The shoot was a quite a bit shorter – a single long day in May 1984, with a couple of days prep time – but the star power was high wattage and the scenes that made it onto the big screen memorable. Auburn doubled as small-town-and-proud-of-it Diamond Junction. The city caught the attention of Warner Bros. after Placer County’s economic development commission sent photographs of the Auburn courthouse. Hawn at that time 26 years ago was at, or near, the top of her game. Already an Oscar winner, she had been an A-list star for more than a decade. Auburn embraced Hawn when she came to Old Town for the May 7 filming and Hawn embraced the community. The filming took all day and Hawn spent time between scenes signing autographs, shopping in several of the antique stores in Old Town and kibitzing with locals about everything from the city’s past to bees. RETURN VISIT? Hawn remarked that she had never visited Auburn before but hoped it wouldn’t be the last time. While there are no signs of a return, her long-time significant other Kurt Russell has had a cup of coffee or two in the community since then. He spent several days in Auburn in 1996 filming the suspense flick “Breakdown,“ most notably on the American River and in Newcastle. Herbert Ross, who died in 2001, was the “Protocol” director. About 100 extras had been chosen for what was going to be a homecoming parade for Hawn’s character but he decided to double that and the call went out on the front page of the Journal on the day before the shoot for some additional extras. Ross was the other big Hollywood name in Auburn that day. He’d been nominated for an Academy Award in 1977 for “The Turning Point,” and had directed “The Goodbye Girl” and “Sunshine Boys.” And he was also at the helm of “Footloose,” which had just been released in February of that year. BACON BACK That gives Auburn another degree of Bacon, if you’re playing the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game along at home. Kevin Bacon was the star of “Footloose.” And turning up the Baconmeter, he’s married to “Phenomenon” leading-lady Sedgwick. Unlike “Footloose,” there was no dancing in the streets of Auburn for “Protocol.” But a count showed 209 area residents hired as marchers and additional extras. And Ross had a bang-up procession. Several classes from nearby Lincoln Way School were whisked over to the set and 42 Placer High School Band members marched in the faux parade. Twelve Hillman football players were happy to don the Diamond Junction Cougars jersey and, like the band, donated their pay that day to school programs. Mayor Gene Wise, now an Auburn Lake Trails resident, found himself riding in the parade and eight Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion members added some color. Auburn fire and police departments also were represented and four locals found themselves swathed in dark glasses playing Secret Service agents. RAIN ENDED SHOOT The whole, magical day in Old Town ended with a downpour – actually four of them. Even Ross was soaked as fire hoses raised onto booms created artificial rainstorms until the director was satisfied that he had what he wanted. And Auburn will get another chance to collectively watch itself this coming Wednesday. Linda Robinson, a member of the committee putting the outdoor film series together, said she’s hoping to see some of the many people involved with “Protocol” that day in May show up for what could turn into an impromptu reunion of sorts. Robinson recalls being part of the hubbub that day, being part of a group shot and getting paid $59. There may be time before the movie is screened for a few shared memories with the audience, she said.