Omaha is no Hollywood, but during the past week the hometown of director Alexander Payne got a front row seat to movie-making.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

If you weren’t lucky enough to be one of the dozens of locals cast as extras in Payne’s latest movie, “Downsizing,” there’s a good chance you heard someone talking about actors Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig being in town for the filming. Fans and extras were elated at how generous the stars were with their time — answering questions and posing for pictures. “What a positive thing for the whole city,” said the Rev. Tom Neitzke, president of Creighton Prep, where the movie crew spent time on Wednesday.




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Filming Monday included scenes at Borsheims in Regency Court and at a home on Douglas Street in midtown.
There was no way to escape the commotion on Monday evening in the neighborhood of 46th and Douglas Streets.
Parking on streets in the area was tight and roadways were blocked by a private security company. Residents were outside on porches and walking about despite the cool weather, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the action.
Matt Damon, star of "The Martian," "Good Will Hunting" and the Jason Bourne movie series, made his first appearance of the week, and the race for celebrity selfies began.




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During 'Downsizing' filming, La Casa customers, employees get a front-row seat for the action

Filming Tuesday included shots at La Casa Pizzaria near 44th and Leavenworth Streets and at the Omaha Steaks distribution center.
Payne refueled with La Casa pizza Tuesday while directing shots for his latest movie, “Downsizing,” outside the Leavenworth Street pizzeria.
Victor Hahn, the assistant manager, said the restaurant would be used for exterior shots only. Damon apparently wasn’t at La Casa on Tuesday.
But Damon and Payne were spotted together Tuesday at the Omaha Steaks distribution center.
Hahn said Tuesday was “quite an interesting day” at La Casa. While film crews were shooting near the entrance, customers eating inside had a front-row seat to the action. But when they were ready to leave, customers had to exit through the basement. They didn’t mind, though. The customers thought it was all pretty cool, Hahn said.
The restaurant stayed open about an hour past closing time so the film crew could eat after it wrapped for the day.




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Filming Wednesday included shots at Creighton Prep and the Old Market. Co-star Kristen Wiig made her first appearance.
About 20 Omaha extras were used Wednesday to film a high school reunion scene with Damon and Wiig.
“We were told to act as if we were seeing friends we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Marian Fey, the executive director of the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and an Omaha Public Schools board member. “We also couldn’t talk out loud because they had sensitive mikes.”
The extras were encouraged to wear clothing they would wear to a high school reunion, but Fey said most were dressed by the wardrobe staff because they didn’t have the look the film crew wanted.
While the campus was shut down after classes, a few Prep students interested in filmmaking were able to share projects and ideas with Payne, a Prep alum. Both Damon and Payne autographed a golf flag to be auctioned at Prep’s annual BASH fundraiser April 23.
Coincidentally, Prep students had been raising money for Damon’s charity, Water.org, even before they knew he would be coming to Omaha. Father Neitzke told Damon all about it.
After wrapping at Prep, the crews headed downtown to the Old Market to film outside Jams near 11th and Harney Streets.



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Filming Thursday took place back at the home near 46th and Douglas Streets.
On the last day of filming in Omaha, Damon was joined by Wiig for filming at the Douglas Street house. She wore a Huskers shirt and waved to the crowd that gathered. Wiig replaced Reese Witherspoon in the movie after Witherspoon had a scheduling conflict.
A sign on the set had been painted to announce a "downsizing moving sale."
Off the set, Omahan Katrina Markel remembered her experience as an extra in Payne's first movie, filmed in Omaha, "Citizen Ruth."
"It was the very last night … and we were shooting scenes in Memorial Park and Dundee," she wrote. "Thanks to the relaxed and friendly vibe on the set, I was made to feel welcome by everyone."

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