Around The Town

Written by Katherine on January 3rd, 2010

This past fall found the streets of Cambridge lined by camera rigging and film crews as it once again became the setting for several upcoming feature films.

Scenes from the movie The Social Network, the story of the creation of Facebook in a college dorm room, were filmed in various locations throughout Cambridge—although apparently the Harvard University campus won’t have a starring role in this film, as Johns Hopkins has been cast instead. And alas, Justin Timberlake did not grace the streets of our fair city: locals were disappointed to learn that his face would be inserted post-production via CGI in scenes recently filmed on the Charles River.

In other movie news, Ben Affleck recently returned to his native turf to star and direct in The Town, a thriller based on the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan and adapted for the screen by Affleck himself (perhaps an argument against those who seek to discount his contributions to the Good Will Hunting screenplay?)

Ben Affleck and John Hamm on the set of The Town in Harvard Square.

Ben Affleck and John Hamm on the set of The Town in Harvard Square.

Walking to work through the production crews, camera equipment and massive coils of cables during a recent filming brought to my mind a favorite scene in Good Will Hunting and a fixture that will be familiar to anyone who regularly passes through Harvard Square.

Spare Change News is a local alternative newspaper here in Cambridge that is produced and sold by homeless and formerly homeless volunteers. Locals will be familiar with the vendors who take up posts on the city streets to sell the paper to passersby.

One such post is located directly in front of the large Au Bon Pain situated in the middle of the Square. This just happens to be the location of a key scene from the movie in which we learn that, although he can’t paint, play music, or hit a homerun out of Fenway, when it came to math, Will could always “just play.”

Sure enough, in the background of this scene, you can see Spare Change News Guy.

(True Cantabrigians may also notice the incongruity between the coffee cups from Peet’s coffee, and the location, Au Bon Pain.)

It’s a great tribute to the city of Cambridge that so much of it is still recognizable and intact. It’s one of the things I love most about this movie.

I was reminded of this lately as I passed crews from The Town filming in almost the same location. Spare Change News Guy was nearby, as always. I couldn’t help but wonder whether he will be making what promises to be (as far as I know, anyway) his second major film role. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Update: I was mortified to learn that there was a mistake in my inaugural Blog Will Hunting post!

Peet’s Coffee was served at Au Bon Pain locations between 1995-1998, so there were actually no incongruities in that scene. Obviously, I’m not a true Cantabrigian (full disclosure: I’m actually from Rhode Island.)

I stand corrected.


Katherine once gave a high school film studies class presentation on GWH and showed a scene from the movie on a VHS cassette tape from the library. However, instead of the scene in the NSA office, she inadvertently showed the end of the masturbation scene.

This is Katherine’s inaugural Blog Will Hunting contribution.

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11 Comments so far ↓

  1. Alex says:

    I never noticed the Peet’s coffee in the Au Bon Pain scene before — I like to think that it’s a shout out to local businesses (as Peet’s is a local chain) and perhaps the cast and crew prefer it to Au Bon Pain. Though we should not neglect to mention that the Harvard Square Au Bon Pain was its first location, even if it is a superchain now.

    Sometimes I see the Spare Change News Guy (there are other distributors of Spare Change, but this guy is THE guy) on the bus or around town and it’s very disorienting that he’s being quiet and keeping to himself and not complimenting me as I walk by him. One almost doesn’t recognize him.

  2. Alex says:

    Also, I’m not sure where I heard this, or if it is true, but supposedly Harvard hardly ever allows film shoots on campus. The Good Will Hunting scenes were shot elsewhere, as have other recent memorable Harvard films. I believe Love Story, twentysomething years ago, is (one of?) the only films to actually be shot on campus. For The Social Network, they have to make a Harvard Yard at Andover.

  3. Katherine says:

    Apparently Harvard has a formal ban against commercial filming on campus:

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2009/11/12/even-university-filming-annoyed/

  4. Mark says:

    The Peet’s cups are correct for Au Bon Pain. Up until around 98/99, they served Peet’s coffee chain-wide.

    If you went into any Au Bon Pain back then, you’d have got a ‘Peet’s’ cup for hot coffee/tea, an ‘ONICE’ cup for juice and some cold drinks, and a paper ‘Au Bon Pain’ cup for soda or iced coffee.

    I think they switched over to ‘Ritazza’ coffee then . . . Peet’s is best!

  5. Katherine says:

    What?? Oh, man, I can’t believe I didn’t know that… (Obviously I am not a true Cantabrigian.)

    Thanks, Mark!

  6. Alex says:

    And I just assumed Matt Damon wanted to support local businesses. Oh well. That’s so fascinating though!! A Good Will Hunting mystery explained!

  7. Alex says:

    I’m on the #1 bus with the Spare Change News Guy RIGHT NOW. This is like Gawker or something.

  8. Mike says:

    Peet’s isn’t a local business, Alex. Zong!

  9. Mark says:

    No problem . . . I was a big ABP guy back in the day (there was one in my building), and remember the cups well . . . I noticed them from my first viewing. ;)

    FWIW, the ‘Nashua . . . sheep . . . tend to them’ line got a good laugh up in Tyngsboro at the cinema by the state line . . . and Nashua. :D

  10. Alex says:

    Wow, for some reason I thought Peet’s was a local chain. But it was actually first in California, and apparently it is a public company now. So not that locally owned or operated. Next thing you’ll be telling me they have Starbucks locations outside of Seattle.

  11. Alex says:

    Maybe Will was actually going out to California for Peet's coffee.

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