'Five Year Engagement' films Emily Blunt, Jason Segel's meeting at Cavern Club, Ann Arbor

How cool is that? BTW, over the years, I’ve been to the Cavern Club many a time– nice place for some cocktails, live music, and dancing!


Movie-equipment trucks outside the Cavern Club complex on Thursday.

Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com

So Jason Segel, dressed as a giant pink bunny, and Emily Blunt, dressed as Princess Diana, meet cute at a costume party …

At least, they did in a “Five Year Engagement” scene filmed Thursday at Ann Arbor’s Cavern Club – a large, multi-floor nightclub complex at 210 S. First St. that also houses The Millenium Club, Gotham City and Circus.

“This is where (the characters) first meet in the movie,” said Cavern Club owner Nick Easton. “It’s supposed to be a superhero costume party. That’s what they told me it was. But I don’t know where you get a giant pink bunny from that.”

Because the romantic comedy has a screenplay by Segel and director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), and Judd Apatow is one of the film’s producers, one could easily speculate that the mixup is a comedic case of crossed wires. (The film reportedly follows Segel and Blunt through five years of love, fights, break-ups, and reconciliations.)

And although Easton owns the venue where the “Engagement” shoot took place on Thursday, he wasn’t allowed to get very close to the action.

“I had to be a ways away,” he said. “They don’t really want anybody who’s not connected with the production to see too much, because they want it to be a surprise when the movie comes out. There was very limited access, but I got to see a few minutes of what going on, and it was fun.”

Easton was first contacted by an “Engagement” location scout in January or February, and crews started working to create the right look for the Cavern Club scenes on Monday.

“They spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday building the sets,” said Easton. “And we’re talking about a crew of carpenters and electricians and set designers — there must have been a couple dozen of them — (working) from 6 in the morning to 6 at night, for three days, and they’re tearing it out today (Friday). It doesn’t take them near as long to tear it out as it does to put it in. They’ve got a big 40-yard dumpster out front that they’re putting everything in.”

How did the Cavern Club look, once all the set work was finished?

“They covered the entire ceiling and most of the walls, and any of the posts, with chicken wire, and then, on top of the chicken wire, they put thousands of white lights, like Christmas lights, all throughout the chicken wire,” said Easton. “So then came the lighting, and then, on top of that went Visqueeen — these huge sheets of painter’s drop cloths — clear Visqueen that they had sprayed shades of orange and blue glitter paint on. So they stapled that over the chicken wire … to make it look more cavernous and rocky. So it was these very uneven, bulbousy ceilings and walls that made it look like you’re in the middle of a sparkly cave, with stalagmites and stalactites. … It was almost a dreamlike effect.

“And then when all the costume people got in there, it was quite a scene in the middle of all this glitter and light. There was glitter everywhere. They covered the floors with glitter, and the bar’s covered with glitter.”

Plus, the film’s set designers added several pieces of furniture to the scene.

“I couldn’t believe all the furniture they kept bringing into the Cavern Club, which was already pretty full,” said Easton. “But the set designers brought in their own couches and chairs that were wrapped in this plastic, and then sprayed them in silver and gold, so that also reflected off of all the other glitter going on. So I couldn’t believe they would get all that stuff down there, but they did, and it was fun to see, behind the scenes, how many people were involved. It was just dozens of people, running monitors and handling the equipment that they use.”

AnnArbor.com had previously reported that the “Engagement” team first planned to shoot at Detroit’s MGM Casino on Thursday, and then start shooting at the Cavern Club late last night, but apparently, the schedule changed.

“They ended up leaving Detroit late (Wednesday night), and so … it turned out that they weren’t there as long as they thought they were going to need to be, so they got here earlier,” said Easton. “But I saw a timed schedule of how everything was supposed to go on, and they had pretty much adhered to that schedule. They were gone (from the Cavern Club) last night by 11 o’clock.”

The crew’s day at the Cavern Club started early, however, according to Easton.

“The crew started to get here about 5 in the morning (on Thursday), and the actors started arriving around 10:30 in the morning, and they had their rehearsals at around 11:30,” he said. “And then — we’re talking about the actors and maybe 100 extras that were in costumes — they used the Millennium Club for a gathering point, where they had refreshments and a holding area for the extras. And they had food service so that people could get snacks during the day, and then they had another location where they took them by bus for meals.”

The Cavern Club’s cave-like atmosphere likely played a role in catching the “Engagement” team’s eye, but that probably wasn’t the only factor.

“They needed a lot of room for all these people, and then all the equipment,” said Easton. “I was commenting to somebody that, I don’t know how they could do it in a small place, because of the number of people involved, 100 extras, plus there might have been 50 behind-the-scenes people. You have no idea how many people are watching every movement. And then the equipment. … So we had that going for us. And we’re on different levels, so they could have food service on one floor, and a holding area.”

Easton said it was his understanding the “Engagement” production team would be shooting at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest today (Friday), as well as a local used car lot. But even so, Easton will be seeing the cast and crew again.

“They’ve rented the Cavern Club for tomorrow (Saturday) night, for the cast and crew kickoff party for the movie,” said Easton. “They’ll be in town the next two months.”

Stars from the movie have already been quite visible around Ann Arbor. Cast members who enjoyed Stoo’s Karaoke at Circus this past weekend requested that Stoo join in the fun at the kickoff party, too.

“It’s great exposure for the Cavern Club,” said Easton. “ … We’ve had a couple of commercials filmed here before, so we’d had a taste of it, but this was pretty special because it was part of a full length movie.”

Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.


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