It started with an unexpected knock on the door. Three days later, Clint Eastwood was standing in the living room of Erik and Betty Rasmussen.
The Arlington couple were among the lucky few last week who caught sight of the Oscar-winning director as well as Leonardo DiCaprio depicting former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover for Eastwood’s upcoming biopic. The production was in town for only a few days and — unlike the typical movie shoot in the nation’s capital — was remarkably low-key. Some locals noticed film trucks; only a handful actually spotted the stars in the District or Northern Virginia.
Unless, of course, they were filming in your house.
“We were enormously impressed with Clint Eastwood as a human being,” Erik Rasmussen told us.
“And he’s so handsome!” purred Betty. (Yes, she purred.)
The Rasmussens have lived for 30 years in their home in a North Arlington neighborhood full of charming older houses. A week ago Sunday, a woman knocked on their door and said, “Do you mind if I see your kitchen?” She explained she was location manager Carol Flaisher looking for a ’60s-era room to shoot a short breakfast scene between the older Hoover (DiCaprio) and Clyde Tolson, his right-hand man and companion (Armie Hammer).
The Rasmussens’ kitchen was perfect: Except for updated granite countertops, the space had glass-door cabinets, no center island to get in the way and a timeless feel. “We’re just not into redecorating in a major way,” Betty explained. “We’re into upkeep.”
Flaisher took a slew of pictures and left, then came back a few hours later with set designers and took even more photos and measurements. Then she asked the couple if they would allow a small army of crew members to invade their home. “She warned us, ‘If you agree, there’ll be 100 people in your house,’ ” Erik said. “And she was right.”
Of course the couple said yes, but kept a discreet silence about the shoot. The Rasmussens declined to reveal the location fee (for a short filming, the low four figures sounds about right). Oh, and the studio paid for all the family’s restaurant meals while the crew took over the kitchen.
Set designers arrived Tuesday to age the room: They removed all the furniture, swapped out the stove for an older model, covered the granite counters with tile and filled the cabinets with old dishes and props. By Wednesday, the house was a beehive of activity: The living and dining rooms had been transformed into makeup and staging areas; light and sound crews brought in equipment; and the food stylists created a camera-ready breakfast for the scene.
A crowd of neighbors started to gather outside, despite the rotten weather. Eastwood arrived late in the afternoon, thanked the owners for the use of their home and posed in pictures with family members. DiCaprio and Hammer arrived soon after and slipped in the back door, already in costume and makeup.
The actors dived in; the short scene took only three hours to complete. The family stayed on the sidelines (and never even met the actors) but chatted with Eastwood and the crew during breaks. The director left through the front door and greeted a few neighbors outside before moving on to yet another home nearby for one more late-night scene.
By noon Thursday, the set designers had restored the kitchen to the way they found it and moved back all the furniture; nothing was broken, and the crew was totally polite and professional. “If this is your first location shoot, you started at the top,” one staffer reassured them. (Seems like a lot of trouble for one scene, especially when it might be simpler to build a set. But the ways of Hollywood are mysterious.)
The Rasmussens said it was a great experience and plan to see the movie twice: Once in the theater and later on DVD, when they can stop the action and jump up and down when they see their kitchen. (A big if: Not every scene makes the final cut.)
“I think the movie will be fabulous,” said Betty.