At the corner of Tybrisa and Strand on Tybee Island, Georgia is a white building with deep blue trim painted across its top and blue panels in a steel frame that outline the spotless glass windows that reflect the morning sun. Two parked police cars in front of this building appear to be like old war horses resting from a busy night of fighting “beach crime”. The freshly painted round sign to the right of the door says Daytona Beach Police. A worn out and very municipal looking bench is in front of the building and a tall palm plant at the end of the building frames off this typical police station. In front of the building the American flag flaps noisily as the ocean breeze stretches it and flails it in the wind. This police station is so convincing that a few tourists actually walk in to pay parking tickets. But this is Tybee Island, Georgia- not Daytona Beach Florida, and reality is always a relative term here.
Tybee Island is now the new Hollywood for many movie makers. Already in 2015 there are three movies in production that use this island as a backdrop to produce blockbuster movies such as Magic Mike XXL and of course that pineapple under the sea must be just past the Tybee Pier because Spongebob Out of Water made Tybee the location for Bikini Bottom. On this particular Thursday morning Tybee is, again, the set for a movie with Robert De Niro and Zac Efron.
Officer Mosely (a real Tybee Island police officer) is busy stringing rope through barricades to hold back anxious onlookers hoping for a glimpse of Mr. De Niro or Mr. Efron. This day they are not disappointed as a couple of street scenes unfold before their eyes.
I see movies in production on Tybee Island often so an element of the glamour is tarnished with me. The entire summer with Miley Cyrus alone is enough. Yet the excitement generated by the activity does create curiosity and after all, this is ROBERT DE NIRO.
My small involvement with the Stay Tybee operation is enough to get me in their building which is now a pseudo police precinct. I sit quietly with others in the dimly lit back office area waiting for the production crew to finish making the front lobby look “police-ish”.
A young man bolted past the crew with complete disregard, looks at us and rather pensively asks if he could use the bathroom. He uses it and quickly moves into the front office which is the ready room for Zac Efron. So that’s him, well, now I know.
I can hear Zac talking, arguing in the room while pacing about. Who is he talking to? He certainly is, as my grandmother would say, “Blessing them out”. He is on a tangent telling this person how they wrecked his life and they did not have any regard for him. I look for the other person and no one is there. When he turns I see there is no bluetooth or cell phone so he is just arguing alone. I notice he repeats what he said over and over adding inflection and then I realize he is rehearsing his lines for the next scene with Mr. De Niro.
So what about De Niro. I imagine a scenario like this. My mind fades into this daydream of how our meeting would go. In my imagination I would say:
Ross: Do you have a question, Mr. De Niro? Are you searching for answers? An important daily question we all seek the answer to? Are you troubled with an insatiable appetite?
De Niro: You taukin’ ta me? (with more intensity) You taukin’ ta me?
Ross: Yes. Can I be in the circle of trust?
I then read some menu selections from Where to Eat Savannah and Mr. De Niro is now satisfied knowing the solution to his hunger and thanks me for answering the question of where to eat for him and proclaims me the new “God Focker”.
At this point I break away from the daydream to realize Robert De Niro is standing right there waiting to pose for a picture with me. I get my picture taken so they can proceed with the filming.
72 year old Robert De Niro waits quietly in the dimly lit office that is prepared as a ready room for him. A tall directors chair waits for him to sit but he chooses to stand and wait until time to go to work. Crew members bat about with 2-way radios in contact with the others outside preparing to film this scene where De Niro and Efron move from inside the police station with a long dialogue flowing as the walk from the inside of the building and out across the street.
Robert is told they are ready and he waits patiently just off camera for his entrance. Zac is in front of him fidgeting and rocking back as if he were a runner about to start a race. A quiet tension builds as the two wait for all of the technical elements involved with filming a scene are in place and the camera is rolling. They are cued and begin walking out the door talking while two extras in police uniforms are nearby giving the appearance of a busy police station.
In a moment they are back in place to do it all again. As the cue comes again, Zac makes a step forward- turns back around almost losing his balance -then says, “wait I need a moment”. Robert looks down with a blank stare as if holding back a grimace, and steps into his ready room to wait. He is quietly pacing and remaining tucked out of the way to give his co-star time to compose himself for the scene. Zac appears deep in thought and getting “in the zone” for this important scene. In a moment he is back and ready. They accomplish several more takes of this scene and move outside to shoot more as the daylight is starting to fade.
In addition to this scene, a good portion of the day is spent driving a pink car down Tybrisa Street and shooting several other outdoor scenes. All in all a days for the two men that are depicting a grandpa and grandson. Interestingly these 8 or 9 hours of work are likely to produce maybe a few minutes in the movie.
Dirty Grandpa is an upcoming American comedy film directed by Dan Mazer and written by John Philips. The film stars Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, and Zoey Deutch. Filming began on January 5, 2015 . It is scheduled to be released on February 26, 2016.
Tribeca Grill is a restaurant located at 375 Greenwich Street (at Franklin Street) in Tribeca, Manhattan, in New York City, co-owned by Robert De Niro, Drew Nieporent and Lou Diamond Phillips, among others. It opened in 1990. The Executive Chef is Kamal Rose. *