Chris Columbus is one of those movie people you could interview for hours, weeks — months even. There’s so much you want to know about his movies — that scene in “Home Alone,” that weird cameo in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” that little plot twist in “Harry Potter,” the list is endless. His is the name that would show up in the closing credits of your favorite childhood movie that would make you go: “Who is this guy who makes these amazing magical movies? I wish I could meet him one day.”
We had the fortune to meet the acclaimed writer-director at his office in San Francisco’s Financial District for an interview for "Bay Area Revelations: The Movies," a documentary focusing on the Bay Area's impact on the movie industry. The show airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.
Our Q&A quickly jumped to Donald Trump.
Specifically, how our new president came to be in his movie, “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” in 1992 with Macaulay Culkin, who is stuck in the Big Apple with the Sticky Bandits and cons his way into getting a room at the Plaza Hotel, which was then owned by Trump. Trump sold the hotel in 1995 for $325 million.
Columbus recalls the scene with a smile:
“We were shooting ‘Home Alone 2’ at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and we needed it as a location, because a significant part of ‘Home Alone 2’ took place at the Plaza Hotel."
There was one caveat.
"And the only way we were allowed to shoot at the Plaza Hotel was if Donald Trump — who owned the Plaza — could have a cameo in the movie," Columbus said. "So I wrestled with that for a long time, and finally I said, ‘Okay, he can have a cameo, because we couldn’t move into another hotel.’"
How could Columbus resist?
"The Plaza was iconic," he said. "So we worked for a couple of hours with Donald Trump. He came in, he did his line, and the rest is history.”
And as for what it was like to work with Trump, Columbus said, there wasn't much to it.
“He had one line, ‘Down the hall to the left,’ I think that’s all he had to say. Macaulay asked him for directions, and then Trump gives him the direction, and I think he did the line three or four times and that was it.”
After our Trump queries were satisfied, we talked to Columbus about everything from Robin Williams (who starred in Columbus’s “Mrs. Doubtfire”) to whether he thought the Bay Area was anti-Hollywood (His answer: “It's the brainchild of Hollywood, if anything.”)
Q: Your fondest memory of Robin Williams
A: “Just getting the opportunity to work with him every day. The fondest memories were the days we got to work together. There will never be anything like it again.”
Q: How is shooting in San Francisco different from shooting in L.A.?
A: “I have not shot in L.A. a lot. Shooting in San Francisco is a tremendous amount of fun, because visually it’s beautiful here, and there are so many places to shoot in San Francisco.”
Q: How has social media changed the movie industry?
A: “Social media has changed movies because anyone now can have an opinion about movies — that’s both good and bad. With something like Rotten Tomatoes you can’t really trust the reviews, because there are so many inferior film critics mixed in with real film critics, people who have actual knowledge of cinema history, that it’s very difficult to tell, what’s real, what’s not real. And then there are blogs, and everyone has an opinion, so you can get inundated with maybe too much information.”
Q: Are you a big user of social media?
A: “I use Instagram. That’s about it. I have a Facebook account, which I’m never on. I like Instagram, because it’s a snapshot of something you did that day.”
Q: Your favorite “Harry Potter” movie?
A: "Probably the first three I was involved with.” ("Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.")