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Paul Thomas Anderson shoots new movie in Berkeley

Night time location shooting at the old Hillside School on Le Roy and Cedar. Photo: Claudia Smukler

This weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood, Magnolia) was shooting scenes for his latest movie in Berkeley — as residents close to the old Hillside School on Le Roy Avenue have been all too aware.

The movie, tentatively entitled The Master, has a star-studded cast, including Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Laura Dern and Philip Seymour-Hoffman (who was spotted at The Claremont Hotel by Berkeleyside on Saturday evening). (See also paparazzi shots of Amy Adams Fiona Dourif in costume at Celebrity Gossip.)

Dozens of trucks and a plethora of location equipment were moved onto the grounds of the former elementary school, and filming has been ongoing since Friday, including under powerful klieg lights after sunset.

The 1925 Hillside Elementary School: location for Paul Thomas Anderson's latest movie, "The Master". Photo: Tracey Taylor

“I live up near the top of Cedar and tonight we had hugely bright lights shining right into our windows emanating from Hillside School,” Berkeleysider Molly Fraker wrote us on Friday. “So I took the dog to investigate… turns out that Paul Thomas Anderson is filming a ‘major motion picture’ tonight inside the school building (a classic structure)… Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix — I’d say that’s notable!”


According to IMDB, The Master is “a 1950s-set drama centered on the relationship between a charismatic intellectual known as ‘the Master’ whose faith-based organization begins to catch on in America, and a young drifter who becomes his right-hand man.”

Security at the Berkeley location was tight. On Saturday lunchtime the set was quiet — shooting was expected to resume later in the afternoon — but this reporter was asked twice not to take photographs, once by the movie’s Assistant Location Manager and once by a security guard.

Dozens of trucks and trailers parked on the Hillside School site for the shoot. Photo: Tracey Taylor

BUSD built Hillside School in 1925 on the site of several homes that were destroyed by the 1923 Berkeley fire, and it is a local historic landmark. The school was eventually closed, partly because it sits near the Hayward Fault, which runs behind it on La Loma Avenue. The District is currently in the process of putting the property up for sale.

The Master isn’t the only movie being shot in Berkeley. Jane Stillwater reports that Leah Meyerhoff, a graduate of Berkeley High, has been shooting scenes for her film Unicorns on the high school campus, among other locations. The movie is a coming-of-age tale with a twist, set in Berkeley.

[Hat tips: Molly Fraker, Claudia Smukler and Laura Walker.]