Sidney Poitier, a legendary Hollywood star and former ambassador for the Bahamas, died Jan. 6 at the age of 94.
In “Little Nikita” —which was filmed in and around San Diego and La Mesa — Poitier co-starred with 16-year-old River Phoenix (a North County resident). A parade scene that was filmed in downtown La Mesa with hundreds of residents lining the streets as extras became a major sequence in the movie. The locals got a free lunch, and bragging rights, but no pay. “Little Nikita” was largely panned by critics. “San Diego, however, looks terrific,” wrote one reviewer.
From The San Diego Union, Monday, March 30, 1987:
‘Fountain Grove’ turns out
Really, it’s La Mesa, where a movie parade was filmed
By A. Dahleen Glanton, Staff Writer
For some, it was the once-in-a-lifetime chance to appear in a major motion picture. For others, it was an easy way to make a buck. But for most, it was just a fun way to spend the day.
About 2,000 people lined a three-block area of La Mesa Boulevard yesterday for the filming of a parade scene in Columbia Pictures’ “Little Nikita.” In the movie, La Mesa is the fictitious town of Fountain Grove, and residents were invited to turn out in droves to watch the mock Armed Services Day Parade.
There were marching bands from “Fountain Grove High School,” alias Mount Carmel High School, San Diego’s Morse High School and Mount Helix High. And there were floats, beauty queens, clowns and a group of Pearl Harbor survivors.
Most of the spectators, who included paid extras and curious residents from La Mesa and San Diego, started flocking to La Mesa Village before 7 a.m. By noon, they had watched the scene refilmed more than a dozen times.
“When they say take one, take two and take three, they’re really saying take all day,” said Bo Willum, a member of the San Diego State University Clown Club.
“It’s fun, it’s tiring and it’s hot,” said clown Mindy Mo. “Now I know what it takes to be in the movies.”
The long delays were not a problem for the young people who turned out especially to see 16-year-old River Phoenix. Phoenix, who co-stars with Sidney Poitier in the film, was a participant in the parade.
“This is really neat because it has River Phoenix in it,” said Tonya Ramos, 11. “We got real close to him one time. He’s major gorgeous.”
Word had circulated through the crowd that Poitier, who plays an FBI agent, would not be present Sunday. But the star, dressed in white pants and a white shirt, was spotted strolling down the street later. Observers speculated that he had been among the crowd incognito during the entire filming.
Jonell Blevins, a children’s counselor for Battered Women’s Services, was one of the 100 or so people chosen as extras. She was paid $40 a day to wave an American flag and cheer along the sidelines.
“I did it so I can become an actress, so I can be a star,” she said. “But they don’t really show the crowd in the movie. You’re really lucky if you see yourself in the film.”
Isabelle Redaelli, an exchange student from Switzerland, said she found the experience less thrilling than she had expected.
“I wanted to see how it all works. But so far it’s been mostly sitting and waiting,” she said.
Gail Knight thought the filming would be an educational experience for her two young children, Steven and Saleemah. But after almost three hours of watching it over and over, her 7-year-old son had just one response.
“It’s boring,” he said. Earlier, Steven had eaten one of the ice cream bars that was supposed to be a prop.
The shooting was completed about 1 p.m. and everybody was invited to a free lunch beneath a big tent down the block.
Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com