One of Greater Lansing’s most recognizable buildings makes its big-screen debut this weekend.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which opens nationwide this weekend, features at least one scene filmed at East Lansing’s Broad Art Museum. It includes the DC Comics “trinity” of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (played by Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill and Gal Gadot, respectively). The museum is even featured in the film’s two official trailers.
“When the first trailer came out, people were really excited,” said Whitney Stoepel-Brewer, director of public relations for the museum. “It blew up on social media. It was getting retweets for weeks.”
Organizing the filming meant coordinating multiple MSU departments and Warner Bros. staffers. Heading up the operation on the MSU side was Kevin Epling, Big Ten Network associate producer and MSU’s manager of university photography and videography.
While the Broad Art Museum scenes for “Batman v Superman” were shot in October 2014, the process began earlier.
“It started because I worked with someone back in 2012 who was working on one of the ‘Transformers’ movies,” Epling said.
The assistant from the “Transformers” movie was looking for interesting buildings on MSU’s campus. While nothing came of these discussions, one of the buildings Epling highlighted was the Broad Art Museum. The same assistant worked on “Batman v Superman,” and he suggested the Broad as a filming location. Representatives from the film came out to scout the museum in early 2014, and that’s when things really got rolling.
“It had a long gestation period,” Epling said.
The angular, spaceship-like appearance of the Broad has been a divisive issue since the building was dropped into the campus’ historic East Circle Drive area in 2012. Its distinctive look, however, is what made it an appealing filming location.
“It was fun to walk through the Broad with (director) Zack Snyder and his top people and look at all the angles and look at the architecture,” Epling said. “I think that’s what really drew them to this site. We have this work-of-art building on our campus, and this is our chance to showcase that to a lot of people.”
“We’re already a landmark in our own right,” added Stoepel-Brewer. “This just solidifies it. I’m excited that people are talking about the museum.”
Scheduling the shooting meant juggling the schedules of both the Broad Art Museum and the cast and crew of the film. Most of the filming was done at night to minimize the impact on the museum.
“We started conversations with the movie crew months before they were here,” said Stephanie Kribs, Broad Art Museum director of facilities. “The Broad is a valuable building. We wanted to make sure we could keep everything safe and protect the integrity of the museum and the art.”
“Stephanie and the staff at the Broad did an excellent job in figuring out what timeframe could be accommodated,” Epling added. “It didn’t affect our ability to showcase the art.”
Kribs said she and her staff were on hand “24/7” to assist the filming crew.
“The day-to-day operations with the union workers couldn’t have gone better,” she said. “They were great to work with.”
The filming at the Broad pulled in about 200 extras from the Greater Lansing community who put in 10-to-12- hour overnight shifts for the chance to be in the movie. Security was tight to prevent details from the movie getting out.
“Cellphones were not allowed near the set,” Epling explained. “They had all the usual security in place. They definitely kept the extras in the dark.”
Epling also worked as an extra in the movie, which he describes as the “icing on the cake.” He was excited to see the Broad in the film’s official trailers.
“I think I saw a glimmer of myself over Henry Cavill’s shoulder,” he said.
Epling, like the other extras, knows very little about the film’s plot or where the scenes at the Broad fit in. From the trailers, though, a few details have emerged.
“It’s the first meeting between Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne,” he said. “I’m assuming it’s a pivotal point.”
While Epling said there have been “nibbles” from other high-profile films looking at MSU as a filming location, “Batman v Superman” is the biggest movie he has worked with. The filming gave several MSU students a chance to work on a big-budget film in make-up and costuming crews, as security and even as assistants to the film crew. MSU police were involved to help direct traffic and block off roads, and MSU facilities helped to create a temporary base camp for the film crew south of campus.
“It’s always fun to coordinate something that big,” Kribs said. “I’m not eager to leave East Lansing for the film industry in Hollywood, but I really enjoyed it.
For Epling, it was inspiring to see so many parts of the university work together through the filming.
“President (Lou Anna) Simon always talks about ‘Team MSU,’” he said. “This was a perfect team that came together to pull this thing off.”