Hollywood Insiders Flock to Solar Eclipse "Path of Totality"
L.A. science buffs head to Nashville, Portland and other points on the path to get the full effect: "Every porta-potty in Oregon has already been reserved."
Hollywood is always a sucker for a special effect, and one of nature's most spectacular — a total solar eclipse — is coming Aug. 21. The event is the first since 1919 that will be visible from coast to coast. (The 1979 solar eclipse was visible from Washington to North Dakota before cutting up into Canada.) Angelenos will see a partial eclipse, peaking at 10:21 a.m., with 60 percent of the sun's surface blocked by the moon. But only those in the "path of totality," a 70-mile-wide swath that begins in Oregon and cuts down to South Carolina, will get the full effect.
HBO's Mara Mikialian is among several industry media relations pros who will travel to see the show: She's heading to Nashville, which, her former NASA employee husband, Robert, has assured her is "strongly in the path of totality, with a promise of more than two minutes of complete darkness." WME's Marie Sheehy will be in Idaho, and 20th Century Fox TV's Jen Weinberg is driving to Bend, Oregon. (The eclipse falls on her birthday, "so I'm taking it as a sign that I can't miss it," Weinberg says.) At Hillsboro, Oregon-based animation studio Laika, "we decided to give Monday off so Laikans can enjoy the event and stay off the roads," says production head Arianne Sutner, an Oscar nominee for Kubo and the Two Strings.
Last-minute science buffs can forget it: Flights to Portland and other points on the path have quadrupled in price. "I had plans to drive up to Oregon, but a park ranger scared me off the idea," says comedy writer Frank Chaz Muniz, who runs the Comedy Living Room stand-up show. "She laughed and said, 'Highway 97 will be a parking lot,' and 'every porta-potty in the state has already been reserved.' " Muniz instead will head to the L.A. Arboretum — "to see the peacocks freak out."
IMAX cinematographer James Neihouse, who worked on 2010's Hubble, will capture the eclipse with a number of large-format cameras for a doc on Albert Einstein, whose theory of relativity was proved in part thanks to an experiment conducted during the 1919 eclipse. "In bringing it to a giant screen, we may be able to give people the experience, at least partially," says Neihouse. "But being there — nothing can really beat it.
Additional reporting by Carolyn Giardina.
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.