Cruise comes calling for Howell film shoot

Scenes for Spielberg


Staff Writer

Stephanie Ruiter of Howell greets Tom Cruise on the set of “War of the Worlds” on Nov. 23. Director Steven Spielberg shot scenes for the film at two locations in the township. See story, page 4. Stephanie Ruiter of Howell greets Tom Cruise on the set of “War of the Worlds” on Nov. 23. Director Steven Spielberg shot scenes for the film at two locations in the township. See story, page 4. HOWELL — It is said that in Holly-wood, who you know may count more than anything else. As it turns out that’s also true elsewhere, especially when Holly-wood comes calling. Just ask Stephanie Ruiter, 27, of Howell Road.

As a friend of the Keymer family, the owners of the Merrick Farm, Merrick Road, Ruiter was able to be on hand on Nov. 23 as director Steven Spielberg shot scenes for his remake of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” Being on the set as the Hollywood icon was bringing his vision to life was made even more memorable for Ruiter when she got to meet and greet Tom Cruise, who is starring in and helping to produce the film.

The day’s shooting was divided between the Merrick Road location and a home on Canterbury Way off Route 524.

Ruiter, who works in advertising for Metro Newspapers, said that in the course of her employment she has met many Hollywood celebrities and, although certainly not jaded, she admits she is not easily star-struck.

However, she said Cruise’s easy and genuine affability was remarkable.

“Besides a smile that wouldn’t quit, he was extremely good-natured,” said Ruiter, who admitted to getting the giggles as she and Cruise approached each other for introductions.

Ruiter said Cruise took about 10 minutes to move off the actual site of the shoot — which was taking place in the woods behind the Merrick Farm — and came out to the road for a meet and greet that included picture taking with residents.

“It was genuine in that he wanted to meet everyone. He took that brief moment to do that. It seemed he doesn’t want to make himself unavailable,” Ruiter said.

In between Cruise’s pre-dawn arrival by helicopter and his departure via helicopter from police headquarters at about 8 p.m., Howell Police Chief Ronald T. Carter spent the day escorting Cruise back and forth between the Merrick Road and Canterbury Road sites from the production company’s base camp at the Our House Tavern, Route 524.

Carter, too, said he was struck by Cruise’s easy demeanor and accessibility.

Carter was with Cruise as the actor stopped along the way between the two sites to meet the enthusiastic fans, who were lined up behind police barricades on Camelot Drive hoping for a glimpse of the popular actor.

The wait for the loyal fans paid off when Cruise, joined by Dakota Fanning, 10, who plays his daughter in the movie, and Spielberg all stopped along Camelot Drive to sign autographs for the crowd of fans, which had continued to grow as the day wore on toward nightfall.

Several people said they had been coming to Camelot Court for days as rumors of the movie shoot continued to spread among the community in the days before it actually occurred.

Carter said the day was a fun experience for him and the 20 or so police officers who were on hand throughout the duration of the shoot and afterward at police headquarters when Cruise also made himself available for introductions and autographs for municipal employees and police officers.

Joe C. Guest, who is a locations person for Paramount Pictures, said Howell was chosen for some scenes because it had just the right mix of modern suburbia and a classic farm setting in close enough proximity to make it just what Spielberg had been looking for.

It was a memorable day for Howell and, according to Carter, Cruise told him the town and the people had made the experience memorable for him as well.