REMEMBER WHEN …
Thirty years ago, Santa Cruz earned a place in Hollywood vampire history?
By Melissa Duge Spiers
Vampire movies today may seem utterly yawn-worthy to the generations who have grown up with everything from Blade to Buffy to Bella and Edward, but campy teenaged bloodsuckers were wildly new and unusual in the late ’80s. And when director Joel Schumacher was looking for a backdrop for his 1987 teen vampire flick The Lost Boys, he deemed Santa Cruz the perfect setting for their nocturnal romps.
Schumacher famously said he took one look at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and “saw the whole movie in my mind,” but it took a bit of convincing for Santa Cruz leaders to allow the horror comedy to use Santa Cruz as its fictional city of Santa Carla, a beachside town-turned-“Murder Capital of the World.” Santa Cruz had already been branded as such during a spate of murders in the late ’70s and early ’80s and was struggling with a large teenaged transient population at the time of the film’s proposal. The city wanted to ensure The Lost Boys didn’t further degrade its reputation. But after reviewing the script, Santa Cruz officials gave Schumacher the go-ahead and it was a mutually happy relationship from then on out, with the production employing many locals in all aspects of the filming.
Soquel-based set builder, location scout, and production manager Peter Newfield worked on many of the film’s sets and remembers Schumacher visiting the construction site—a rental workshop on Swift Street in which they built Clown Alley (the creepy setting for “Shots Of Grotesque Carnival Images On The Boardwalk,” as the original script referred to it) and other memorable settings. “He was a great guy, so polite and funny,” Newfield says of the director. “He entertained us and was just so grateful for what we were doing.”
Very few sets actually needed to be built, since Santa Cruz provided many ready-made, picture-perfect locations, like the comic book store (Atlantis Fantasyworld, which was at the time situation on Pacific Avenue but was made to appear as if it were on the Boardwalk), the Looff carousel, and the Pogonip clubhouse, to name a few. (You can take a tour of all nine local filming locations by downloading a map at santacruz.org/lostboys.)
The Boardwalk was the backdrop for many scenes, including the famous motorcycle race (when actor Kiefer Sutherland broke his wrist goofing around on his bike, requiring that he wear black gloves for the entire shoot) and a dramatic night shot from the point of view of the flying vampires. To pull the latter off, 10-ton trucks were stationed at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River and the end of the Wharf, remembers Newfield, each carrying enormous Musco mobile stadium lights. “They lit that place up like you wouldn’t believe,” he says, “and flew a helicopter with the camera in it over and over.” The brief scene took three days and nights to film, Newfield marvels, with two crews alternating around the clock.
The great amount of time it took to film each few seconds impressed then-Soquel High School student Sarai Rose Thomas, who was cast as an extra in several scenes. “We were there all day long,” she says. “Our legs were exhausted from walking back and forth over and over again.” When the film came out, she was amazed to see that the long day of shooting ended up as a three-second clip that ran during the credits where, she laughs, “you don’t see anyone really except for Corey Haim.”
The film hit No. 2 at the Box Office on its opening weekend and very quickly achieved cult status, making big stars of many of its young cast members—Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, the notorious Coreys (both Feldman and Haim)—and propelling Schumacher into the ranks of top directors. It also became so indelibly identified with Santa Cruz that film productions today are still wary of using the same sites. “I was location scouting for a big movie production last month,” Newfield says, “and as soon as I sent them a picture of the Pogonip clubhouse, they refused.”