The call comes in on a Monday afternoon in July 2015: The director of “Wilson,” a movie starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern (in theaters March 24!), wants to film a food court scene at Mall of America…tomorrow.
Members of the public relations team, maintenance, and security jumped into action to get the necessary approvals and contracts signed. Sure enough, cameras were rolling on Tuesday, and many shoppers snapped sweet selfies as they walked past production outside Nordstrom that day.
A Favorite Film Locale
The Mall has been a favorite locale for Hollywood since its earliest days. In 1994, the young stars of “D2: The Mighty Ducks” roller-bladed through the Mall—from food court to Camp Snoopy and up escalators, too. In 1996, “Jingle All the Way” filmed its epic toy store fight scene between desperate dads, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, at MOA’s Toy Works. In the movie, Schwarzenegger is also seen running through The LEGO Store and the Rotunda.
Of course, back then, MOA was a home away from home to Schwarzenegger, who was co-owner of one of the Mall’s hottest restaurants: Planet Hollywood.
“He’d come in all the time for Chicken Crunch,” recalled Molly Steinke, who was Planet Hollywood’s publicist. “He’d still be in makeup.”
Jim Belushi, Jingle All the Way’s Santa, and co-star Phil Hartman hung out at Planet Hollywood as well. On one impromptu visit after filming, Schwarzenegger was disappointed to find his restaurant half empty. He immediately dreamed up a charity cigar party and dispatched Steinke to pull it together with a week’s notice. They packed the place, and raised money for the Minnesota Film Board and Camp Heartland in the process.
A year later, it was the young Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen who filmed “You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Mall Party” at MOA—singing and dancing their way from Build-A-Bear Workshop to Bloomingdales.
“They were sweet little girls,” said Maureen Cahill, who was the Mall’s public relations director charged with escorting the twins. “They just wanted to go to Rainforest Cafe.”
Game Shows + Memorable Mall Cops
Television loves Mall of America, too. Before “The Bachelor,” Chris Harrison hosted “Mall Masters,” a game show filmed at the Mall. It lasted just one season on Game Show Network, circa 2001. But there was more reality TV to come.
A 2009 TLC special on MOA’s security team led the series “Mall Cops: Mall of America.” In the course of 12 episodes, it offered an anti-Paul Blart glimpse into what it’s really like to patrol the nation’s largest mall, from crowd control on Black Friday to shoplifters and lost kids.
And in The End…
Mall of America played a key role in the 2015 film “The End of the Tour” starring Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. They spent a weekend shooting scenes in eight MOA locations including SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium and Nickelodeon Universe®. Between takes, the two did what most movie stars do when they find themselves with downtime at MOA: They shopped and rode the rollercoasters.