Home / Tiger Pause: Tracking Auburn in Pop Culture / That time Auburn students were cast as extras and standins for ‘SpaceCamp’ stars Joaquin Phenix, others

That time Auburn students were cast as extras and standins for ‘SpaceCamp’ stars Joaquin Phenix, others

AU-kward stage.

Rain Man can count toothpicks, I can spot Auburn logos. So big ups to anyone who can find the Auburn tag and / or sticker referenced in this story from a 1985 issue of The Plainsman, because I couldn’t — not as a kid when I wasn’t looking, not now when I am. They’re supposed to be on a 1973 Monte Carlo owned by Dusty Knight, one of 18 Auburn students cast as extras and stand-ins for 1986’s classic Goonies-meets-Apollo 13 flick SpaceCamp, filmed on location at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and starring among others a young Joaquin “Leaf” Phenix.

(Click to enlarge.)

The plot (slightly different than that described by The Plainsman): a poor man’s Johnny-5 (albeit a cute one) suffers a seizure and somehow establishes a telepathic connection with a talking NASA super commuter and purposefully / accidentally launches into orbit Steven Spielberg’s wife and a rag-tag group of gum-chewing teenage Space Campers (Leah Thompson, Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan and Joaquin — seriously, they never stop chewing gum) who are somehow allowed to board the Space Shuttle Atlantis for an engine test. From there, it’s pretty much Apollo 13.

I suppose I had a lot less disbelief to suspend in 1986, because I really dug it back then. Speaking of suspending disbelief, perhaps my understanding of the stand-in’s art is totally wrong, but why was an Auburn coed (Melanie Bernstein) selected to stand in for an 11-year-old Joaquin in full-blown awkward stage?

Don’t answer that.

UPDATE: She answered that.

I know that the last line of Jeremy Henderson’s article said “don’t answer that,” but I just have to answer his question!!! I was the stand-in for Leaf Phoenix and they selected me because they needed someone who was about his height and similar body build…and as I am only 4′-9 (was then, and still am now) and around 95 pounds, I was an ideal choice. Hard to find anyone over 16 years old that fits that description, and with the long hours we had to work, you had to be that age.

… Leaf (Joaquin) was awesome…he was a young kid, obviously, and didn’t have an ego at all. We spent a lot of time talking to Kelly Preston, Tate Donovan and Mitchell Anderson and Leaf, but Leah Thompson was rather snotty, and Leaf even apologized to us for her behavior! She just wouldn’t associate with us. All of the other actors/actresses hung out and talked to us and were friendly and sociable. Kelly Preston sat and chatted with us most days and of course Tate Donovan, Mitchell Anderson and Leaf were all great. Asked us about our everyday lives and told us about theirs. Leah kept as far away from us as she could and even Leaf went to talk to her of his own accord and told her not to be so rude! It didn’t seem to have any effect, however. —— Melanie Bernstein, ’87

Thanks, Melanie. We’ll never look at Lorraine Baines McFly the same way again. War Eagle!

Know of any Auburn references in pop-culture? Drop us a line: [email protected]

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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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