Stanford On Screen
Photo: Scott Bauer
In the television show Chuck, lovable geek Charles “Chuck” Bartowski (Zach Levi) went to Stanford, until his best friend got him kicked out. Now he works at an electronics chain store. When he's not fighting bad guys using an NSA supercomputer downloaded into his brain, that is. Phil Klemmer, '96, a writer and producer for the series—which he has described as Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets The Office—says his own experiences on the Farm lend a touch of realism to the show. It got us wondering, what other characters from film and TV call Stanford alma mater?
The following did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.
In the movie Orange County, Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) is a bright SoCal kid whose dreams of going to Stanford are nearly quashed by a bumbling high school counselor who submits the wrong application.
Starfleet Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) on Star Trek: Enterprise boldly went to Stanford and thinks the Cardinal men's water polo team is out of this world.
Stanford Law School was the original setting proposed for Legally Blonde, but the University administration didn't like the script, based on the book by Amanda Brown, Gr. '96. Ditzy Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) went to Harvard instead.
In the movie Antitrust, idealistic Stanford-educated computer programmer Milo Hoffman (Ryan Phillippe) sells out to take a job at a giant computer company in the Pacific Northwest, where the CEO turns out to be evil.
In the '80s classic Heathers, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) laments, “I'll have to send my SAT scores to San Quentin instead of Stanford,” after killing the most popular girl at Westerberg High, Heather Chandler.
Kate Warner (Sarah Wynter) from season two of TV's 24 has an economics degree from Stanford. Creator Robert Cochran, JD '74, is an alum.
When the Simpsons land in jail, brainy Lisa fears the arrest will keep her from getting into an Ivy League college. Bart and Homer taunt her: “You're going to Stanford, you're going to Stanford . . .” Most of The Simpsons writers went to Harvard.
Reader-submitted additions to “Stanford On Screen”
One Stanford reference missed in your article was the character Laura Holt, played by Stephanie Zimbalist in the 1980s television series Remington Steele. Holt, the brains behind Pierce Brosnan’s pre-Bond charm in the Steele detective agency, had attended Stanford and was a member of the Stanford Alumni Glee Club in the series. Part of the Stanford verisimilitude doubtless came from the fact that one of the writers for the show was Robin Bernheim, ’78.
Karl Kumli, ’78
If you blinked, you might have missed the appearance of the incomparable Leland Stanford Junior Marching Band in the movie Police Academy IV, which I directed back in the mid-’80s. They appear in the background of a scene shot at the 1986 Gator Bowl when Stanford lost to Clemson, although they made a valiant effort to close the gap at the end of the game.
Woodland Hills, California
In Ghostbusters, budding paranormal scientists Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and Harold Ramis sit on the steps of the Columbia University library and commiserate. One of them says something like, “We’ll never get into Stanford now.”
Petros Levounis, ’85, MS, ’85, MA ’89
New York, New York
Here are a few more: B.J. Hunnicut on the TV series M.A.S.H. graduated from Stanford—undergrad and MD, I think. On the series Felicity, the title character turns down Stanford to follow some dude to college in New York. It is later revealed that her father used his connections to get her into Stanford. Ace Ventura, pet detective, claims to have attended Stanford Law. In the first Die Hard movie, Mr. Takagi’s résumé includes Stanford. Barbara Hershey’s character in Beaches chooses Stanford, largely because it is co-ed. Good Will Hunting ends with Will’s driving to see his girlfriend at Stanford Medical School. In Soul Man, the main character posits that the person whose Harvard Law scholarship he took probably got a better deal from Stanford. The 2002 comedy Stealing Harvard was originally titled Stealing Stanford, but apparently the latter university objected. Oh, and Double Indemnity contains the line, “Great football school, Stanford.”
Daniel Mendelsohn, ’92
Los Angeles, California
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