George Clooney’s “The Tender Bar” Filming Takes Over Boston and Cambridge

Ruri Duffy, Contributing Writer

The ongoing pandemic has brought the entertainment industry to a full stop for months now, with blockbuster releases and new seasons of TV shows being pushed back. Almost a year after the start of the global lockdown, releases and filming have finally resumed, including right here in Cambridge. 

Over the course of the past few weeks, George Clooney and CRLS alum Ben Affleck have been walking the streets of the North End and Harvard Square as they work on their new movie, The Tender Bar. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by J.R. Moehringer, the film follows the life of a boy raised only by his mother and “The Voice,” his long-gone radio host father whom he’s never met but listens to every day on the radio. Eventually, he stumbles across a bar near his house which, after bonding with the owner and regulars, eventually becomes a second home. 

Joining Affleck as the father figure bartender, the cast is composed of Lily Rabe as J.R. ‘s mother, who was recently featured in the HBO hit series “The Undoing,” as well as Back to the Future’s Christopher Lloyd as J.R.’s grandfather. 

The famous stars are barely recognizable in pictures, fully obscured by masks and face shields.”

Filming and production started in late February and has been taking place in the Boston area since. Harvard University was taken over by the filming of the graduation scene—one that is meant to take place at Yale, ironically—that was filmed in Mid Cambridge and Harvard Square. Later, Clooney filmed in Lowell, Beverly, and most recently, the South End. 

It’s something of a relief to see pre-COVID-19 practices resuming after over a year of life in lockdown, but even so, things are clearly different. The famous stars are barely recognizable in pictures, fully obscured by masks and face shields. The Tender Bar is far from the first movie to begin filming in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, movies like the pandemic-inspired drama Songbird that came out in January were filming as early as July of 2020, before safety protocols and procedures were even established for movie production. 

As time goes on, like with most practices during COVID-19, there is a new sense of normal in pandemic filming: strict safety protocols are being established, actors are completely quarantined, and testing and social distancing protocols are being implemented (when possible, considering most movies require at least some physical proximity). While cumbersome and often expensive, people involved in big streaming and movie industries like Netflix believe this type of filming may have to continue for at least a year as vaccines continue to roll out.