The daring stunt that shut down the Bay Bridge in Brendan Fraser's ‘Bedazzled’

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 
Getty Images, IMDB; illustration bySFGATE
Photo of Susana Guerrero

San Francisco may not be for everyone, but for the devil, at least, it’s “just right.” 

In the opening act of the 2000 romantic comedy “Bedazzled,” the devil, played by a flirty Elizabeth Hurley, scours various cities around the world in search of a victim who will sell her their soul. As the devil narrows her diabolical focus to three potential locations, she moves in on San Francisco and in no time finds her target: a nerdy computer tech named Elliot Richards, played by current critical darling Brendan Fraser.

The rom-com sees Richards fall madly in love with Alison, a colleague who barely even knows he exists. One day after work, Elliot finds his unfriendly co-workers at a bar, and they pressure him into making a move on Alison. But when Elliot gets the courage to introduce himself, the awkward exchange is enough for Alison to make a run for it. In comes the devil ready to prey on the desperate nerd. She grants him seven wishes in exchange for his soul. 

More than 20 years later, the movie continues to be one of my favorite Fraser comedies. Amid what’s being called the Fraser Renaissance, kick-started by Fraser’s latest film, “The Whale,” I was curious about the 2000 film that I had on repeat during my childhood.   

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

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Lance Hoffman, a local location assistant, and Kokayi Ampah, the supervising location manager on the set of “Bedazzled,” helped secure San Francisco landmarks such as City Hall and Justin Herman Plaza as the background to the film in the early aughts. Behind the camera, the shoot was often a Rubik's Cube of sorts when it came to managing commuters and parking. 

“Anytime that you've got traffic, it's stressful, especially in a major city because you're rerouting traffic around you,” Ampah said.  

Such was the case during the scene when the devil meddles with traffic signals and causes a chaotic multi-vehicle crash in North Beach. Hoffman said that the shot was filmed on Broadway, about three blocks from Washington Square, with the assistance of the San Francisco Police Department.  

“We needed a lot of space to do that because we needed the crash, clear it out, run all the traffic through, and then do it again,” Hoffman said. “The hard part is bleeding off the traffic that's detained … so that required a certain amount of coordination.”

Shortly after the devil meets Elliot at the bar where Alison disses him, the devil latches onto Elliot and immediately begins her car salesman pitch on how he can take charge of his own destiny. The devil’s motive is still murky at this point, but when she says, “Wish for something, whatever you want. Just say the word,” a puzzled Elliot replies, “OK, I wish I had a Big Mac and a large Coke.”

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

Getty Images

Spoiler ahead. Elliot makes a critical mistake when he orders that burger. He inadvertently agrees to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for seven wishes, with McDonald's jump-starting a series of hilarious snafus. Much to his dismay, he ends up paying for his own meal and doesn’t even get French fries out of it. By now, Elliot has had enough of the devil’s antics. As he begins to walk away, the devil offers him a lift in her black Lamborghini Diablo.   

The next montage is a blur of San Francisco’s cityscape, showcasing the Transamerica Pyramid and the city’s iconic hilly streets. As the camera pans out, the Bay Bridge comes into full focus and then pulls us back in to find the Lamborghini speeding on the upper deck. The shot itself is insignificant to the storyline and lasts about a couple of seconds, but it happened to be the most challenging set to capture on camera.

The location managers would need to shut down the bridge to perform a dangerous stunt: drive a sports car in the wrong direction. Hoffman and Ampah still remember the daunting meeting they had decades ago with about a dozen Caltrans members who, after some back-and-forth, approved the take.  

“We needed to reverse the actual flow of traffic on the bridge because one direction is under, and one is over,” Ampah said.

To avoid the unnecessary detour of heading back to Oakland via Interstate 80 East and then looping back onto I-80 West toward San Francisco, the sports car was allowed to drive in the opposite direction between takes.  

Caltrans eventually gave the production team the green light to close I-80 West but under strict conditions. The team was to film the stunt at 3 a.m., when it was less disruptive to traffic, and had only three chances to get it right. No exceptions. Out of curiosity, Hoffman remembers asking how many cars drove on the bridge during the early hours of the morning and was astonished when Caltrans said about 1,400.  

Aerial view of Bay Bridge

Aerial view of Bay Bridge

Ian.CuiYi/Getty Images

“The Bay Bridge was a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Hoffman said. “It was a really simple shot that took a long time to get set up, but we did it.”

Today, film crews can still shoot on the Bay Bridge and likewise shut down the freeway — but it continues to be a process. It starts by submitting permit applications to the California Film Commission and then to Caltrans. To shut down the Bay Bridge, paperwork must be submitted at least 12 days prior to the event, and if applications are approved, that will involve a huge meeting with members of the California Film Commission, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol, as well as production crew members. If that sounds arduous, good luck trying to film on the Golden Gate Bridge.  

It wasn’t the first time the Bay Bridge was featured in a Fraser film. Three years earlier, the iconic landmark makes a cameo in the 1997 film “George of the Jungle,” where George (played by Fraser) saves a man whose parachute gets tangled up on the bridge. In October, Fraser jokingly apologized to San Francisco 25 years after the hit film's release for inadvertently fooling commuters into believing that a parachutist was actually in distress.

“Disney put a mannequin hanging by a parachute from the uprights," Fraser said during a screening of “The Whale.” "It brought traffic to a standstill on either side of the bridge. … I had the TV on, and 'Oprah' got interrupted because there was a special news report with helicopters saying a parachute is dangling on the bridge. And I'm going — wait a minute, I'm looking at the helicopters and TV — somebody didn't pull a permit.”

Throughout “Bedazzled,” Fraser shows off his acting chops as he transforms from a Colombian drug lord (filmed at a mansion in Santa Barbara) to an overly sensitive redhead who can’t keep it together. All the while, Elliot is wishing to become the man he thinks Alison will love best. Of course, in the end, he says to hell with it. He manages to redeem his soul when he wishes for Alison to live a happy life. When asked by GQ earlier this year who his favorite alter ego was, Fraser simply answers, “I like the guy he became.”

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

"Bedazzled," starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, was filmed in San Francisco and released in 2000. 

Getty Images

At an October screening of “The Whale,” Fraser elaborated. He told SFGATE culture editor Dan Gentile about how much he enjoyed working with Hurley and the late director Harold Ramis. Fraser recalled Elliot’s transformation fondly — from a shy computer geek to a confident, secure man by the end of the film (not to mention he also finds true love).  

“Down by the piers, I remember a beautiful shot that was done stop motion at the very end when a man in an orange robe arrives,” Fraser told SFGATE. “If you pay attention to the movie, you learn that this was a journey of a man’s redemption. [Elliot] didn’t necessarily make a deal with the devil; he learned how to be a full human. A better person."

SFGATE culture editor Dan Gentile contributed to this report.

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