COLUMBUS, Ind. — It seems altogether fitting that Haley Lu Richardson, perhaps as unpretentious and unvarnished as any Hollywood actress could be in real life, had to learn to blow smoke — literally.
Actually, she had to learn to smoke, period, for her leading role in the “Columbus” movie shot locally in August 2016. And that memory of lighting up for practice for the first time in the back of the local downtown store of Baker’s Fine Gifts, with owners Jeff Baker and John Pickett, came rushing back with ample humor Monday evening at the North Christian Church building.
“You’re much better now than you were (then),” shouted Baker from a crowd of listening to Richardson’s reminiscing.
She, costar John Cho and director Kogonada returned to town for The Columbus Movie Fifth Anniversary Celebration with the Stars’ 90-minute panel discussion in front on an estimated 300 people, whose applause and post-event praise showered the visitors with love. Landmark Columbus Foundation organized the evening with support from the Columbus Area Visitor Center, and a collaboration grant with the City of Bloomington from Indiana Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
In a city in which people love their architecture — North Christian and other Modernist structures figure prominently in the critically acclaimed 2017 film — they clearly have come to love and appreciate as much the trio of people who spotlighted the town’s famous buildings.
That seemed evident by the applause throughout the panel discussion. In the film, when a renowned architecture scholar falls suddenly ill during a speaking tour, his son Jin, played by Cho, finds himself stranded in Columbus. Jin strikes up a friendship with Casey, played by Richardson, a young architecture enthusiast who works at the local library.
The duo struck up a friendship in real life — so much so that Richardson was overcome with emotion when Cho complimented her Wednesday on what she dramatically drew out of him during the film. She responded by sweetly resting her head on his shoulder.
Cho also offered heartfelt praise to the town that he also gushed about on TV talk shows to promote the movie.
“Every person we came across was just so open,” Cho said. “It felt like they were sharing the town with us — and for that, I am truly thankful.”
For more on this story, and more photos, see Wednesday’s Republic.