"It's all who you know," said Beth Fahey, only half jokingly. Fahey and her sister, Becky Palermo, own Creative Cakes bakery in Tinley Park. It was their pumpkin cheesecake that made it into in the movie.
It helped to have connections, and their direct line was Beth's husband, Michael. He worked on the crew of the 2009 TV series "The Beast," also shot in Chicago. After he put in a good word for his wife's business, the production office ordered cupcakes and other pastries from the bakery. The goodies were a hit, especially with Vail Romeyn, the production supervisor.
Fast forward to summer 2010, when Michael Fahey and Romeyn worked together on "The Dilemma." This time, Romeyn requested Creative Cakes' desserts for the cast and crew during the three months the movie was filmed. Each day, the bakery supplied a luscious array of rotating treats, including pina colada cupcakes, lemon bars and mini cannoli.
Still, the opportunity to have their pumpkin cheesecake play a starring role in the film was totally unexpected, Beth Fahey said. With the sisters having already proved their talents, no audition was necessary. The bakers — and their cheesecake — got their big break.
In the movie, now showing in area theaters, Vaughn plays a bachelor who struggles with the decision to tell his best friend that his wife is cheating on him. When the cheesecake makes an appearance, Vaughn's character, who is grappling with the predicament, attempts to cut a gigantic piece of cheesecake with a fork but fails. He ends up scooping out the colossal chunk with his hand.
It's all about "emotional eating," Beth Fahey said. And although moviegoers won't actually see Vaughn eating the cheesecake on-screen, he did. That part ended up on the cutting room floor.
To film the scene, prop master Todd Ellis requested 15 pumpkin cheesecakes, because a new one was required for each take. A nice order for the bakery, sure, but it led to a couple of "panic moments," Beth Fahey said.
"Finding pumpkin in the summer was a bit challenging," she said. The bakery normally relies on a specific brand — Libby's — to help ensure the cheesecakes don't crack. Unfortunately, Libby's was nowhere to be found, and they had to use another brand. Twenty-five pounds of cream cheese, four dozen eggs and eight pounds of pumpkin later, most of the cheesecakes turned out fracture-free.
But there was another quandary: how to get the fragile cheesecakes — in hot weather — from the Tinley Park bakery to a soundstage in Park Ridge. Michael Fahey transported the cheesecakes frozen, which worked like a charm. The desserts held up. Beth Fahey, unfortunately, didn't get to see her cheesecake "perform." She had to work in the bakery when the scene was filmed.
After Vaughn completed all the takes for the scene, there were some leftover cheesecakes. The crew devoured them.
In case you're wondering if the desserts fetched superstar prices, the answer is no. The production paid the same amount the bakery charges their regular customers: $29.95 per 9-inch cheesecake.
When credits rolled, Beth Fahey was surprised and grateful. Creative Cakes name appeared on-screen.
"We didn't expect it," said. "The people who work for Ron Howard are very decent."
Pumpkin cheesecake is available at Creative Cakes, 16649 Oak Park Ave., Tinley Park; 708-614-9755, realbuttercream.com. Call ahead for availability.
Judy Marcus is a Chicago-area freelance writer and blogger at Sugar Buzz Chicago on ChicagoNow.com.