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This U. of C. Doctor Keeps Turning Up In The Background Of Movies

By Sam Cholke | July 29, 2016 8:26am
 Dr. Ira Blumen has found his way into several movies and TV shows by serving as the medical consultant and being ready to jump in when another actor was needed.
Dr. Ira Blumen has found his way into several movies and TV shows by serving as the medical consultant and being ready to jump in when another actor was needed.
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Courtesy of the University of Chicago Medicine

HYDE PARK — For those watching the upcoming episodes of “Chicago Med” filmed in Hyde Park, keep an eye out for a doctor with thick black eyebrows and a mustache, because you may have seen him before.

Dr. Ira Blumen is the medical director of University of Chicago Aeromedical Network, and you’ve probably spotted him on other shows thanks to a lucky side job that lands him small acting parts while consulting on films and TV shows.

Blumen has worked on more than a dozen TV shows and movies shot in Chicago that used the university’s hospital or medical helicopters or just needed a medical expert on set, including the movies “Batman: The Dark Knight,” "Contagion," “Lake House” and others.

“It’s a lot of fun for me as a medical professional to do something a little different,” Blumen said Tuesday after landing with the “Chicago Med” crews. “I don’t know if I could ever see doing it full time because I love what I do.”

The side job has helped Blumen meet George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and other actors, but he said it’s not a big deal.

“I don’t really get star-struck like that,” Blumen said.

He said days on set can be pretty boring while crews set up shots, and he’s often been called on during those lulls to jump in as an extra, which is how he scored a role as “Dr. Ira Blumen” in 2006’s “Lake House” with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

He said it was one of his largest speaking parts to date, but he never got to see it because his scene was cut from the final movie. It unfortunately didn't even show up on the deleted scene extras on the DVD.

Blumen said the set of “Chicago Med” was a lot faster paced than the films he’s worked on.

He said the team was up on the hospital’s helipad at 6 a.m. and were flying around the neighborhood as crews filmed from another helicopter shadowing the university’s helicopter until after noon.

“They said I was the copilot and they had me in my flight suit,” Blumen said. “I did have a short six-word line.”

It’s not new for the university’s medical campus to be the setting for a shoot or for the helicopter to be featured, but Blumen said it’s the first time a crew has ever used the university and its helicopter together.

The TV show “ER” used the hospital helicopter quite a bit as far back as 1994, but never set the show at the university. The movie “The Fugitive” also famously used the hospital for a backdrop, but the helicopter wasn’t part of the scenes.

Blumen said he expects more things will be shot at the hospital and said the campus is well set up for it with backup crews, helicopter and helipad and protocols in place so crews never bother patients.

He said he would like to keep working with the crews too: though there can be a lot of pressure to get a scene right, he said he doesn't mind it when it’s a fictional patient’s life at stake.

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