Long before Alexa invaded homes, a likable robot yearning for human input arrived at a remote Victorian-era farmhouse in Astoria and was adopted by an animal-loving Ally Sheedy. The robot changed its name to Johnny 5 and earned box office gold starring in “Short Circuit” in 1986.
Pop culture writer Sean O’Neal, who prefers the sequel, was checking his Instagram feed Monday when an alert on Then & Now Reshoots stopped him from swiping forward: The property where much of the original “Short Circuit” was shot was for sale. He recognized it all: The house with a wide deck and views of the Columbia River and steel truss Astoria Bridge.
Marketing materials for the fifth-acre property listed at $344,900 by Bill Fornas of Pete Anderson Realty states: “Here’s your chance to own a piece of Astoria’s rich movie history!”
O’Neal, who was the editor in chief of the A.V. Club online entertainment newspaper, dug deeper and found a video that cleverly rolls footage of the old film above present-day environments.
Then the Austin resident teased his 13,300 Twitter followers with a crazy idea: “Some personal news: I’m moving to Oregon to become caretaker of the Short Circuit house.”
O’Neal dreamed of creating a museum. “Over time, I’ll acquire original props and memorabilia and turn it into a Short Circuit museum. My family and I will all live in the back room and tend to tour groups during the day. It will be a fine life.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a movie fan has remade a film set. Amber Neufeld restored the St. Helens clapboard two-story that stood as Bella Swan’s home in the vampire romance “Twilight” series. Neufeld says it’s surreal to “sit where Charlie Swan sat or sleep where Bella Swan slept.”
Clearly with time on his hands, O’Neal posted real estate photos and reminisced about “Short Circuit” dialogue such as “nice software” that has stayed with him over the years. He proclaimed: “We will find joy in the work.”
But his hopes were tossed away by his spouse: “UPDATE: it seems my wife is not that big a fan of Short Circuit.”
Which prompted Justin Doty as @PdxCowbell to reply: “Johnny 5 is alive. But this marriage? It’s dead.”
O’Neal’s flurry of four Tweets ended.
During the silence, The Oregonian reached out to O’Neal to learn more.
His response: “Like any ’80s kid who grew up with HBO, I’ve probably seen ‘Short Circuit’ a dozen or so times in lieu of fresh air and exercise. I believe I saw both it and ‘Short Circuit 2’ in the theaters. The sequel is arguably the superior film, but I don’t think anyone is selling ‘the streets of Toronto.’ Were we visiting Astoria, and I’d already hit all the Goonies locations, I would absolutely drag my wife and kids to see the ‘Short Circuit’ house.”
We’ll be watching, @seanoneal.