"Hello," the man said. "My name is Steven Spielberg. Do you mind if I come in and look around?"
This was one of those unbelievable moments people sometimes encounter, such as pulling out a lottery ticket to learn they have won.
"This was like Publishing Clearing House telling me I had won a million dollars," Sanchez said. "Here was this guy in jeans standing there. He looked like a regular worker."
How could Sanchez refuse one of the greatest movie makers in modern history?
The Academy Award-winning director's credits include "Jaws" (1975), "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), "The Color Purple" (1985, producer), "Empire of the Sun" (1987), "Jurassic Park" (1993), "Schindler's List" (1993), "Amistad" (1997), "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), and "Artificial Intelligence: AI" (2001).
"He said he was scouting the location for a film," Sanchez said.
Sanchez said Spielberg came in along with other people from his staff and toured the house, looking over Sanchez's collection of World War II photos.
"He said he loved the place," Sanchez said. "I have a big deck in back and he loved that, too."
And he wanted to use Sanchez's house to film his next film, a remake of H.G. Wells' science fiction classic, "War of the Worlds."
The staff has since returned to dismantle his pool, and will be commandeering several other houses on the block during the shooting later this year.
A spokesperson for DreamWorks, Spielberg's film company, said, "We expect some [shooting] in New Jersey for part of the film. But we don't expect to start shooting until November."
Bayonne and the location of the house, in the shadow of the Bayonne Bridge, is nearly a perfect setting for the film adaptation of Wells' novel. A Socialist, Wells' works often dealt with the impact of modern society, and "War of the Worlds" in particular was a critical look at the changes of the growing industrial world on people at the turn of the 19th century.
Originally set in England, the story was relocated to New Jersey in a radio play adaptation by Orson Wells in 1939 and later in Los Angeles for a feature film in 1953. Both adaptations were set in contemporary times. It is unclear which time period Spielberg intends to set his film.
Tom will cruise inTom Cruise will play the lead in the movie, and will likely be in Bayonne for about six days. Keeping more closely to the original novel, Spielberg will apparently not feature a leading lady in this film, contrary to the 1953 story which Hollywood turned into a love story.
The book deals with an invasion from Mars. The Martians, although physically weaker than human beings (partly due to the location of their planet further from the sun and its lesser gravity), prove to have a superior technology against which humans are helpless. Humanity survives the attack, not because of its ability to outfight or outthink the Martian attackers, but because the Martians fall prey to common viruses humans have long developed resistance to.
"He said he liked the way downtown Bayonne looked," Sanchez said, recalling the conversation he had with Spielberg after inviting him into his house.
Sanchez might have been less surprised had he checked his mailbox earlier, because staff members for DreamWorks had put fliers into each of the mailboxes along that stretch of homes.
"I didn't know I had a flyer in my mailbox," he said.
The flyer informed residents that the film company was seeking to use one of the houses in the area.
Meanwhile, Sanchez's home will be only one of several possible Bayonne locations used for filming. Spielberg has apparently sought out the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority for possible use of the movie studios located at the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor. The film company also apparently made a deal with the Little League for use a of ballfield upon which a fake gas station will be constructed and then blown up for the film.
Although the mayor's office would not initially comment until everything was set, representatives from Spielberg's company have apparently met with public safety officials over security and safety issues.
"This is a positive thing for Bayonne, having the film industry come here," said Mayor Joseph Doria. "Bayonne provides great locations for making movies, and this helps our local economy. Films provide jobs, and many local businesses have had film productions as customers."