Filmmakers take a slice of the Big Apple


Studio: HBO Films

Director: Mary Harron; cast: Gretchen Mol, Lily Taylor, David Strathairn

Summary: The life of Bettie Page, the infamous 1950s pinup model.

With “I Shot Andy Warhol” and “American Psycho” under her belt, helmer Mary Harron is no stranger to capturing New York through the lens. Having lived for a while on St. Mark’s Place, and now living in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, the director has as much enthusiasm for its denizens as its buildings.

“One of the reasons I like shooting in New York is because you get great extras,” Harron says, “Everyone’s very keen to get involved.”

A challenge for “Bettie Page” was finding enough authentic 1950s architecture. “For the real ’50s style you have to go upstate to somewhere like Albany,” Harron says. “But there are small areas of New York that are credible, such as the West Village.” Harron had difficulty finding a suitable venue for a private party sequence — “there’s always one location you can’t crack” — until she decided to lens in a bar: the Minetta Tavern on Macdougal Street. “It’s got all these vintage photos in it, so it turned out extremely well.”


Studio: 20th Century Fox

Director: David Frankel; cast: Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Adrien Grenier

Summary: A young woman gets a gig working for one of New York’s top fashion editors.

For a film about fashionistas, it was only proper that shooting take place in midtown Manhattan. “Other locations were never really an issue except on paper,” says line producer Joe Caracciolo. “New York is so interwoven into the fabric of the story, it’s almost another character. When you look at a street in New York, you know that you’re nowhere else in the world.”

Specific locations were mostly used for exterior shots, including Rockefeller Center, which appears as the fictional magazine’s headquarters (with a little help from some digital edits to electronically change the name of the building).

The shoot also made use of external and internal shots of the St. Regis Hotel, first for a party sequence and then doubling as a hotel in Paris. Managers — whom Caracciolo described as “incredibly welcoming and cooperative” — cleared a floor to ensure filmmakers and guests were never aware of each other’s presences.


Studio: Castle Rock Entertainment, Mirage Enterprises, Section Eight

Director: Tony Gilroy; cast: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson

Summary: A lawyer’s worst cases return to haunt him.

First-time director Tony Gilroy got a taste of the unpredictability of lensing during some recent schizophrenic weather conditions in Gotham. On one Wednesday, Gilroy was forced to postpone shooting due to overly bright sun — only to find New York in the grip of an hourlong blizzard not long afterwards.

The shoot was focused around midtown Manhattan, particularly in what the director referred to (in Gotham parlance) as the “Sixth Avenue Canyon.” The Hilton Hotel was critical to the shoot, standing in for the state-of-the-art law firm where Clooney’s character works.

Acquiring high-profile locations requires the skills of the diplomat: “People have gotten burned,” the helmer notes. “If you don’t take care to make people feel like they’re part of something really cool, … then you’re going to run into problems.” As a native New Yorker, Gilroy has no lack of respect for the city, which, he emphasizes, helps smooth the path to getting “sensitive” locations.


Studio: Bauer Martinez Studios

Director: Ed Burns; cast: Burns, Shari Albert, Donal Logue

Summary: A groom and his four attendants wrestle with their issues a week before the wedding.

Burns has a long-term filming relationship with New York, using it as a location for every movie he has directed.

“There’s no greater co-star than New York City,” he says, noting that with the tax incentives, it’s now “a little easier to get your movie made.”

In “The Groomsman,” Burns lensed in all five boroughs, but particularly on City Island in the Bronx. “We used every inch of it,” the helmer says, “several different houses for each of our characters, the marina for some fishing scenes and a great long shot of Long Island.”

While Burns contends that Gotham’s crews “have always been the best,” he also notes New York has a deep well of thespian talent to draw from: “In no other city could you hire an actor fresh from a Broadway show to come and shoot a night scene for you in which they only have one line.”


Studio: Warner Bros., Vertigo Entertainment, Initial Entertainment Group, Plan B Entertainment

Director: Martin Scorsese; cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson

Summary: Two undercover moles on different sides of the law cross paths in the Boston police force.

Although “The Departed” is set in the seedy underbelly of Boston, only about a third of the movie was shot in Beantown (mostly exteriors), according to producer Graham King. Much of the lensing was done in New York, making particular use of the gangster history of Gotham eateries: “There are quite a few mob scenes in the movie, so we used a lot of restaurant fronts in SoHo,” King says.

The movie is focused much of the time around a specific police station in Boston; for that, the production built a set in the Brooklyn Armory.

Despite the A-list cast — including Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone and Alec Baldwin — King says there was no excessive stargazing: “There was always a crowd gathering, especially in Brooklyn, but there was actually a nice atmosphere, with a lot of waving and smiling and autograph signing.”