Oscar night is a wonderful swell of the awards season for film enthusiasts like myself. Having had the pleasure of enjoying the film world on both sides of the screen, I love telling my tour groups of my most exciting encounter on a film set. For ten days in 2007, the Oscar-nominated film The Savages was shot in the Levy house! Working as the assistant location manager, I was inches from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney and in the constant throes of moving equipment, scurrying crewmembers and creative energy.
I’ve turned much of my energy from the big screen to the big apple, but I’ve definitely kept in touch with the film world. My cousin Neil has worked on the set of TV and movies for many years and is a solid movie-going companion of mine, and I still keep my eye on entertainment news, and behind-the-scenes featurettes. To assist my fellow tour guides, I’m in the process of creating an extremely comprehensive guide including my own snarky yet interesting commentary. Some excerpts from my list:
Almost Famous: (Max’s Kansas City, Gramercy Park Hotel, The Plaza) This film effectively brings back the hey-day of NYC’s rock scene of the 70’s and bravely reproduces the consequences…getting your stomach pumped in the bathroom of a Plaza Hotel suite after overdosing on Quaaludes.
Fame: (46 st btwn 6th and 7th) The school in the film is a church in reality, but dancing in the streets occasionally happens whether it’s impassioned theatergoers or crazy homeless people.
The Godfather (Old St Patrick’s Cathedral) Sofia Coppola plays the goddaughter at the peak of her acting career.
Hannah and Her Sisters (The Dakota) Mia Farrow’s apartment at one of the New York’s most famous residences doubles as Hannah’s apartment in the film. Soon-Yi has a cameo as one of the small children being entertained by Woody Allen’s character in the Thanksgiving scene. Awkwarrrrrd…
I Am Legend (The USS Intrepid) You can hit golf balls out over the Hudson River down by Chelsea Piers, but you gotta pay 30 bucks. New Yorkers remain price-savvy even after the Zombie Apocalypse.
National Treasure (Trinity Church) The climax of the film occurs here where—SPOILER ALERT—they find the national treasure.
The Nanny Diaries (Conservatory Water) A popular place to take kids, there’s a scene in this film where Scarlett Johannsen sits alone and contemplates how hot she is.
The Producers ’05 (Bethesda Fountain) The update was almost shot in Toronto but Mel Brooks thought the bagels there were “too mushy.”
However, my favorite movie location & story comes from this incredible blog www.onthesetofnewyork.com: Would you believe that one of the most instantly recognized & “New Yorky” lines of dialogue in film history was completely unscripted? That the most classic outburst that became synonymous with the rough and ruthless New York lifestyle was a flare-up caused by the grinding teeth of the city itself?
We’re talking Midnight Cowboy, 1969, and the set was the crosswalk at 6th avenue and 58th street. Shot by John Schlesinger sans permit to halt traffic, using a hidden camera in a parked van and remote microphones to capture Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight stroll across the street. They do about 15 takes and just as they’re getting it right, a taxi runs a red light, endangering Hoffman’s life, not to mention the perfect shot. Hoffman stays completely in character and, as Ratso Rizzo, he slaps the hood of the cab and screams, “HEY, CAN’T YA SEE I’M WALKING HERE!!”
Cut, print, and that’s a wrap!
By Jonah Levy