Following an incredible (if slightly exhausting) trip in the United States, your webmaster is finally back in good ‘ole England after earning a much-needed break.
The holiday, which consisted of me and my sister travelling to New York, Philadelphia and Boston for ten days, produced several highlights that will live long in the memory. But whilst we had the unique pleasure of visiting the likes of Time Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower and Fenway Park, there was an added bonus for me in particular when it came to my greatest subject matter. Film and television.
Owing to the amount of places we saw, I have done a Hunger Games and split this article into two pieces.
Part I looks back on the many productions that were filmed in NY as well as a small mention of Philadelphia with the Boston edition coming out later. All these locations have played pivotal roles on the big (and small) screen over the years.
Before we had even stepped into the Big Apple, we both stayed at my sister’s friend’s house for six days on Long Island. What I didn’t know until we got there was that the property was in a place called Amityville. The name will sound very familiar to horror film fans as it’s the location for where the 1979 flick The Amityville Horror (and its 2005 remake) was set. Fortunately, there was no incidents to report from our time there and you can’t help but admire the beautiful scenery around the place.
Once we arrived in New York, we spent our first night dining at a delicious restaurant in Little Italy called Mulberry Street Place. My sister had suggested it owing to it being used for scenes involving Johnny Sacks and Phil Leonardo in HBO’s award-winning series The Sopranos.
The next day, we travelled through Central Park which of course was inspired by a certain park back home on the Wirral. Many films had been shot in that environment most notably Home Alone 2: Lost in New York where Kevin McAllister encounters the Bird Lady. We would later stand outside the Plaza Hotel where Kevin ended up staying. Central Park had also been used for one of my favourite musical sequences where Amy Adams’ Giselle sings her iconic song “That’s How You Know” in the terrific Disney film Enchanted.
Going up the Empire State Building the next day was one of the early highlights of the holiday and many film fanatics will know that this particular building was crucially used in all three versions of the ape adventure King Kong.
On the television front, we stood outside the building where The Tonight Show would be filmed followed by my much-anticipated visit to the HBO store. Those of you unfamiliar with that studio will know that they have produced such groundbreaking shows as The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire and of course, Game of Thrones. I spent a good half hour in that store looking for merchandise but was also happy to see the likes of Silicon Valley and Veep getting their own sections. Unsurprisingly I bought mostly Thrones stuff, me being the big geek and all!
The following morning, we set off on the first of two intriguing bus tours on the holiday with the first taking place in New York (obvs!).
Our tour guide was a young actor called Scott Bolohan who did an effective job showing us where certain films were made across the city as well as telling us a couple of humourous jokes (including a rather dark one about Donald Trump!).
Over the course of two hours, our bus slowly drove through the busy streets of New York as Scott presented a large selection of clips from various films and television programmes.
The recent Oscar-winning comedy Birdman was focused on earlier as we drove past the Rum House and Times Square, the latter of which was used for the memorable scene of Riggan Thomson running around in his underwear.
The taller blocks in New York were used for other high-profile productions including the Hearst Building (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), the McGraw-Hill Company Building (The Devil Wears Prada), the Trump Tower (The Dark Knight Rises) and Time-Life Building (Mad Men).
There was also the sight of other recognisable places like Columbus Circle, which hosted the political rally scenes from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Macy’s as used in the Christmas comedy Elf.
We ended up making three stops on that journey, the first of which took place at Washington Square Park. That location had been used for the likes of I Am Legend and When Harry Met Sally but it was the other two stops that interested me more.
While I admit to not being a devoted fan of the film, I did get excited at the sight of the Fire Station from the 80s hit Ghostbusters. The logo can be seen rooted to the floor outside the building which makes it instantly recognisable to all tourists. The other significant stop we made was to stand outside the apartment as used in the much-loved sitcom Friends. As Scott explained to us, the building is nowhere near as big as it appears on the show but it still looked impressive nonetheless.
The tour finally ended with us stopping outside the Soup Kitchen which was memorably used in an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and his friends suffer constant abuse from the Soup Nazi.
Admittedly I did feel that a couple of notable productions were overlooked on the tour like the hilarious sitcom Taxi or the holiday-from-hell comedy The Out-of-Towners but you couldn’t fault Scott’s work throughout.
The following day, we travelled to Wall Street en-route to the 9/11 Memorial. The Stock Exchange was nearby which was used in a memorable sequence from The Dark Knight Rises where Bane and his team pull off a robbery and then escape on bikes. But we couldn’t resist having a bit of fun as we stood near the Wall Street sign as I proceeded to start thumping my chest and humming as a tribute to Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo Di-Caprio’s legendary moments in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
That humourous bit of fun was to be the last major film-related activity we did in New York as we then prepared to make the long journey south towards Philly for the next installment of our American adventure….
This section is only small given that me and my sister were in Philly for just a few hours but this part of the holiday did produce one of the more memorable sights of the trip.
After visiting the Eastern State Penitentiary in the morning, we got back on the tour bus and arrived just near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Based close to the steps of this great building was probably cinema’s most famous statue, Rocky Balboa.
Those familiar with the Rocky franchise will know that in Rocky III, the Italian Stallion has a statue built on the top of the steps as a tribute to his rags-to-riches story by the people of Philadelphia. Since the final Rocky film was released back in 2006, the sculpture’s location was switched to a piece of suburb nearby and this allowed me to have my picture taken complete with a tough guy pose.
I then decided to get to the top of the museum steps though I was far too knackered to even run up as Rocky does in the films. I even managed to do a good job of remaking the classic poster by posing with my fists in the air whilst overlooking the spectacular sight of Philly in the distance.
That was pretty much all the film/television-related things we did that day but getting the chance to stand on the Rocky steps and pose with the statue was an awesome moment.
Stay tuned for Part II of my Film/TV tour of America in the second edition, Bahston!