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‘Broken City’ was shot on location in New York and, due to production logistics, in New Orleans, the latter doubling for the Big Apple. “‘Broken City’ is a New York movie in the classic sense that we shot most of the exteriors in New York,” director Allen Hughes explains. “Our production designer, Tom Duffield, maintained a consistency from New York into New Orleans, and there was definitely a cohesion that was remarkable.”
During their first meeting to discuss the project, Hughes and Duffield sorted through images and discussed movies that featured New York, deciding what they would film in New Orleans and what absolutely had to be shot in New York. “We wanted to show the big panoramic views of New York from across the river or on the rooftops looking at some of New York’s iconic buildings,” says Duffield. “In one scene shot from a penthouse balcony of the Palace Hotel at night (doubling for the Four Seasons) you can see both the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in one shot. Those are the scenes that give the film a real iconic feel for New York.”
Production began with over two weeks of establishing exteriors throughout New York City
Bolton Village, scene of the crime for which Billy, played by Mark Wahlberg, must relinquish his badge, and the center of the controversy surrounding Mayor Hostetler, played by Russell Crowe, was shot in and around the Lower East Side public housing project in New York’s Alphabet City known as Riis Houses.
Brooklyn’s Vinegar Hill neighborhood at Plymouth and Adams Streets, also known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), offered up the gritty streets where Billy sets up shop as a small-time private investigator, biding his time in hopes of regaining his honor and badge. The borough provided the perfect vantage point for daytime skylines overlooking Manhattan’s financial district.
Several hundred extras gathered as protesters of police corruption and injustice, in front of a courthouse during Billy’s trial, which filmed on the stairs of the New York City Supreme Court at One Center Street. Councilman Valliant’s press conference pledging hope for the working class, was shot at the Tweed Courthouse at 52 Chambers.
The cast and crew regularly found themselves amongst the hustle and flow of humanity, shooting on the streets of mid-town Manhattan, on Madison and 44th or Grand Central Station to capture the unassumingly influential lifestyle of the mayor’s wife, Cathleen, and her aides. Production in New York wrapped with a scene shot at the Long Island Railroad, and a sequence filmed at a Montauk Beach house in Nissequogue, Long Island.
“There are many different ways of showing New York, gritty like ‘The French Connection’, or beautiful like ‘Manhattan’,” explains Duffield. “We tended a little more towards ‘Manhattan’, with picturesque views across the river or up at the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx – all these beautiful locations that just make New York feel like a great city.”
‘Broken City’ is a rhythmic dance with two forces colliding: the dangerous Manhattan patriarch (Crowe’s Mayor Hostetler) and the unapologetic outcast (Wahlberg’s Billy Taggart) on a relentless path of redemption. Much of their intense interaction was captured in New Orleans, where the production moved for the remaining six weeks to shoot interiors and select exteriors.
“For Hostetler, we wanted that sort of ‘Godfather’ feel, with light slashing through the shutters of the Don’s office,” says Duffield. “After his fall from grace, Billy Taggart moves to more gritty areas around Brooklyn. His office is probably my favorite set build in New Orleans because I got into that kind of texture of an older neighborhood, lot of walls with peeling paint and exposed pipes.”
‘Broken City’ arrived in theaters everywhere in the States on January 18, 2013.