Amazing Spider-Man: Locations
New York City has always been a key component of the Spider-Man story, and this is especially true in Marc Webb’s vision for “The Amazing Spider-Man.” “New York is such a wonderfully engaging place if you have a mind to be engaged by it, and it can be an incredibly sad place if you’re lonely and isolated,” explains production designer J. Michael Riva. “For Peter Parker, it’s both things at different times in the movie.”
The film’s exteriors were largely shot on the New York street sets at Universal Studios as the first film to shoot there following the set’s extensive rebuild following a devastating fire in 2008. “Luckily, the set became available for us to use for several weeks of filming at just the right time,” says executive producer Michael Grillo. “Our production designer J. Michael Riva and his team created this world of New York City for us, so we could do stunts and physical effects, maintaining a control over explosions and crashes that are obviously much more effectively achieved than on practical locations.”
Universal’s new New York Street set could not represent the city authentically without the addition of years of big-city wear-and-tear to the area. Over 2,000 posts, bills and stickers were placed on light poles, mailboxes and alleyways as well as on the eight construction sites added by the production. Discarded gum lent additional realism to the faux detritus placed throughout the several city blocks, and fake pigeons were installed on a lamppost above the street. The production used over 5,000 yards of fabric, 300 venetian blinds and other materials, as well as 300 air conditioning units to dress the more than 1,454 bare windows.
Eighteen set dressers worked for weeks in order to install the storefronts, art galleries, restaurants, mailboxes, newsstands and cafes on the streets. Many leading retailers teamed up with the production, loaning them materials to be used in creating the New York street scenes. These stores included Starbucks, DKNY, Manolo Blahnik, Design Within Reach, Brioni, Hugo Boss, Sephora, Patagonia, Dean & Deluca, Banana Republic, Tory Burch, and Bed, Bath & Beyond, whose window was shattered and merchandise destroyed during a particularly intense action scene.
Beyond the New York Street, the production showed off other areas of the city. One key action sequence takes place along New York’s Williamsburg Bridge, a portion of which was shot on Universal’s Falls Lake backlot area. When Spider-Man arrives on the scene, he makes a daring rescue. “This sequence was extremely complex – it had so many moving parts and was so physically demanding for everyone involved,” recalls Webb. “It was also a key emotional beat, because it is where Peter realizes the value of what Spider-Man can be, and it transforms him in a certain way.”
“The construction department built a full-scale, three hundred foot section of the bridge so that our department could prepare for a complex sequence involving a raging reptile and several unfortunate cars,” explains special effects supervisor and Academy Award winner John Frazier. “The Lizard is on a rampage on the bridge, chasing a character in a limousine, and he is swatting vehicles off of the bridge into the East River when Spider-Man arrives on scene to attempt a daring rescue. Our job was to choreograph and set up all of the mechanics of ‘tossing’ the cars by using car flippers – high pressure nitrogen floor jacks – so we could flip six cars while avoiding damage to the surrounding cars.”
Riva created an impressive series of sets for the film, on studio stages and on practical locations. “One of the things I like about the movie is that it has a lot of tension built into it, from scene to scene, as well as the stark contrast between the worlds of Queens and OsCorp,” he explains. “The first scenes, when seven-year-old Peter is living with his parents, are very womb-like, warm and comforting. When his family gets ripped apart and he goes to live with people he essentially barely knows, we created a home less affluent than Peter’s parents’ home, but still warm. Cut to OsCorp, a black glass tower high above mid-town Manhattan, and inside a huge white, sterile place where cutting edge research is being conducted with no expense spared. It’s a stark contrast.”
The OsCorp lab set was built on Stage 30 at Sony Pictures Studios and was one of the largest sets created for the film. Its massive footprint occupied over 14,000 square feet of stage floor and took over twelve weeks to build.
High school exteriors were shot at two Southern California high schools. For the interior sequences – which would require extensive stunt and effects work – sets were constructed on Sony’s Stage 15. The largest soundstage on the lot became home to four classrooms, five hallways, a bathroom, principal’s office and secretary’s office. The high school library, the site of a fierce and destructive battle, required a separate stage and was comprised of almost 3,000 feet of faux books, constructed of real book covers with recyclable styrofoam inserts.
The filmmakers wrapped production in New York City with exterior shots. Beneath an elevated portion of Riverside Drive, between 130th and 135th Streets, the filmmakers shot an extensive sequence in which Spider-Man leaps underneath an elevated street, webbing the trestles 80 feet above the street and dodging traffic as he swings away from the police.
Stunt Coordinator Andy Armstrong explains how it was done. “We built a traveling winch rig under the elevated roadway to travel Spider-Man on as he moves. We constructed a vehicle which is literally like a giant puppeteer rig, thirty feet high, so we can pull him along at any speed we wanted. He could achieve these giant swings, all the while dodging the traffic below.”
“The Amazing Spider-Man” arrives on the big screen on July 3.
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