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Where the 'Action!' is: Film crews invade city neighborhoods

Jason Cato
| Friday, Oct. 30, 2009

City neighborhoods unaccustomed to the Hollywood spotlight are finding themselves sharing the stage with cinematic stalwarts like Oakland and Downtown, as filmmakers bounce around town shooting movies set in Pittsburgh.

The brick-paved streets of Regent Square recently hosted Russell Crowe and crew for "The Next Three Days," while a coffee shop in the North Side's Mexican War Streets this week set the scene actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs." Both films are set in Pittsburgh and are scheduled for release next year.

"(The Mexican War Streets) is a great neighborhood," said John Latenser, location manager for the Edward Zwick-directed romantic comedy about a Viagra salesman. "Pittsburgh has a wide range of geographic features as well as architectural features."

A third film — "Unstoppable" starring Denzel Washington — likely will not include any outdoor footage of Pittsburgh, a spokeswoman said.

Andrew Ullman, location manager for the Crowe film directed by Paul Haggis, worked in Pittsburgh last year while filming "The Road." He remembered Regent Square from scouting locations.

"It was just a lovely neighborhood where everything is perfect," said Ullman, a Philadelphia native who attended Point Park University.

The East End neighborhood transcended Crowe's character, a college professor named John Brennan, with "the karma it exudes," Ullman said. He looked at about 25 homes before choosing a dark brick house on LaClair Avenue for the thriller about a wife jailed for a murder she claims she did not commit.

"The house fit the bill," Ullman said.

That came as surprising news to Patsie Foerester, 86, who mostly lived in the house from the time her parents bought it in 1924, when she was 1, until she sold it in 1999. Film crews shot scenes at the house last week.

Foerester looks forward to seeing the house on the big screen.

"I said even if it's X-rated, I'll see it," she said.

Even though Pittsburgh largely will play itself in the films, Zwick set a Squirrel Hill house in Chicago, while Haggis transformed an Oakland tavern into a Brooklyn sports bar.

Luna Cafe, a bar on North Craig Street, was stripped of Pittsburgh sports memorabilia Monday and decorated with Brooklyn Dodgers pennants and other New York sports items, said bartender David Bredin.

"They took down Franco Harris and, of course, Bill Mazeroski," Bredin said.

Pittsburgh has served as the set for movies based in New York, San Francisco and Chicago as well as Paris and the Ukraine, said Dawn Keezer, president of the Pittsburgh Film Office.

"The only thing we're missing is a beach and a desert," Keezer said.

But films portraying Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh add an element of sentimentality for residents, Keezer acknowledged.

"It helps improve the self-esteem of Pittsburgers," she said. "It certainly helps."

Additional Information:

Lights! Camera! Pittsburgh!

Some motion pictures, with release date, filmed in the city and the neighborhoods featured

• 'Warrior' (2010) • Oakland, Downtown, Strip District

• 'She's Out of My League' (2010) • Hill District, Oakland, Downtown, Lawrenceville

• 'Adventureland' (2009) • Troy Hill, Oakland, Shadyside, Strip District. Lawrenceville

• 'My Bloody Valentine' (2009) • Lawrenceville, Strip District

• 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno' (2008) • Hazelwood, Mt. Washington, Hill District, South Side, West End

• 'The Mysteries of Pittsburgh' (2008) • Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Downtown, Mt. Washington, East Liberty

• 'The Mothman Prophecies' (2002) • Oakland, Downtown, Shadyside

• 'A Wedding for Bella' a.k.a. 'The Bread, My Sweet' (2001) • Strip District

• 'The Wonder Boys' (2000) • Oakland, Downtown, Shadyside, Hill District, North Side

• 'Dogma' (1999) • East Liberty, West End, Downtown

• 'Striking Distance' (1993) • Downtown, Oakland, South Side, Washington's Landing

• 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1991) • Oakland, Downtown

• 'Flashdance' (1983) • Oakland, South Side

• 'The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh' (1979) • Hill District, North Side

• 'Night of the Living Dead' (1968) • South Side basement

• 'Angels in the Outfield' (1951) • Forbes Field, Oakland

Note: This list is not comprehensive and does not include locations outside Pittsburgh.

Sources: Internet Movie Database; Pittsburgh Film Office; Tribune-Review research

Additional Information:

Where the crews are

Pittsburgh neighborhoods currently being used by film crews: Squirrel Hill, Downtown, South Side (Station Square), Bloomfield, Hill District, Troy Hill, Mt. Washington, Highland Park, North Side (Mexican War Streets), Regent Square, Oakland, Strip District

Source: Pittsburgh Film Office

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