date published: November 10, 2003
Boston may not have the screaming metropolitan atmosphere of New York City or the glitz and glam of Hollywood. And visitors probably shouldn't expect to see the silver screen's biggest stars shooting a scene at a local bar-but it has happened before. In fact, two major films were shot here last fall. Clint Eastwood was in town directing the critically acclaimed Mystic River starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon, while Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles flitted around Boston and Wellesley for the filming of Mona Lisa Smile, to be released this winter. So grab a camera and put on your walking shoes for a jaunt through a few of the places in the Hub that Hollywood has made famous.
Formerly the Bull and Finch Pub, 84 Beacon St. and Faneuil Hall Marketplace
After the onslaught of hype and hysteria caused by NBC's hit television show "Cheers," we'd be surprised-a bit frightened, actually-if anyone knows your name at the Bull and Finch Pub. Though the bar frequented by Norm, Cliff and the other cast of characters was actually a Hollywood set, the inspiration for the series as well as the exterior shots are courtesy of the former Bull and Finch, recently renamed Cheers. With a trolley tour stop nearby and a gift shop boasting everything "Cheers," the pub is a tourist hotspot. However, we still find it a comfortable place to grab an afternoon ale or a casual meal.
FYI: Thousands of fans packed Boston Common and the area around the Bull and Finch when Jay Leno and the cast of "Cheers" came to town for the live broadcast of "The Tonight Show" following the airing of the final episode on May 20, 1993. Unfortunately, the celebration may have gotten a little too raucous for Jay Leno, who was then still new to his hosting duties. Newspapers the following day questioned his abilities after he struggled to interview the apparently inebriated cast. True "Cheers" enthusiasts will also want to check out a replica bar and restaurant that looks more like the set, located in Faneuil Hall Marketplace. But be prepared to wrestle with other fans for Norm's seat.
THE REAL WORLD, 1997
127 Mt. Vernon St., Beacon Hill
Hailed as the original reality show and known for the mantra "the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real," this MTV phenomenon chose Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood as the setting for its sixth season. Young cast members Elka, Genesis, Jason, Kameelah, Montana, Sean and Syrus took up residence in a renovated, three-story firehouse, complete with posh furnishing and a trademark spiral staircase. Though little of the interior is recognizable from the show (the building now houses a non-profit community center), the outside remains as it was during taping.
FYI: The firehouse also served as the home of Robert Urich's character on the 1980s detective series, "Spenser: For Hire."
A CIVIL ACTION
Library of the Boston Athenaeum,
101/2 Beacon Street, Beacon Hill
Not far from "The Real World" residence is the Boston Athenaeum, the building that served as the law offices of Hale and Dorr in the acclaimed feature film A Civil Action. Hoping to capture the eerie stillness of late fall in New England, Disney brought John Travolta and Robert Duvall to the Hub in November 1997 for a short stint of filming. Unfortunately, by early November, Boston's foliage was still in its full splendor and producers postponed taping until later in the season. By the end of the month nature still refused to cooperate, so crewmembers were forced to shake trees in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to get leaves to fall and manually create the dreary atmosphere they had hoped for. The movie premiered at Boston's Wang Theatre in January of 1999, bringing a touch of West Coast glamour to the Theatre District.
FYI: A Civil Action was based on a real-life lawsuit brought against two large companies in Woburn (a community a few miles north of Boston), who were accused of contaminating the local water supply.
THE TV SERIES OF DAVID E. KELLEY
14 Beacon St., Beacon Hill; East Boston High School, 86 White St.; Suffolk County Courthouse in Post Office Square; Doyle's Cafe, 3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain.
Kelley may have been born in Maine, but one look at the TV shows that made him famous proves it was his time spent working as a lawyer in the Hub that drives his creativity. Of his successful series, "The Practice," "Boston Public" and the now-defunct "Ally McBeal" are all set locally. While most of the actors have never actually been in Boston for filming, there is a hint of authenticity. East Boston High School is the stand-in for the exterior school shots in "Boston Public" and the bar at Doyle's Cafe (the teachers' hangout) was masterfully recreated on the West Coast set (the exterior is the actual restaurant in Jamaica Plain). The exterior of the law firm where Ally McBeal supposedly toiled is located at 14 Beacon St., which is actually the 19th century Congregational House, home of a Protestant religious organization. "The Practice," on the other hand, uses exterior shots of Suffolk County Courthouse and City Hall Plaza for its court scenes and once filmed a big wedding scene at beloved Fenway Park.
FYI: Kelley made his big career change in 1986 when a screenplay he wrote based on his life as a lawyer was made into a film starring fellow Maine native Judd Nelson called From the Hip.
Doyle's Cafe, 3484 Washington St., Jamaica Plain; Miller's Market, 336 K St., South Boston; Franklin Park Zoo, One Franklin Park Road, Roxbury
When director Clint Eastwood was scouting locations for a film version of Dennis Lehane's best selling novel Mystic River, he came straight to Beantown where the author had set this homegrown tale of friendship, loyalty and murder. Eastwood ended up shooting the entire film here, focusing on the streets of Jamaica Plain, Dorchester and South and East Boston. Starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon, Mystic River-which looks well-poised for Oscar success after garnering raves from critics and audiences alike-incorporates various local establishments into its milieu including the ever-popular Doyle's Cafe, used in a critical scene featuring Robbins. The corner grocery, Cottage Market, run by Penn's character in the movie, is actually Miller's Market in South Boston and has been owned by the Noto family for almost 20 years. Probably the most unsettling scene in the film, when the body of a murder victim is found, was shot in Franklin Park Zoo's abandoned bear den. Located in a remote wooded area behind the giraffe entrance to the zoo, the long-forgotten exhibit is pretty creepy even in real life, especially at night.
FYI: The local charm of Doyle's, a venerable Beantown tavern, may have paid off for longtime bartender Jimmy Sullivan. After landing a cameo in the scene at Doyle's, Sullivan poured his last pint and headed West to try his luck as an actor in Hollywood. The pub is also known to be popular with politicians and world leaders: even former President Bill Clinton has stopped in for a pint!
In 1989, Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman starred in what many acknowledge to be the greatest Civil War movie ever made (it won Washington an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). With scenes taped on Boston Common, the film traces the trials and fortitude of Robert Gould Shaw's 54th Regiment-the first African-American regiment in the Civil War. The producers hoped to mesh melodrama with authenticity, so their decision to choose the Hub to host a portion of the film stemmed partially from the fact that the regiment was made up mostly of emancipated slaves from Boston.
FYI: Be sure to visit the Shaw Memorial at the corner of Beacon and Park Streets that serves as a tribute to the regiment highlighted in the film.
GOOD WILL HUNTING
South Boston, Charlestown and Harvard Square
Written by and starring homegrown heartthrobs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, the 1997 film Good Will Hunting displays what most residents agree is a fairly accurate representation of Boston, winning Oscars for the two local boys and actor Robin Williams. Begin your Good Will Hunting trek at Woody's L Street Tavern at 58 E. 8th St. #A in South Boston. The local hangout of characters Will, Chuckie, Billy and Morgan in the film got a facelift recently but is otherwise the same neighborhood bar it's always been. The owners and patrons are happy to share with visitors their Good Will Hunting scrapbook and riff about the stars upon request. Other shooting locations from the film include exterior shots of Bunker Hill Community College (250 New Rutherford Ave. in Charlestown), where Williams' character is a professor of psychology, and a slew of scenes filmed in Harvard Square including the Au Bon Pain on Mass. Ave., where sweethearts Will and Skylar banter over organic chemistry.
FYI: Regulars at the L Street Tavern recall Robin Williams buying the house a round of drinks during filming. And Ben Affleck has brought fiancee Jennifer Lopez in for a pint, but not before the couple grabbed a slice across the street at Mirisola's. Both owners might have a thing or two to tell you about the famous pair-especially Ms. Lopez.
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|Born in Beantown
Most film aficionados know that heartthrobs Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were born and raised in the Hub, just as anyone who was either a teenager or a parent of one in the late '80s remembers that those glossy icons of pop culture-the New Kids on the Block-were also products of Boston proper. But the Boston area has played maternity ward to a number of entertainment's most well-known names. Here's a sampling: