Cloverfield | 2008
The ‘found footage’ format of Matt Reeves’ monster movie requires the camera always to be facing in the right direction to record a coherent narrative (something that doesn't necessarily always happen in feature films), but if you can suspend disbelief it’s a great, fast-paced ride.
The casual hand-held style disguises the meticulous planning that sees the action constantly flitting from east coast to west coast and back. Amazingly, there was only one week’s filming in the real setting of New York, much of the film being shot in Los Angeles.
The set-up establishes New York, with flashbacks of Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and his then-girlfriend Beth (Odette Annable) in an apartment in the Time Warner Center, overlooking Columbus Circle, and train shots grabbed en route to Coney Island.
As an example of the knitting together of locations, the loft interior for Rob’s leaving party, is Los Angeles, while the roof is Lower Manhattan, and the street outside (where everybody rushes to grab a shot of the Statue of Liberty’s head) is the Paramount back lot on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood – as is the grocery store in which they all hide out as the ash cloud passes.
In an attempt to evacuate Manhattan, the panicked crowds head to Brooklyn Bridge – and there are several shots of the real bridge – but the rest of the ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ sequence was recreated in the studio in Downey (a former Boeing production plant), to the south of Los Angeles. The studio has previously hosted filming for epic productions such as Spider-Man and Iron Man.
With the bridge destroyed before they can make it out of the city, Rob and his friends make the decision to head up to Central Park South and rescue Beth from her apartment.
The ‘New York’ intersection is Sixth Street at Spring Street, in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, where the building on the eastern corner was transformed into a Sephora store – leading many locals to believe that the area was finally starting to move seriously upmarket.
On the west corner of the junction opposite, the electronics store in which the monster and its lethal parasites are first glimpsed on TV is Stereoline, 200 West 6th Street.
Staying in Los Angeles, the army’s futile attack on the creature was filmed on the ‘New York Street’ of the Warner Bros Burbank lot.
And the platform of SoHo’s ‘Spring Street’ station, along with the subway tunnel itself, were filmed inside a loading dock down in San Pedro, LA’s harbour district.
There’s a brief return to the East Coast as the survivors exit the subway into Bloomingdale's 59th Street department store, 1000 Third Avenue(no stranger to the screen, though more usually seen in urban comedies such as Woody Allen’s Manhattan or Splash!). The subterranean entrance to the store is real enough, but this glimpse of New York is very brief.
The actual store interior, in which the military have established a field HQ, is that of the Robinsons-May Westfield Santa Anita Mall, 400 South Baldwin Avenue, in Arcadia, a suburb to the east of Los Angeles.
Finally making it to Central Park South, the surviving group discovers that they will have to navigate one of the twin towers of the Time Warner Center which has toppled to lean precariously against the other.
The entrance to the highrise, through which they gain access, is the lobby of a spanking new apartment block at 1100 Wilshire Boulevard, at the southwest corner of South Bixel Street, on the western fringe of downtown Los Angeles.
Racing against time to catch the last ’copter out before Manhattan gets carpet bombed, there’s a frantic dash up the incline on Park Avenue alongside Grand Central Station, from 41st Street to the junction of 40th Street.
Major stunts involving helicopters are not ideally suited to central New York, so this intersection was also recreated at Downey for the final take off.
The ’copter crash is in Central Park, though not the one in New York.
But it is in the more famous Manhattan namesake, though, that you’ll find the underpass beneath which Rob and Beth shelter from the creature. It’s Greyshot Arch, built in 1860 by the park’s landscaper, Calvert Vaux, near Merchant's Gate, between 61st and 62nd Streets in the southwest corner of the park – not far from the film’s opening location of Columbus Circle. The arch is also central to Jonathan Glazer’s creepy Birth, with Nicole Kidman.
‘Greyshot’ was originally intended to be the film’s title but – after the runaway success of the viral marketing campaign – it made more sense to stick with the widely publicized working title of Cloverfield.
This name comes from Cloverfield Boulevard, which runs through Santa Monica near to production company Bad Robot’s offices.