Gran Torino | 2008
The original story of curmudgeonly widower Walt Kowalski finding an unexpected degree of kinship with the Hmong community was set in Minneapolis, but director Clint Eastwood felt Kowalski’s past as an auto worker made the Motor City itself, Detroit, the ideal backdrop.
Detroit has been hit hard by the decline of the car industry, but isn’t taking the setback lying down. A new tax incentive package offered to film productions by the state of Michigan clinched the deal, and Gran Torino became the first film to benefit) . With the production crew spending more than $10 million in town during the 33-day shoot, well, everybody’s happy.
The home of Kowalski (Eastwood himself) is in the Highland Park neighbourhood, to the north of Detroit, at 238 Rhode Island Street, between Oakland Parkway and Brush Street (this is a private home so – as ever – please respect the occupants' privacy).
Kowalski seethes as his grandkids show disrespect at his wife’s funeral held in St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 15020 Hampton Road in Grosse Pointe Park, east of Highland Park – and this is also where the film ends.
The persistent Father Janovich (Christopher Carley) badgers Walt for a chat about life and death in his local bar, which is the Veterans of Foreign Wars Richard Menge Post No. 6756, 25500 Sherwood Avenue in the Center Line district, to the north of the city.
‘Martin’s’ barber shop, where Walt attempts to coach the naive Thao (Bee Vang) in man-talk, is Widgren’s Barber Shop, 204 West 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak.
It’s outside 13140 Charlevoix Street, at Drexel Street, in a rather derelict-looking area northeast of the Chrysler Assembly Plant, that Kowalski sees off the three toughs giving Sue (Ahney Her) a hard time.
The ‘CM Young Hardware’ store, where Walt gets Thao kitted out for his first job, is Pointe Hardware & Lumber, 15020 Kercheval Avenue in Grosse Pointe Park itself.
Also in Grosse Pointe Park, a couple of miles northeast, Walt belatedly gets his first made-to-measure suit at Artona Custom Tailoring, 17834 Mack Avenue.
A little further east, in the classy suburb of Grosse Pointe Shores on Lake Saint Clair, Kowalski’s son Mitch (Brian Haley) and his ghastly family live at 535 Ballantyne Road.
Kowalski ultimately faces up to the Hmong gang in front of 217 Pilgrim Street, between Hamilton Avenue and Third Street, in Highland Park, northwest of Kowalski’s home.
• Many thanks to Jim Kirkpatrick for help with this section.