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Saturday December 15th 2018

Sleepers | 1996

Sleepers film location: Astor Place subway, Fourth Avenue, New York
Sleepers film location: the reckless joke goes horribly wrong: Astor Place subway station, Fourth Avenue, New York

Barry Levinson’s film of Lorenzo Carcatera’s revenge melodrama should have been harrowing but, despite a top-drawer cast, comes across as contrived. Supposedly based on a true story, no one seems able to find any record of the events.

Brooklyn, stands in for New York’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ neighbourhood, which has been radically redeveloped since the 60s, when the film begins. The ‘Church of the Holy Angels’ of Father Bobby (Robert De Niro) is Most Holy Trinity, 138 Montrose Avenue in Williamsburg.

The canopied subway station, where a reckless jape goes so horribly wrong, is Astor Place, Fourth Avenue at Stuyvesant Street, over in the East Village.

The terrible consequence sees four boys sent to the grim ‘Wilkinson Home for Boys, Breckenridge’, which is Fairfield Hills Hospital, Mile Hill Road, a facility for the mentally disabled near Newtown, Connecticut. It’s here that their lives are made hell by sadistic guard Sean Nokes (Kevin Bacon).

Sleepers film location: Elysian Cafe, Washington Street, Hoboken, New Jersey
Sleepers film location: John and Tommy take their revenge: Elysian Cafe, Washington Street, Hoboken, New Jersey

Years later, the adult John (Ron Eldard) and Tommy (Billy Crudup) take revenge on Nokes in the back dining room of Elysian Cafe, 1001 Washington Street at 10th Street in Hoboken, New Jersey. Opened in 1895, the Elysian Cafe claims to be the oldest continually operated bar/restaurant in Hoboken – during Prohibition, it operated discreetly as a speakeasy, disguised as a beauty parlour. The bar, with its magnificent cherub-riddled ceiling, has recently been beautifully restored.

King Benny (Vittorio Gassman, who played the Al Pacino role in the original Italian Scent of a Woman), has a quiet word at the Market Diner, which stood at 572 11th Avenue at West 43rd Street, until being demolished in 2015. The diner had been a hangout for Irish gangsters, celebrities (such as Frank Sinatra) and late-night cabdrivers since the 1960s. There are plans to build – surprise! – a much-needed a 13-story apartment building on the site.

Sleepers film location: Kings Theatre, Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Sleepers film location: the HQ of Little Caesar: Kings Theatre, Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, New York | Photograph: Wikimedia / Alexandra Silversmith

The grand but faded HQ of Little Caesar, the older brother of Rizzo who died in the Wilkinson home, is the Kings Theater, 1049 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn. Opened in 1929, with a screening of Evangeline, the Loew’s Kings Theatre was one of the five original ‘Loew’s Wonder Theatres’, among the most exquisite theatres in the nation.

After a decline in the 50s and 60s, the theatre finally closed its doors in 1977 but, following a massive renovation programme, it was reopened in 2015. It's also seen in Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth,

The murder trial seems to be taking place in the Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street at Chambers Street (though a quick insert shot tries to sell the location as the United States Courthouse), but the interior was actually filmed at Yonkers, in the County Courthouse, 100 South Broadway, New York State.

Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt) and ‘Shakes’ (Jason Patric) discuss the future in the Municipal Building’s colonnaded entrance, before Sullivan disappears into the Chambers Street subway station.

Sleepers film location: Minetta Tavern, MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, New York
Sleepers film location: the friends meet up for a final celebration: Minetta Tavern, MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, New York

The four friends meet up for a final celebration in the Minetta Tavern, 113 MacDougal Street at Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village. A speakeasy, called The Black Rabbit, during Prohibition, the tavern was something of a literary a hangout, for the likes of Ezra Pound, e e cummings, Ernest Hemingway and Eugene O’Neill. All that, and Reader’s Digest was founded in the tavern’s basement in 1923. You can glimpse the Minetta in the original Shaft.