Road To Perdition | 2002
The real star of Sam Mendes’ film of the graphic novel is the sombre cinematography of veteran Conrad L Hall, who died shortly after filming.
Most of the film was shot on real locations, around Chicago, although the city’s Bronzeville Armory was converted into a soundstage, for the house interiors of hitman Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and of mob boss John Rooney (Paul Newman). The armory, at 35th Street and Giles Avenue, south of Chicago’s Loop, has since been redeveloped as a school.
‘Rock Island’, the town where the Sullivans and Rooneys live, is downtown West Dundee, about 30 miles west of Chicago. The opening scenes of Michael Jr (Tyler Hoechlin) shoplifting were filmed here, on Main Street, between First and Second Streets.
One Los Angeles studio set is the town street, where Sullivan and Rooney drink at ‘O’Neill’s’, which is on the Warner Brothers backlot in Burbank.
About ten miles northeast of Dundee is the town of Barrington Hills. A couple of miles west of the town, a country house on Old Sutton Road, just south of County Line Road, became Michael Sullivan’s home.
On Chicago’s far southside is the Pullman Historic District, and the Florence Hotel, 11111 South Forrestville Avenue, where Rooney’s son Connor (Daniel Craig) resides, as well as the warehouse where young Michael discovers his father’s line of work.
The Pullman Historic District is a unique community, built in 1880-84 as a planned model industrial town for the Pullman's Palace Car Company. In 1960 , the area was threatened with demolition to make way for the construction of an industrial park. Local residents protested the demolition and, through their efforts, the Town of Pullman was designated an Illinois Historic District in 1969.
The Historic Pullman Visitor Center stands on the site of the Arcade Building at the corner of 112th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. You can start your own self-guided walking tour by picking up a copy of the walking tour brochure, or you can take a guided tour.
The Sullivans head off to make a deal with Al Capone’s right-hand man, Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci), arriving in Chicago at the LaSalle Street Bridge – where modern buildings had to be removed digitally from the skyline.
The exterior of Nitti’s ‘Hotel Lexington’ is the Wrigley Building, 400-410 North Michigan Avenue, but its glamorous lobby and stairs are those of the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 South Michigan Avenue. The hotel is also featured in My Best Friend’s Wedding, Home Alone II: Lost In New York and The Fugitive.
The ‘Eatmore Grill’ is also in the city. It was the Salvation Army Clothing Store, which later became a Thai restaurant (and itself has since closed), at 3900 North Lincoln Avenue, north of the city in the North Center district.
On the road, Sullivan and his son stop off at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1407 West Church Road, west of Beecher, south of Chicago.
Meanwhile, unscrupulous crime-scene photographer Maguire (Jude Law) is dispatched to track down the pair. He catches up with Sullivan at the ‘Englewood Diner’, a real diner which was originally sited on Peabody Square in the Boston suburb of Dorchester.
It was bought for the film – on eBay – and transported to open land outside Chicago for filming. Fully restored, it was sold back to its original owner, to become the Downeast Diner, in Eliot on the southernmost tip of Maine. It now seems to have moved on again.
With Nitti protecting Connor Rooney, Sullivan decides to hit Capone’s organisation where it hurts. Teaching his son the skills to be a getaway driver, on the tree-lined road at Sweet Woods Forest Preserve in Glenwood, south of East Chicago, he embarks on a series of bank robberies.
The string of banks, which appear to be all over the place, can be seen in the downtown business district of Momence, on Route 1, about 50 miles south of Chicago.
When the mob’s money is withdrawn, Sullivan tracks down Capone’s accountant Rance (Dylan Baker) to the Geneva Hotel (a real establishment, but long-closed) in the town of Geneva, south of Dundee. Home to, not a Swiss, but a large Swedish community, this historic town is the site of the bloody shoot-up in which Maguire suffers a shotgun blast to the face.
The church, where Sullivan takes Rooney down to the crypt to let him know that his own son has been stealing from him, is St Sylvester Church, 2157 North Humboldt Boulevard on Palmer Square, in the Logan Square district, northwest of Chicago.
It’s across Lake Michigan to Saugatuck, Michigan, on the opposite shore, about 30 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.
The motel, at which Sullivan narrowly evades Maguire, was the 1930s White Dog Inn on Blue Star Highway, it had been damaged by fire in 1998 and was scheduled for demolition after filming.
Also gone is the ‘Perdition’ beach house, where the film ends. It was built for the movie, and then dismantled, a few miles north of Saugatuck at Port Sheldon Township.