Robert and I were in a car scouting locations and we needed a bodega in the Bronx in a hurry. Production would begin within days and we were on the lookout for something specific to the story and close to the Throgs Neck Bridge. That’s it! One of us pointed, the other swerved and parked. The owners and their kids said heck yeah. And so it would be conjured with light and production design into our ‘INT. DELI’ for one very full day of work.
The same thing happened with the Ice House Cafe, a waterfront restaurant (“American fare in down-home digs near the Throgs Neck Bridge”), and it became the location for the memorial scenes. It had framed pictures of baseball players on the walls, a view of the boats, (fried clams), and, crucially, a room-length window through which Jonny sees Ruth, and Ruth sees Jonny, but not at the same time.
We found Mary Mullen-Vega’s house with the same method of drive-by discovery. A brick house with a bright red door (in a story involving primary schools), it was also just blocks from the Bridge. And there was a bus stop down the street from the house— the Bx8 bus roared by the set several times a day. We could follow Jonny and Mary in a ‘walk & talk’ along the sidewalk from her house toward the bus stop when Jonny takes her ‘not’ on a trip to the zoo. And across the street, over a line of shrubs, was the enormous toll plaza for the nearby Throgs Neck Bridge. Low roar of traffic meant we recorded the sound separately, inside the house, but in the end even that felt meant-to-be.
As for the opening scene of the movie, we set up quickly on the rocks under the Bridge. This wedge of river’s edge in the Bronx gave us a place to catch a glimpse of Ruth and Jonny when they were in high school. We needed a location to convey they had nothing but time back then, but also that time was slipping away. The tide obliged and rising water soaked the set. But we got the sequence, and in an ordinary but still momentous location.
I want to mention that the small action of Jonny burning a cork and drawing that mustache on Ruth was an echo for me of a time when my kids were little and Robert taught them to have laughs and be graceful while frightened. It was during a rough season for them, and he taught them to burn a cork and make a vaudeville mustache.
I thought of those days when we were searching the city for sidewalks where doormen could stand and watch, and cars could be stolen, and girls in uniform could pour out of school. The movie has an interest in futile efforts that sometimes pay off. And New York City provided locations in which its story could float.
- SC 2.20.19