We could fill this magazine with stories about where movies were shot in Western Pennsylvania. Some locations, such as Oakland’s Forbes Field from the original “Angels in the Outfield” or the Civic Arena where Jean-Claude Van Damme went into “Sudden Death,” are gone. Plenty of others continue on, in real and reel life. The Pittsburgh International Airport turned into a set for “Love the Coopers,” while Schenley High School temporarily reopened for “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon doubled as the Indianapolis home of a support group where the teens in “The Fault in Our Stars” meet. Here are some other local sets.
“The Dark Knight Rises,” 2012
The conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Batman trilogy filmed in India, England, Scotland, Los Angeles, New York and — for 18 days — Pittsburgh. But no movie ever stirred such excitement here, largely because many scenes were being filmed in clear view of bystanders. Early in the shoot, the steps of Mellon Institute at 4400 Fifth Ave. turned into the scene of a brawling bonanza with Batman, Bane, cops and crooks fake fighting. The building doubled for Gotham City Hall. The movie’s many other locations included Heinz Field, home of the fictional Gotham Rogues; Trinity Cathedral, 328 Sixth Ave., as St. Swithin’s Home for Boys; and many streets Downtown which accommodated cars, trucks, Tumblers and the airborne Bat.
“Wonder Boys,” 2000
In his book, Michael Chabon set his locations in real, specific neighborhoods and streets although he didn’t name the college. He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and has said Chatham College was a closer match, but the movie was shot at Carnegie Mellon University. Art director Jeannine Oppewall said Pitt “just felt a little more neo-Gothic, and from my point of view, that wasn’t as interesting as the style of architecture at CMU.” The movie, in which Michael Douglas plays college professor and novelist Grady Tripp, opens in a Baker Hall classroom, locates a literary festival in Kresge Theatre in the College of Fine Arts building and careens around the city and suburbs.
You cannot set the clock back to summer 1987 but you can visit Adventureland or, as we know it, Kennywood. The movie brought actors Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Martin Starr and others to Pittsburgh in fall 2007. Writer-director Greg Mottola, who studied art at Carnegie Mellon University and film at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, based the coming-of-age comedy on his experiences working at the Long Island amusement park called Adventureland. He made excellent use of a slice of Kennywood, convincing moviegoers that the historic landmark was a rundown park in the Reagan years. But the fireworks are the real deal from Zambelli Internationale.
“She’s Out of My League,” 2010
This R-rated romcom is like one big “wish you were here” postcard from Pittsburgh. It has shots from a Penguins game at the old Mellon Arena, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh International Airport, polar bear exhibit at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Mount Washington overlook and PNC Park. It also boasts a summery open-air restaurant with tablecloths, white twinkle lights, topiaries, balloon animals and lots of patrons and passersby. That was created just for Market Square, which you can easily visit and which, coincidentally, is surrounded on almost all sides by restaurants now.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” 2012
Emma Watson stands up in the back of a fast-moving pickup truck in the Fort Pitt Tunnel with David Bowie blaring as the vehicle pops into the nighttime Pittsburgh skyline. Do not try this on your own. It looks cool but is dangerous and illegal and writer-director Stephen Chbosky wrote in the liner notes to the soundtrack: “Please God stay in the car!” The moment was born in his imagination after countless trips as a young passenger growing up in Upper St. Clair. You can easily drive through the tunnel, seat belt securely fastened and Bowie cranked high, without breaking any laws.