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And the Oscar goes to ... Queens.
While the borough was largely ignored among this year’s list of Academy Award nominees, Queens has racked up scores of nominations and wins during the past five decades from at least one prominent filmmaker and nine thespians, as well as providing the backdrop for 28 films that were nominated in a variety of categories.
A majority of the biggest Academy Award winners during the first four decades in the history of the show were filmed on Hollywood lots. But as the film industry began to favor on−location shoots as much as constructed sets, the borough began to appear in more films. All of the movies shot in the borough that have been nominated for Oscars were made between the late 1960s and 2007.
The rise to prominence of western Queens studios Silvercup and Kaufman Astoria also led to more high−profile films using Queens as a locale.
The first film to feature extensive shooting in Queens that would go on to win Best Picture was William Friedkin’s “The French Connection.” The 1971 film included extended sequences on Onderdonk, Forest and Putnam avenues in Ridgewood.
In 1972, director Francis Ford Coppola used the five boroughs as his set for Best Picture winner “The Godfather,” which filmed at Woodside’s Calvary Cemetery and Long Island City’s Queensborough Bridge. Sunnyside−born actor James Caan received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his work in the film. “The Godfather” was the second and last film shot in the borough that would win the top Oscar.
But a number of other Best Picture nominees have been shot in the diverse neighborhoods of Queens.
Martin Scorsese’s mob epic “GoodFellas” probably featured shooting in more borough locales than any other nominated film in Oscar history. The 1990 picture filmed at the Clinton Diner in Maspeth, a Long Island Rail Road station in Richmond Hill, John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, Woodhaven, the Jackson Hole Diner in Jackson Heights, Salerno’s Restaurant in Richmond Hill and a private home in Astoria, as well as other sites in that community.
Scorsese, who has been nominated for Best Director seven times and won for 2006’s “The Departed,” was born in Corona before moving with his family to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan at an early age.
Astoria has also provided backdrops for other Best Picture nominees, including Sidney Lumet’s 1975 bungled−heist film “Dog Day Afternoon,” Bob Fosse’s 1979 musical “All that Jazz” and the 1992 Al Pacino vehicle “Scent of a Woman.” Several nominees lensed Long Island City streets or Silvercup stages, including Penny Marshall’s 1990 drama “Awakenings,” which filmed at the Casa Galicia dance hall on 30th Street, as well as Scorsese’s 2002 film “Gangs of New York” and Steven Spielberg’s 2005 drama “Munich,” which culminated on the western Queens waterfront.
The 2007 Best Picture nominee “Michael Clayton,” which starred George Clooney in a Best Actor−nominated performance, featured shooting at the Kew Gardens Courthouse.
At least nine actors who lived in the borough have been nominated in the Academy Awards’ four acting categories. Six of them were only nominated once, including Caan for Best Supporting Actor in “The Godfather” and Amy Ryan, who received a Best Supporting Actress nod for 2007’s “Gone Baby Gone.” Sunnyside native Judy Holliday won Best Actress for 1951’s “Born Yesterday,” while Elmhurst’s Patty Duke took home the same award for 1963’s “The Miracle Worker” and Jackson Heights’ Mercedes Ruehl won Best Supporting Actress for 1991’s “The Fisher King.” Adrien Brody, of Woodhaven, scored a surprise win for Best Actor in 2002 for his role in Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist.”
Three borough actors have been nominated more than once. Susan Sarandon, born in Jackson Heights, was nominated four times before going on to win Best Actress in 1995 for her work in Tim Robbins’ “Dead Man Walking.” Richard Dreyfuss, who spent his childhood in Bayside, won Best Actor in 1977 for “The Goodbye Girl” and was nominated in 1995 for “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
Astoria native Christopher Walken took home a Best Supporting Actor award in 1978 for his intense performance in Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” and scored his second nomination in 2002 for his part in Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can,” which included filming in Jamaica.
Singer⁄songwriter Paul Simon, who spent part of his early life in Kew Gardens, was in the running in 2003 for Best Song for “Father and Daughter,” which he wrote for “The Wild Thornberrys Movie.”
Brooklyn−born director Woody Allen has included sequences from Queens in a number of his movies. His 1987 Best Screenplay−nominated film “Radio Days” featured shooting in Astoria and Rockaway Beach, while his 1999 Oscar−nominated “Sweet and Lowdown” included scenes at Maspeth’s Fresh Pond Rail Yards.
An additional 15 films that were nominated for a variety of awards set their scenes in borough neighborhoods, including Astoria (“Serpico,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Cotton Club”), Long Island City (“When Harry Met Sally...,” “Running on Empty” and “Little Children”), Flushing (“Half Nelson,” “Bang the Drum Slowly” and “The Odd Couple”), Jackson Heights (“The Usual Suspects” and “Maria Full of Grace”), Ridgewood (“Malcolm X”) and Woodside (“Kinsey”).
Read film reviews by Nathan Duke at www.criticalconditions.net.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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