When visitors to New York City look up in the sky, they see birds and planes, not Superman. But observant travelers will realize that the City is filled with sights from popular superhero movies, including some starring Clark Kent’s alter ego. If you’d like to become acquainted with them, you might want to take On Location’s Super Tour of NYC.
We took the tour one recent afternoon, and our guide was Jason Silverman—an actor and amiable superhero fanatic who loves sharing his passion for and knowledge of NYC’s connection to comic-book movies.
Through a combination of walking and travel on a coach bus outfitted with television screens, we made our way around town past a series of landmarks that Silverman discussed with encyclopedic genre knowledge and energetic showmanship. We won’t give away all the cool stuff we saw (if you want that, take the tour), but we will run down five interesting facts we didn’t know until our guide clued us in.
1. Midtown Manhattan’s Daily News Building was the home of the Daily Planet in Superman and Superman II.
Clark Kent’s fictitious workplace in the big-budget 1978 and 1980 Superman films is the Daily Planet in Metropolis, but the real Daily News Building in New York City is where those scenes were shot. As Jason explained, the Daily News Building’s interior and exterior are both landmarked—so it looks almost exactly the same as it did in the movie, as we saw watching clips in the bus and then disembarking to hang out and take pictures in the building’s lobby. The lobby’s giant globe is an especially striking feature and popular photo backdrop, and is thematically appropriate for anyone thinking about Superman (take a quick stroll around the display and maybe you’ll feel like the superhero himself reversing the Earth’s rotation in the first film).
2. Filming in NYC sometimes involves light subterfuge.
The producers behind highly anticipated movies need to acquire and post their permits like anyone else, but they don’t have to advertise that they’re going to film in NYC. To avoid causing too much of a frenzy, they’ll often use code names (maybe they’d prefer the term “working titles”). For example, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 went by London Calling. So if you see an unfamiliar name on a filming permit, it can’t hurt to google it.
3. Spider-Man’s fight with Electro in Amazing Spider-Man 2 takes place in Times Square, but it was (mostly) not filmed on location.
The filmmakers built a model of Duffy Square (the area in Times Square where the red TKTS stairs are located), surrounded it with gigantic green screens and then used custom-programmed software, laser-scanned scenery and thousands of photos to digitally recreate the rest of neighborhood. This allowed them to stage a realistic-looking fight without trashing one of the City’s most popular attractions. Thanks, filmmakers!
Similar techniques were at work in Avengers: Infinity War, which combined the Washington Square Park Arch with a cityscape that actually surrounds a park in Atlanta.
4. You have to leave the place the way you found it.
Silverman touched on the legal agreements necessary to depict certain landmarks on-screen, and revealed a notable provision in the contract between Spider-Man and those responsible for the Flatiron Building: if the building—which serves as the home of the Daily Bugle in the movie—suffered any damage in the Spider-Man universe, it would have to be shown again, later, back in great shape.
5. Hulk wear slippers in Times Square.
As Silverman explained, 1970s Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno generally performed barefoot—but wasn’t willing to do so in 1970s Times Square. When the Hulk had to run around the Crossroads of the World in 1978 for an episode of the television series, Ferrigno wore slippers spray-painted green. Indeed, watching the clip closely, we could see the avocado-hued footwear.