While director Robert Luketic’s newest film PARANOIA boasts a monied New York as its battleground of technology titans, it may surprise many to know that the majority of the film was shot in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburb of Whitemarsh Township and town of Ambler/Fort Washington.
Experiencing first-hand the excited frenzy of my hometown and the Plymouth Meeting-Ambler-Whitemarsh-Philadelphia residents during PARANOIA’s filming last summer, it was clear that the excitement far outweighed the inconvenience of street closures which, as director Luketic notes, “Some people were pissed off when we were shutting down streets.” But for the cast and crew, the City of Brotherly Love lived up to its name.
According to Hemsworth, “Philadelphia was great. I’d never been there before. It was really interesting because it’s like a small New York but it’s not as busy and it’s easier to shoot a film in. We had a great time there.” Harrison Ford echos the sentiment declaring, “I love Philadelphia.” Looking at the City with a director’s eye, Luketic is quick to note, “There’s a lot of great textures there. There’s Downtown, there’s beautiful countryside that’s just within reach of the city. Rivers. Very impressive.”
Helping make filming pleasurable was obtaining some iconic Philadelphia locations for the shoot, among them, Kimmel Center in Center City, Arbor Hill Estate in Ambler, 17th & Locust Streets, 10th & Manning, G Lounge and the Palomar Hotel. Serving as “The Wyatt Building”, headquarters to Gary Oldman’s Nick Wyatt, the Kimmel Center was “really wild” and a “great spot” that allowed Luketic’s production designers, David Brisbin and Melissa Stewart, to showcase architect Rafael Vinoly’s building design.
But it’s another of Vinoly’s designs that really captured Luketic’s attention - the famed Arbor Hill Estate. Enamored with the “incredibly beautiful properties” in the area, and needing a location that had the look and feel of a “high security training facility” for Harrison Ford’s Jock Goddard, Luketic lucked out with Arbor Hill. “This was the last location [and] it was the hardest location to find. We were looking at photos, we were looking at Larry Korman’s house. I’m not sure how it went . . . but we heard that there was this house on the market. It was very fortress-like and very iconic and somewhat imposing. It doesn’t scream warmth when you see it. We went out to it and just as we were coming up the driveway I said, ‘This is it!’ You know straightaway when you see it.” However, finding a location and make it “film friendly” are two different things.
“[Shooting there] was very very complex. It still had people living inside it and we had to move them out and do whatever it was we were going to do. And there were a lot of expensive things in the house. And you know a film crew - we’re like bulls in a teacup when we arrive.” Of course finding the location wasn’t the only problem for as Luketic quickly learned, “Then we had to get permission to land a helicopter. That was a whole other thing! [laughing]”
The one sad note to Arbor Hill? As Luketic laments, “No one ever told us about the [4000 bottle] wine cellar in Arbor Hill!! Harrison [Ford] and I love wine.”
Almost wistful as he reflects on his time in Philadelphia, Luketic notes the irony of shooting a film with themes of privacy, surveillance and the loss of personal freedoms in the very place where America’s fight for freedom began. “The very place where those things that we’re now showing how many years later, 240 years, now all those things that were forged [in Philadelphia] are no longer really being honored.”
But for Luketic, at the end of the day, it all comes down to this. “ Great tax credits, great restaurants. . . So many things that were ready that we didn’t have to rebuild or augment. Great spaces, great streets. Great cooperation from the City. We really, really loved the city. It was a really great place to shoot. I miss Philadelphia already.”