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August 6, 2007

The Bourne Geography
Posted by Avram Grumer at 10:46 PM * 53 comments

The first time I saw Manhattan’s Family Court building, around twenty years ago, I thought it would make a great headquarters for an evil organization in a movie.

Looks like someone working on The Bourne Ultimatum had the same idea.

(Possible spoilers in the text of the linked article.)

Comments on The Bourne Geography:
#1 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:09 AM:

I'm just amazed that after so long (if I'm doing the math right, about five hours) no one has commented.

#2 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:14 AM:

The only remotely related thing I can offer is that Jeff VanderMeer is hosting a contest over on his blog to write the "real" ending to the Bourne Ultimatum.

#3 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 06:01 AM:

I saw the Bourne Ultimatum crew filming at Waterloo Station in London on two different occasions. And I was able to walk past Matt Damon and Paddy Considine twice.

In case anyone's interested, here's an interview with director Paul Greengrass from the Guardian, and an article about making a mock edition of the paper for the film. It seems that the Guardian is Greengrass's favourite paper, so he gave it a part in his film.

#4 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 09:07 AM:

There's a Vancouver-area water pumping station with a stately waterfront facade that regularly shows up as an Evile HQ in a number of TV shows and movies that get filmed in British Columbia.

#5 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 11:30 AM:

You *do* realize that each of these buildings is in fact the headquarters for a world-wide evil organization, don't you? Landlords love having an evil organization as a tenant-- they pay their rent on time, and do their own repairs.

#6 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 11:35 AM:

mjfgates @ 5

That is the one drawback of an Evil Organization tenant: you hzve to do a lot of repairs. Organizations for Good being what they are, the occasional explosion/fire/cruise missle attack is only to be expected. Look what Doctor Who has done to places in London housing Evil Aliens.

#7 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 01:14 PM:

As readers of the comic Evil Inc. know, doing bad things is good business.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 01:19 PM:

Connie H @ 6... There's a Vancouver-area water pumping station with a stately waterfront facade that regularly shows up as an Evile HQ in a number of TV shows and movies that get filmed in British Columbia

There must be something evil in Canadian water because there is a pumping station at the very East end of Toronto's Queen Street that was the lair of the Bad Guys in Pretender and in Mutant X. To think I lived one block away from it and never noticed anything...

#9 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 01:51 PM:

We need a big map with all the Evil Headquarters on it.

#10 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Elise, that's not an implausible project. Might make a nice Google Maps or Yahoo Maps mashup -- a web app where people can list the addresses of buildings used as fictional locations in movies and TV shows.

Someone's already done it for Ghostbusters.

#11 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I want to know where all the secret volcano hideouts are. Oh, and Skull Island. I want to know where Skull Island is, even though The Phantom isn't evil.

Yes. I actually enjoy the movie version of The Phantom. It could have been much better, but it was a better adaptation that the film version of The Shadow.

#12 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Tania (11): I, too, enjoyed the movie version of The Phantom. Good dumb fun. (As opposed to bad dumb fun.)

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Tania @ 11.. It's the Skull Cave, not the Skull Island. Today's kids... No education... That being said, it's a tough one as to which movie adaptation I prefered. The Shadow was less campy though, but both movie had a problem with the Villain. Treat Williams? Yuccho.

#14 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 03:52 PM:

I read the Bourne books--or at least the first three of them, as I'm under the vague impression there were more--several years ago. Then I saw The Bourne Identity, which impressed me by being both quite good and almost completely unlike the book in any way.

I haven't seen the second movie yet; it's lingering somewhere in the Netflix queue. Does the second movie bear any vague resemblance to the second book? (The previews for the third tell me the answer is "No, no, and in no way at all" for that pair.) And do I need to see the second movie to get much out of the third? Because I'm all for movies with ominous evil organizations in giant office buildings. Also, there'll probably be a car chase somewhere in there.

#15 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 04:07 PM:

Serge - you're right! (Of course)

Is Skull Island where the Red Skull/Hydra had their headquarters? I must admit, I didn't read much Cap when I worked at The Comic Shop.

Treat Williams. ::shudder:: Good actor, horrible performance. The pirates were fun, and Catherine Zeta-Jones was amusing as well.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Tania @ 15... Meanwhile, The Shadow had Tim Curry and Ian McKellen and Jonathan Winters and James Hong. And Alec Baldwin, yes. And you did recognize the museum's security guard as Star Trek Voyager's Neelix, right?

#17 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Skull Island is the home of King Kong. It's in the southern Indian Ocean somewhere.

I have a vague feeling that I've seen The Shadow movie, but it made absolutely no impression on me. Weird.

I've recently listened to most of the surviving radio shows (they're on Archive.org). I know that the Shadow began as a pulp fiction character, but the whole "cloud men's minds" conceit is perfect for radio.

Among the many actors who played the Shadow on radio was Orson Welles, semi-anonymously (without his usual overplayed introduction and credits). Welles really captured the slick, smarmy, patrician frat-boy essence of "wealthy young man about town, Lamont Cranston," and then he could flip Cranston in an instant into a believable hero with mystical powers. I don't think any of the other actors really captured the schizoid nature of Cranston/Shadow.

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 05:43 PM:

Howard Pierce #17: Actually, if I remember correctly, the history of The Shadow is odder than you think. He started out as a radio announcer, right? There was no storyline at first, but he was so popular that they made one up for him.

Part of the "schizoid nature" of the character is that no one had a set idea of what the character was meant to be, and all kinds of mutually exclusive things got thrown together as he evolved.

Bourne: I haven't seen any of the movies, having assumed from the beginning that I shouldn't bother. I suppose I should rethink that?

#20 ::: thanbo ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 06:08 PM:

When we saw the trailer for this, I think when we went to see Harry Potter, Debbie's comment when the voice-over said "Bourne comes home!":

"The Bourne Domesticity?"

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 06:14 PM:

About Orson Welles and the Shadow... Some time last year I read something that may have been a hoax. Apparently Welles was very much a fan of comic-books and in 1946 tried to film a Batman movie. It'd have had Basil Rathbone as the Joker, Marlene Dietrich as Catwoman, James Cagney as Two-Face and, as Batman, Gregory Peck. The whole thing fell thru because they wouldn't let Welles be Batman. Like I said, this may have been a hoax, but one can dream of what if it had happened. (Another awesome might-have-been is Gene Kelly's Something Wicked This Way Comes and that one definitely wasn't a hoax.)

#22 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 06:42 PM:

King Kong. ::slaps forehead:: That's right.

Island Zero in Planetary was a great homage to Monster Island. That's the other place I thought of when elise mentioned maps.

Avram @ #19: Thanks!

#23 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 07:06 PM:

We need a big map with all the Evil Headquarters on it.

Agreed.

Also, I see that Google Earth users have annotated some studio backlots. For example, here is where Kirk and Spock conquered the planet of gangsters.

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 07:06 PM:

Remember: No smoking in the Skull Cave!

#25 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Recently E-on, a power company who are advertising their investment in wind farms, filmed in the hometown of a friend of mine (Broadstairs) AND in the apartment block they live in in London. Coincidence? YOU decide.

(Broadstairs and London in case anyone wants to see)

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Tania @ 22... King Kong. ::slaps forehead:: That's right.

Like I said... Today's kids, they have no education.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 08:21 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 24... That being said, I was quite an avid reader of The Phantom comic-strip when our newspaper carried it. And when the character was revived in a few comic-book miniseries in the 1990s, I of course read them. And let's not forget the animated series Phantom 2040...

#28 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 08:25 PM:

The think that annoyed me the most about the recent remake of King Kong was the absolute incompetence of the tramp-freighter skipper who takes our intrepid film makers to Skull Island.

In a thick fog in uncharted waters with the bottom shoaling, you friggin' drop the friggin' hook!

Friggin' frigger friggin' deserved to run a-friggin'-ground. But his crew didn't.

#29 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 08:55 PM:

Fade @14

I haven't seen the second movie either, but I had seen the first and went to see The Bourne Ultimatum last Saturday.

I think it's okay to see this movie without watching the second movie. I thought all the important plot points (that probably occurred) in the second movie are sufficiently shown or mentioned in the third that I did not feel lost at all. In fact, I think it may work pretty well as a stand-alone movie.

(and yes, there are chases galore...)

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 08:59 PM:

It's different with a TV series, I think. There's a small community of "Lost" location hunters out here which is rightfully gleeful when they spot a new one.

The Hawaii Convention Center is the stand-in for the Sydney airport.

#31 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 09:34 PM:

Remember: No smoking in the Skull Cave!

Jeeez! Another freakin' place I've gotta go stand out in the rain.


BTW, Lauri (the Location Manager in the article) worked for me when I was the Parking Coordinator for Crocodile Dundee II. Since I sorta got her started in the biz, do I get partial credit for Bourne?

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Nathan @ 31... Another freakin' place I've gotta go stand out in the rain.

Literally too because, to get inside the Skull Cave, you have to go thru a waterfall.

#33 ::: Nathan ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 10:45 PM:

I forgot about the waterfall.

F**K,F**K,F**K,F**K,F**K!!lll111!!ll11!!

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2007, 11:05 PM:

Nathan @ 33... You could always get an umbrella and start doing a Gene Kelly impersonation.

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:09 AM:

Serge @ 21

I still have occasional yearnings for John Houston's original version of "The Man Who Would Be King". OMG, Bogie and Clark Gable!

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:24 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 35... I had read about that version of Huston's movie. Still, I did enjoy the version we wound up with.

Another might-have-been was George Pal's Odd John, with David McCullum. And I remember reading in 1976 about Asimov's Caves of Steel, with Paul Newman.

#37 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:25 AM:

ethan:

Howard Pierce #17: Actually, if I remember correctly, the history of The Shadow is odder than you think. He started out as a radio announcer, right?

No. As You Know, Bob, the history of The Shadow was well-covered in Volume 1 of The History of Comics by Jim Steranko, (who is, simply, the best person on the planet to exchange e-mail with, including Our Hostess, but that's another story) and I believe is also covered in The Shadow Scrapbook by Walter B. Gibson, who wrote something like 181 novels with The Shadow. (Unfortunately, The Shadow Scrapbook is now a collector's item and I can't afford a copy--I was a broke college student when it came out and haven't been able to find one since then.)

The origin of the character comes from a novella that Street & Smith printed in 1929 called The Shadow of Wall Street. The character in the novella is nothing like The Shadow character that appeared later, but the name stuck in someone's mind when they started doing a radio show sponsored by Street & Smith and the announcer ended up being called "The Shadow." Gibson was hired as "Maxwell Grant" to write a novel every two weeks (and he did so on a manual typewriter, typing so fast his fingers were bleeding at the end of each novel--he'd take time to heal up between novels). This is why there's the brief description in each of the early novels about the black-draped announcer's room where the unseen figure does the radio introductions...

There was no storyline at first, but he was so popular that they made one up for him.

Pretty much true. Gibson created a character under orders from Street & Smith to have something neat that would match the voice.

Part of the "schizoid nature" of the character is that no one had a set idea of what the character was meant to be, and all kinds of mutually exclusive things got thrown together as he evolved.

Not really. In the early novels there are several instances where it's implied that the reason The Shadow is so good at disguise is that his face was shot off during the War: in The Shadow's Shadow the bad guy sees The Shadow without makeup and goes into a screaming fit. Gibson was told to drop that detail as it was too grotesque. (If they thought it was too grotesque, god only knows what they thought of The Spider when it first started running--Fantomas was more stable than The Spider, which tells you something right there.) Gibson kept throwing in new background and abilities every few novels and deleting items to editorial whim until he quit the series: the later writers were mainly ex-mystery writers and ended up writing The Shadow as sort of a secretive detective--with an amount of damage to his person in each novel (gunshot wounds, knife wounds, et cetera) that would have shocked Gibson fans if they'd been paying attention...

#38 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:33 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II #37: Part of the reason I say things here is to trick other people into correcting and expanding upon them. Mwoo ha ha ha, it worked!

Thanks for the clarification...what I said was based on a vaguely remembered lecture by Will Murray, so I blame my fuzzy memory.

#39 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:25 AM:

Serge @ 36

Yes, I enjoy the one we have also. But wait, Odd John? I never heard! I'm not sure Pal would be the right director for that story, but still. It's one of the few Stapledon stories that's anything like filmable. Though I would be love to watch a mini-series based on Starmaker, as long as the action didn't take place in realtime.

#40 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 03:46 AM:

A 1970s Paul Newman as R. Daneel Olivaw in Caves of Steel? (Serge @ 36) Wow, that would be quite perfect casting. He had that ideal, Greek statue, kind of male beauty I can imagine being constructed as a robot — tho' from long-ago memory 'he' was a replica of 'his' inventor/constructor. OTOH, he was part of off-Earth humanity, which may have been selected for beauty, intelligence, and so forth.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 39...

I think I read about Pal's Odd John in the episode guide of Outer Limits. Remember the episode The Sixth Finger, where a scientist puts McCullum inside a machine that makes him evolve into the future of humanity? That, if I remember correctly, gave Pal the idea that McCullum would be great as Odd John. I presume that a movie version would have gotten rid of the novel's literally incestuous relationship between John and his mother.

One Stapledon novel that could easily be made into a movie would be Sirius, but it's such a sad story.

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Epacris @ 40...

Actually, I think that Newman was to play Lije Baley, not Daneel Olivaw. I think. It may be that, when I read about the Caves of Steel and Newman's involvement, I made the assumption that he'd play the main character. No matter what, I like your idea of him as Daneel.

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Serge @ 41

I deliberately didn't mention Sirius. A movie of that book would be very hard for me to watch; our Border Collie died a couple of years ago at the young (for a Border) age of 12, and we haven't been up to getting a new dog since. I've always pictured Sirius as a Border, though I can't remember if Stapledon mentioned his breed or just said that he was a herding dog.

#44 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Serge @ #13:

I wouldn't know about Treat Williams -- I've tried to watch that movie twice, and both times I fell asleep before his first appearance.

(I did manage to stay awake all the way through The Shadow.)

#45 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 12:28 PM:

...and speaking of The Shadow, I've also read the novelisation of the film, which was an interesting experience; the author was obviously a Shadow fan, and he'd carefully gone through and wedged back in all the complicated continuity bits (hello, Kent Allard) that the writers of the film had streamlined out. I presume his fellow fans found it gratifying, but it really didn't do the story any favours.

#46 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 12:45 PM:

Serge @ #21: Some time last year I read something that may have been a hoax. Apparently Welles was very much a fan of comic-books and in 1946 tried to film a Batman movie. It'd have had Basil Rathbone as the Joker, Marlene Dietrich as Catwoman, James Cagney as Two-Face and, as Batman, Gregory Peck. The whole thing fell thru because they wouldn't let Welles be Batman. Like I said, this may have been a hoax, but one can dream of what if it had happened.

It was James Raft as Two-Face and Cagney as the Riddler, actually -- which is one of the tells, what with the Riddler not being invented until 1948.

When it comes to "one can dream of what if it had happened" Welles projects, I personally prefer the 1956 Moonraker, pitting Welles as Hugo Drax against Dirk Bogarde as James Bond.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:26 PM:

Paul A @ 46... I stand corrected. George Raft as Two-Face, Cagney as the Riddler. So what I read was not a hoax? Holy bleep.

Bogarde as Bond? That'd have been interesting. Before Connery got the job, wasn't the part been offered to Cary Grant, and/or to James Mason?

#48 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2007, 01:51 PM:

#41, #43:

Sirius was mastiff, "Alsatian," and Border collie.

This here blog describes an attempt to write a screenplay for Sirius. Ultimately scuttled because apparently the novel isn't under copyright in the U.S.

#49 ::: bonnie-ann black ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 11:17 AM:

and the *old* facade would have been even creepier -- it was a shiney black mashed-marble stone, which had lots of little bolts sticking out of it, because the damned tiles would *never* stay up. i worked in the building across the street for over 5 years and never once saw the Family courthouse without a surrounding scaffold.

#50 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Serge @ #47:

I'm afraid my use of the word "actually" misled you: I was correcting your description of the claim, not asserting that the claim was true.

It was, very definitely, a hoax. One of the things that shows it was a hoax was that this film, supposedly being developed in 1946, featured the Riddler, who first appeared in 1948 and remained obscure until Frank Gorshin - doing a Cagney impersonation - made him famous in the 1960s TV series.

(I should also point out, in case it was unclear, that Welles's Moonraker project is likewise a latter-day invention.)

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Paul A @ 50... Oh bummer.

#52 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 03:44 PM:

At least that means I don't have to be soul-crushingly sad that it didn't happen but could have. Now I just have to be sad that the idea's in my head but not the movie.

Wow, on preview I discovered four egregious typos in those two sentences. Maybe I need a nap.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2007, 04:10 PM:

ethan @ 52... Still, it's too bad. What a cast that'd have been. If ever I lay my hands on a time machine, I'm going to abduct 1946's Gregory Peck and Katharine Hepburn and have them star in a Superman movie with Yul Brynner as Lex Luthor.

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