Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 27, 2010

Ten Secrets Behind the Filming of Bruce Willis’ RED

No. 1 question about the movie RED (official site here)? Where was it filmed? If you believe what you see in the film, the answer to that question would be Cleveland, Ohio; Kansas City, Mo.; New Orleans, La.; New York City; Pensacola, Fla.; Mobile, Ala.; Chicago;

Fairmont Toronto, not Chicago

Evanston, Ill.; Washington, D.C.; Chesapeake, Md.; and the obscure Republic of Moldova.

Did anybody see Toronto, Ontario, Canada on that list? No?

RED's car chases? Mostly filmed at Toronto's Phillips Square & Chinatown.

Well, other than New Orleans, the filmmakers didn’t go anyplace on that list. They spent most of their time filming in Toronto (even many of the car chase scenes intended for New Orleans), where the costs are low, and production tax credits are high. (Angelina Jolie’s “Salt” was also shot in the Toronto area, rather than New York, etc., as purported.)

In this way, “RED” reminds me of the recent movie, “The Losers,” another comic book-inspired movie that was alleged to have been shot all over the world. (It, in fact, was shot 90+ percent in Puerto Rico.) The technique used here is just to throw a bunch of “postcards” up on the screen of various locations, use a generic establishing shot (skyline, street sign, building exterior) from available file footage, and then go down to the macro level of a set or neighborhood.

(Summit Entertainment)

Did the opening sequence look like a drab neighborhood in Cleveland? Sure it did. But it could have been any one of a zillion North American suburbs full of soul-sucking crackerboxes.

2. The movie, an action comedy, was based on a very limited-edition (three-issue) comic book by DC Comics. The thing about the comic book series was that there was nothing comic about it. It took itself very seriously. So, you can draw your own conclusions about how closely the movie’s script hews to the original material, upon which it is based.

3. The movie’s budget was a reported $58 million (again, for comparison’s sake, that was about three times that of “The Losers”). The filmmakers clearly didn’t spend all that much on production; so the balance of it went to it surprisingly high-wattage cast. (How on Earth did they ever get Queen Elizabeth to play a sniper?)

Willis & Parker

4. Bruce Willis was the key cast member. Nothing was set, not even who would direct, until Mr. Willis was signed by Summit to play lead character “Frank Moses” in April 2009. In less than 90 days, Morgan Freeman agreed to come onboard, as did Robert Schwentke (“The Time Travelers Wife”).

5. Whatever happened to John C. Reilly? Wasn’t he supposed to be in this film. Yes, he signed on in November 2009 along with Mary-Louise Parker. Then, a few weeks later he was gone; his reasons for leaving so late in the process were never fully explained.

JCR left the movie.

The hole he left in casting threatened the start of shooting, set for mid-January in Toronto, but then the casting department scored another coup by signing John Malkovich, thus saving the day.

6. Helen Mirren, another casting prize, admits she was channeling Martha Stewart for her character “Victoria”. Yes, she told MTV in an interview this month, “It’s an homage (to Ms. Stewart)…her incredible concentration and determination and efficiency,” she said. “She’s just really good at what she does and I wanted Victoria to be really good at what she does.”

Helen Mirren channeling Martha Stewart.

Does that mean Martha can also handle a 50-cal machine gun? In her dreams, perhaps, when she recalls those pesky SEC investigators. Trivia buffs will note that the “Victoria” character was not in the comic book series; she was an invention solely for the film.

7. Another character missing from the comic was Marvin Boggs, played with such delicious affectation by Mr. Malkovich. Where does Mr. Malkovich come up with his scene-stealing costumes? In another life, he is a fashion designer. He admits spending an inordinate amount of time off-camera in the wardrobe department, coaxing the designers to turn it up a notch for him. For this film, he also hung around a lot with the armorers, trying to get his weaponry just right. He also loves to come up with a memorable quirk; in this instance, it was pink pig plush toy.

Malkovich: Crazy good.

Although Mr. Malkovich says he based his character on a specific real person – he won’t say who – he was mum on the idea behind the pig. (Go to the official site to undergo an entertaining Marvin Boggs Field Training exercise!)

8. Bruce Willis says his favorite scenes in the movie involve Helen Mirren shooting guns. “It’s just plain sexy,” he said. “Who knew?” In fact, at one point during the editing process, the director considered taking Ms. Mirren’s scenes of blasting away with automatic weaponry out of the film. Mr. Willis said he reacted strongly; “I told them if that scene is not in the film I want them to take every shot of me out of the movie.”

Mirren: Sexy Sexagenarian?

No problem, no cuts of Ms. Mirren’s stirring scenes of high-caliber artistry. “I do take the odd contract on the side,” she says in one of the movie’s more memorable lines. “You can’t flip a switch and become somebody else.” Amen, Martha…er, Helen.

Mr. Willis made another memorable statement in regard to this film, this one a styling statement of sorts: He wore a hairpiece made of raw red meat (100% ground sirloin) during a promotional appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

He said he was inspired by Lady Gaga’s “meat” dress (* see below) on a recent video awards show. “Lather, rinse, repeat, tenderize,” he quipped.

Willis, the Meat Head

9. A rather comprehensive trailer for the movie made its debut at the Comic Con convention in San Diego, in July 2010. Though the actors who showed up to answer questions about the film – Mr. Willis and Mrs. Mirren among them – seemed to indicate everything was under control, the movie was actually in a bit of trouble.

At Comic Con

Editing still had a long way to go, and the studio wasn’t happy about certain aspects – including the ending. In fact, re-shoots were scheduled (filmmakers denied they were any re-shoots) in late August – less than two months ahead of the movie’s premiere (October 22 was chosen as the date, even before shooting starting in January). That’s cutting it (pun intended) close.

10. Did you think the final scene (shot in New Orleans’ City Park), in “Moldova”, felt tacked on? It was.

It was one of the final re-shoots (done in Louisiana). Actually, it was intended to be even more “tacked on” than it was. The initial thought was to put it after the credits.

* USDA Choice (LA Weekly)

But, with the movie ending the way it would have, it was decided the theater would have been emptied before the end of the credit roll (did even you stay for the final frame of “Iron Man 2”?).

So it was instead butt-edited onto the original ending, for a little different take-away.

Sequel, anyone?

Jerry Garrett

October 27, 2010


  1. […] information, and other interesting (hopefully) tidbits, scroll down, or click on my “Ten Secrets Behind the Filming of Bruce Willis’ RED” […]

    • Jerry,

      I read that you now own the pink pig from RED. \
      Do you have any idea who makes it, or how to accuire another one, i’d love to find one also.


      • Someone else who provided a comment here claims to have purchased the exact pig used in the movie, from the film company’s prop department. She refuses to provide other information. I’m thinking there may have been more than one pig: a pig for close-ups, and maybe a stunt pig for the action scenes!

  2. Its actually Nathan Phillip’s Square… and there are TONS of movies and TV series that are filmed in Toronto but set in the States.

  3. The opening scene was filmed in Toronto at Downsview Canadian Forces Married Quarters, near Sheppard and Keele.

  4. I hope there’s a sequel, it sure seems like there will be. This was one of my favorite action movies in a long time, partially because it didn’t take itself too seriously and was just a lot of fun. In fact, thinking of it, now that I’m getting Blockbuster Movie Pass today, I think I’ll put RED in my queue and watch it again. It’s actually starting today and it looks to be better than Netflix ever was, with over 100,000 movies to rent by-mail, with in-store exchanges, thousands of streaming titles and you can rent video games too. Being a DISH Network employee I love that this is another way DISH is adding value to an already great service and if you sign up for DISH now you can get the Blockbuster Movie Pass free for 12 months.

  5. I really liked this movie! It was a lot of fun and not overblown like a few of the more-recent Willis adventures. I love nearly everything he’s done — especially “The Fifth Element” and “12 Monkeys”, but this “Red” is a favorite, too. This is one of those rare movies where there are several actors that “stole the show”, in my opinion.

  6. One of the mysteries for me was where is the house located that was called “Eagle’s Nest in Chesapeake MD”? It was a beautiful home, and I became curious.

    • i’ve heard Cambridge, Ontario…but it could have been somehwere in the rural burbs of toronto.

  7. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, or if this is common knowledge and I’m just stupid, but the airport in the end scene from Red 2 is Dunsfold Aerodrome. More commonly known as the Top Gear track.

  8. HELLO THERE. It’s 8012 and I’m still searching for the information of how to get the pig. The pig is so cool I must have one.

  9. The boat scene with Marvin was filmed here 30.420308, -90.533719 in Springfield, LA, on the Natalbany River

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