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The Hardest Thing About Making The Continental? Turns Out It Was The Trash
The hardest part about bringing 1970s New York to life? The trash.
New York and its tough-talking inhabitants are at the forefront of Peacock's new prequel event series, The Continental: From the World of John Wick. If you think the series would be lessened by filming it in Budapest, well, there’s not one scene that doesn’t exude 1970s New York vibes. Though the filmmakers built an enormous backlot in Budapest, literally recreating the hotel itself, the small details make the series look its best (or worst) according to the producers — including the “period trash.”
“One of the things that actually haunts producers is the dressing: the radio, the dresser, the seat, the garbage can,” executive producer Basil Iwanyk, who worked on all four John Wick films, told NBC Insider. “That stuff becomes so expensive. And usually doesn’t exist in Continental Europe, so you gotta bring it in.”
The series is set during the 1970s sanitation strike, which comes with its own unique challenges, said Iwanyk. “This is kind of a messed up, dirty New York where there’s sh–t everywhere, and that stuff is really hard to do. There’s such a challenge to it; if there’s one thing that’s out of whack, you’re completely taken out of the period.”
Where was The Continental filmed?
In the John Wick franchise, nearly every scene in all four movies was filmed on location. Not so with The Continental. While some of the buildings, like the original Continental hotel, were off-limits to filming, the producers found that the city was too gentrified for the ‘70s era. But that didn’t stop them from recreating some Easter eggs for Wick fans. Look closely, and you’ll spot the same rooftop that the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) commanded in the John Wick movies.
“The irony of that rooftop is that there has been so much construction in Brooklyn that we could never even shoot that rooftop anymore practically. So we had to shoot it in Budapest. The world around Brooklyn, a good number of the places we established in John Wick, we can’t go back to because Brooklyn’s got so fancy over the past decade.”
The key to nailing the details so effectively was the collaboration between director Albert Hughes and production designer Drew Boughton, who immediately set to work creating boards for a lookbook. “Albert would assemble these touchstones,” recalled Boughton. New York in the ‘70s “was visually completely different than it is now, and you have different worldbuilding you can go into. Plus, you have the stylized quality of action films like The Warriors andTaxi Driver. The lookbook made it clear what we wanted to do and how we could stylize it to have a bit more Wick, mixing in Warriors with a Taxi Driver sprinkle,” he said.
That “sprinkle” includes an exact replica of the checkered cab used in Taxi Driver, down to the license plate and decal attached to the hood. The team had it shipped to Budapest from Manhattan and painstakingly matched the graphics from the Robert De Niro classic.
For director Hughes, the idea of building New York’s Chinatown was overwhelming, but then he caught a lucky break. His team found a stunning set built by The Alienist’s Ruth Ammon that recreated turn-of-the-century New York. “We dressed it up, and it saved our show. My fantastic production designer, Drew Boughton, who is the best I’ve ever worked with, he taught me: If you don’t have a good production designer, you’re done,” Hughes told NBC Insider.
Catch Episode 1 of The Continental: From the World of John Wick on Peacock here, while we await the arrival of the series’ second and third installments — set to debut on September 29 and October 6, respectively.