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British Invasion

"When you read Watchmen, there's something inexplicable and impossible about the design of it," says director Zack Snyder. "We wanted to capture that feeling." To McDowell, that meant taking iconic locations from the graphic novel—like the Gunga Diner—and transplanting them to the screen.


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Ripped from the Pages

McDowell's team found a second reference point in a photo of a Depression-era Baltimore diner. "The backstory we built for ourselves was that Gunga's owners had taken over a thirties diner," says McDowell. "We set up a thirties-through-fifties layer of textures and graphics, keeping the original architecture—round windows, decaying glass façade—and slapping the diner’s logo on top." Other influences for the sets: Bruce Davidson’s Spanish Harlem photos and Taxi Driver (several storefronts are lifted directly from that film).


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Perfect Imperfection

"With due diligence, we definitely looked into shooting in New York," McDowell says. But recreating Watchmen's New York in the real New York would have been prohibitively expensive. So instead, a crew of almost 100 workers built three full city blocks, including "Porno Street," the crew's name for the seedy avenue where the Gunga Diner sits, in Vancouver. When McDowell first saw the site, it was a working sawmill. "We brought in the same outside contractors who lay streets in Vancouver, and said, 'Don't try to level the street.' It was bumpy and there were certain amounts of mess; we took advantage of the uneven terrain. You can't do that on a soundstage. A soundstage is built for TV shows, and needs to be perfectly flat. We dug a subway entrance. We even dug potholes."


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Making History

McDowell concentrated on making the buildings look like they had existed for decades, inside and out. "I told the painters that they are going to be painting three or four times, so budget accordingly." With layers of paint,he says, "you can create 60 years of history in four days. There's a lot of embedded narrative in this set." Adds Snyder, "Our philosophical mindset was that you should be able to see yourself in the movie. It's fantastic, but it looks like a place that’s vaguely familiar."


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Color Correction

Snyder and McDowell decided to stick with the color pattern Gibbons developed for Watchmen—a radical departure from most superhero books. "Primary colors had always been used to represent heroes," McDowell says. "Gibbons and Moore used tertiary colors [lots of browns and purples], which said We're not in the comic-book universe anymore. These aren't real superheroes, they're vigilantes putting on costumes." The primary-color exceptions? "Dr. Manhattan [the one true superhero in the group], smiley-face badges, and blood." (And, apparently, taxis.)


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Easter Egg Hunt

"Zack wanted some iconic set pieces from the graphic novel in the film, and this street corner was a fundamental location," McDowell says of the movie's newsstand, familiar to fans of the comic even if its significance is lessened onscreen. "We wanted to replicate the density of Easter eggs in the graphic novel. Zack felt strongly about that. It became like a second-movie quantity of work to build all the Easter eggs" -- like the Rumrunner bar, behind the newsstand, and the Pale Horse concert poster above the subway entrance.


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Super Hero Central

In addition to borrowing from Taxi Driver (McCann's Bar, right, was lifted directly from that film), Snyder drew inspiration from his own memories of eighties New York. "I grew up in Connecticut and graduated high school in 1985," he says. "I spent a lot of time messing around in the city. You couldn't set Watchmen anywhere besides New York. It's all about the iconography of superheroes, and New York is the environment of choice for superheroes, whether Gotham or Metropolis or real New York.".


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Charting History

As if the design and creation of three blocks of imaginary New York weren’t complicated enough, McDowell notes, "we had to shoot the street for 1939, and the 1970s flashbacks, and our present day. So we had three re-dresses of the street." How to keep everything straight? The crew kept a "very, very detailed timeline" of Watchmen's alternate history handy -- including noting when an extra star was added to the American flag for the new U.S. state of Vietnam.


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Carl Henry Nacht (left) West Side Highway and 38th Street. After dinner on June 22, 2006, Nacht, a doctor who often cycled to make house calls to his elderly patients, was hit by an NYPD tow truck crossing the Hudson River Park bikeway.

Shamar Porter Linden Boulevard near Williams Avenue, East New York. On August 5, 2006, Porter’s Little League team won its playoff game. He was struck by a minivan after leaving the field.


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Reginald Chan (left) Third Avenue and 17th Street. On September 15, 2006, Chan was hit by a flatbed tow truck while making a delivery of Chinese food.

Brandie Bailey Houston and Essex Streets. On May 8, 2005, Bailey was struck by a private sanitation truck while on her way home to Williamsburg after waitressing at the West Village restaurant Red Bamboo. Bailey was a regular at CBGB, where a memorial was held in her honor.


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Craig Murphey (left) Ten Eyck Street and Union Avenue, Williamsburg. Early in the morning of October 18, 2007, Murphey was biking home from escorting his date to her South Williamsburg apartment. According to police reports, Murphey attempted to outrun a gas truck turning left on Ten Eyck Street. His pelvis shattered on impact, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. In his honor, over 40 friends have since received tattoos that read BE BETTER.

Frank C. Simpson Linden Boulevard near 175th Street, St. Albans. Simpson, a janitor returning from the evening shift at a Con Edison facility, was hit by a Dodge Stratus on November 9, 2006.

Jose Mora (left) North Conduit and McKinley Avenues, Cypress Hills. On September 4, 2006, 11-year-old Mora was on his way to the barber for a back-to-school haircut; that week, he was to start the sixth grade at nearby Junior High School 302. He was struck by a Honda while walking his bike across an intersection.

Jonathan Neese South 4th Street and Roebling Street, Williamsburg. On August 12, 2006, Neese, a bike messenger known as “Bronx Jon,” was struck by a livery cab while cycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Sam Khaled Hindy (left) Base of the Manhattan Bridge. On November 16, 2007, Hindy was run over after mistakenly entering a Manhattan Bridge lane reserved for cars.

Habian Rodriguez Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing. On September 1, 2007, Rodriguez collided with a city bus and died 30 minutes later.

Elizabeth Padilla (left) Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place, Park Slope. Commuting to the Brooklyn Bar Association on June 9, 2005, Padilla swerved to avoid the open door of a parked P.C. Richard’s truck. She lost control of her bike and fell underneath the wheels of an ice-cream delivery truck.

Juan Luis Solis East Gun Hill Road and Bouck Avenue, the Bronx. Attempting to pass a double-parked car on June 22, 2007, Solis was struck by a box truck and died of severe head trauma. The truck did not stop.

Jeffrey Moore (left) Chauncey Street and Rockaway Avenue, Bed-Stuy. According to witnesses, on May 29, 2007, Moore was run over (twice) by his girlfriend Jeanine Harrington. She was indicted on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon (her Nissan Pathfinder).

Derek Lake Houston Street and La Guardia Place. On June 26, 2006, Lake reportedly skidded on a steel construction plate and was crushed underneath the wheels of a passing truck.

Elijah Armand Wrancher (left) Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens. On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.

David Smith Sixth Avenue and 36th Street. On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Fall Fashion Features

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.

 

The Beefcake in the Backcourt
Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.Big, fake, and fully able to outshine its surroundings.
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