The Miami of "Big Trouble"
"One of the things I like to do is to take a fairly straight-ahead
comedy and see if I can tell the story not only on a comedic level but also on a
visual level as well," Sonnenfeld says. "Reading the book, I instantly
felt that I could visually stylize the movie without it becoming
self-consciously comedic. That's something that I find both challenging and
rewarding. For instance, the fact that it takes place in Miami already makes it
funny. All you need is a palm tree in a movie and you got a comedy."
The Miami location was also a plus for producer Barry Josephson. "Dave
followed the old adage of â€˜write what you know,'" he says, "and he's
been a columnist for the Miami Herald for a long time. I think the reason
why it's seamless for him to write this story and these characters in this
setting is it's a setting he's lived in and written about for years. The
book has an undeniable flavor, a nuance and reality to it that wouldn't happen
had it been written by someone who was an outsider. He captures all the oddballs
who populate South Florida as well as the feeling and the setting, captures it
perfectly. Miami does happen to be a city where a lot of crazy things
"Big Trouble" filmed in numerous sites in the greater Miami area.
The Banyan tree where Puggy (Jason Lee) lives is located on the magnificent
450-acre Charles Deering Estate at Cutler, about half an hour's drive south
from Miami Beach. Deering, who was the chairman of the board of International
Harvester, made the property his winter home beginning in 1916. The State of
Florida and Miami-Dade County purchased it in 1985. Devastated after Hurricane
Andrew in 1992, the Estate underwent a $12 million renovation, and is now one of
South Florida's historic and natural treasures. Located along the edge of
Biscayne Bay, the Estate contains a wealth of natural resources, including
varied forest communities and numerous species of wildlife, in addition to
important historic buildings and archaeological sites.
Due to the fact that the Estate is a public park and contains a delicate
ecosystem and numerous endangered species of flora and fauna, the filmmakers had
to contend not only with the heat and humidity of filming in and at the base of
a huge Banyan tree, but with the flying and crawling creatures indigenous to the
area. The mosquitoes had their own craft service for the several nights it took
to film the scenes.
The Herk house, where much of the action of the film takes place, is located
on a main road in Pinecrest, an upscale community a short drive south of
downtown Miami. The filmmakers decided not to build the house on a stage, but to
use what is referred to as a "practical" as the house itself afforded
so much of what the script required, including a large backyard and gated front
driveway. The lawn in the backyard was transformed from simple grass into a lush
tropical garden to match the area surrounding Puggy's Banyan tree on the
nearby Deering Estate. The swimming pool was also "reduced" to about
one-third its normal size by adding what production designer Garreth Stover
refers to as "a dance floor," affording room for the cameras to be
capable of filming through the sliding glass doors and the living room to the
The Jolly Jackal bar was a derelict building in downtown Miami adjacent to
the Miami River. Production designer Stover said they wanted a location where
the water played close by. "Water is such an integral part of Miami, we
felt that we should see it near the bar. The building had the room and high
ceilings we needed."
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