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Getting in the Game

The Big Easy hosts a "Grudge Match"

Though the film is set in Pittsburgh, "Grudge Match" was filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana. Filmmakers shot second unit aerials and exteriors for the film in Pittsburgh, but the extreme winter weather in the northeast is tough and unpredictable for filmmakers on a tight schedule. With the Mississippi River winding its way through New Orleans, the city's extensive bridges, levees and older architecture made it a suitable stand-in for the Three-Rivers city.

"This was the first experience I had shooting anything in New Orleans and the people here were fantastic. This was the best crew I've ever worked with," Segal says. "And the 500 extras we had in that fight arena were also the best extras I've ever worked with. It was really a wonderful experience."

The first scene Stallone shot is the first time we see the older Razor in the film, when he arrives at Benson Shipbuilders to a round of applause following the airing of the HBO documentary about famous rivalries. The building is actually the Bolland Marine company warehouse on Tchoupitoulas Street, a few doors down from the Corporation Bar & Grill on South Peters Street where they filmed the diner scenes in which Razor sees his friend and former shipyards colleague Walter.

The scenes at Razor's house were filmed at a home in the historic Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, under the span of the Crescent City Bridge over several foggy, wet days and nights that made it look and feel a lot like winter in Pittsburgh. Production designer Wynn Thomas created an interior for Razor's house that looked like it hadn't been touched since the early `80s, when Razor's life changed forever with the cancelled third match.

Kid's memorabilia-filled Knocked Out Bar finds Razor's arch rival replaying his glory days in dinner theatre, the punch line and punching bag for a puppet. The interiors of the bar scenes were filmed over several days in the heart of the French Quarter at the Palm Court Jazz Café on Decatur Street.

Logistically, the filmmakers could not stage the UFC sequence with the actors at a real UFC event, so they shot footage of an actual fight in Las Vegas. In New Orleans, they built a tight set with bleachers around the trademark octagon cage. Standing in front of the octagon, real-life UFC announcer Mike Goldberg talks to Kid and Razor about their upcoming Grudgement Day match. Jones combined the Vegas fight footage and plates with the scene featuring the actors.

The filmmakers were fortunate to find their Grudgement Day venue at the University of New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, which offered a 10,000-seat facility with offices and parking lots large enough to stage the event and accommodate the production's needs. The filmmakers were also able to shoot the YMCA training and pool punching scenes with Razor and Lightning, as well as a few exteriors, at the adjacent UNO Aquatic Center.

Logistically, the fight was the biggest sequence in the film and its staging was likewise immense with extensive lighting, more than 500 extras, the HBO video cameraman and commentators, the extensive visual effects and additional crew. Scheduled for five days, it was shot during the final week of De Niro and Stallone working together and proved a memorable event for cast and crew alike.

With the HBO Boxing logo and lighting grid above the ring, shafts of blue and white spotlights dancing across the arena floor, the UNO Lakefront Arena was transformed into an HBO Pay-Per-View event. When the time finally came for De Niro and Stallone to walk through the tunnel into the arena, a hush came over the awestruck audience and crew.

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