Locations and Fishing
The eight-year gestation of the film version of TRUE STORY finally came to
fruition when principal photography began in Warwick, NY on March 8, 2013.
Although only a few days' worth of the film's action takes place in New York
City-specifically the scenes in and around The New York Times offices-the
decision was made to film entirely in New York state. The woods and farmland
outside of Warwick stood in for Montana, while coastal Oregon was played by
numerous small towns within an hour's driving distance of New York, including
Piermont, Sparkill, Bayville, and Port Jefferson. (One day of filming also took
place in Cancun for the sequence depicting Christian Longo's arrest in Mexico.)
In addition to snowy exteriors, Warwick also was the location for the Montana
home of Jill and Mike. A kind of contemporary log cabin with spacious,
open-planned interiors, it was ideal for filming. The company spent eight days
there. "I think the most challenging thing was probably to wrap our heads around
how to do Montana in New York," says production designer Jeremy Hindle. "Trying
to find exteriors and a cabin was going to be really tricky, but then it finally
worked out." To add authenticity to the cabin interiors, Hindle found trinkets
and souvenirs of the sort that Finkel used to bring back from his trips all over
the world, and Finkel himself contributed a box or two of his personal
belongings and work-related paraphernalia. "Jill has very little space in that
house," says Hindle. "Most of it is Mike's. It's his space. It's his art. It's
his world. It's his office and she has this little nook in the corner; a piano
area; a knitting area. And she lives there all year and he's traveling around
the world. But it's Mike, who does dominate the space."
The film also shot in New York City itself. The glass-walled office where
Finkel is questioned and ultimately fired by his two editors was actually filmed
in the New York Times building on Eighth Avenue and 41st Street, though not in
The New York Times' offices. The large, atrium-styled bullpen where Mike works,
a spectacularly visual space, was part of John Jay College on New York's far
west side. The reading that Mike gives at the end of the film was shot in the
popular, historic Rizzoli bookstore on West 57th Street, a landmark townhouse
that, unfortunately, has since been demolished.
The prison scenes were filmed at numerous locations. One was in a series of
abandoned quarters at a jail facility in Kew Gardens, Queens. Another was a new
penitentiary located in Goshen, New York. Its long, sterile white hallways were
perfect for the scene in which Mike first visits Longo. Longo's cell, and the
visiting room where they have their meetings, were all designed by Hindle and
built at the JC Studios in Brooklyn, where the company spent its final week of
It was important to Rupert Goold and to costume designer Cat Thomas that
attention be paid to Christian Longo's overall look and appearance. Thomas
admits that can be a difficult task with an actor who possesses the film-star
looks of James Franco. One solution was the drab, monochromatic, buff-colored
suit that Longo wears in the trial scenes. "We talked a lot about the color of
the suit," says Thomas, "and, you know, it's probably the closest to the reality
of what Longo actually wore in real life. We liked it; it makes him a little
washed out. There's something kind of off about it."
Spending eight weeks in this world of unexplained, unfathomable evil can be
an experience that is difficult for any actor to shake. And according to Michael
Finkel, "The story never ends with Chris Longo." More than ten years after the
fact, Longo is still in Finkel's life, for better or worse. "Sometimes a year
will go by where there's silence," says Finkel, "and then there'll be a relative
flurry of phone calls. And usually if there's been a long silence and then the
phone rings, and I see the Caller ID and I know it's from the Oregon State
Penitentiary, there's this very uncomfortable sort of static, like: "Do I want
to pick up this phone?"
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