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54

About The Production
The building that housed the legendary nightclub at 254 West 54th Street is an abandoned space today, with just enough vibe to trigger memories of nights gone by

The building that housed the legendary nightclub at 254 West 54th Street is an abandoned space today, with just enough vibe to trigger memories of nights gone by. Some claim that if you remember what you did at Studio 54, you weren't really there. But plenty of people have vivid recollections of this unique time and place, and a rich record of the era exists in photography, video footage and newspaper and magazine articles.

"I have mixed feelings about nostalgia," said 54 writer and director Mark Christopher. "It's fun to go back in time and visit all those crazy, wonderful days, but it's also important to have a realistic point of view -- without judging or saying, 'That was bad.' I think the movie has that point of view. The music embodies the heart and soul of the disco era -- liberty and freedom, excitement and fun. But it was also a very selfish time."

54 began production on September 29, 1997 in Toronto, and wrapped eight weeks later in New York City. Most of Christopher's creative team, and such cast members as Sela Ward, Lauren Hutton and Michael York, had experienced the club at its notorious peak. "It was everything that you've read about and heard about, quite a circus," said Ward. York likened it to the cabarets of the 1930's -- "leave your troubles behind and all that." In the words of legendary Manhattan restauranteur Elaine Kaufman: "It was the ultimate candystore."

Just as Studio 54 hit its white-hot zenith in 1979, Christopher himself was graduating from high school in Fort Dodge, Iowa. "Even in Iowa, I knew all about Studio 54 and dreamed about it," he recalled, "because just reading about it was exciting."

When he moved to New York in the 1980's, a succession of new nightspots reigned as temporary capitols of cool, but nothing had truly replaced Studio. In fact, the club was still thriving, and Christopher spent his share of nights on the dance floor. Though it no longer inspired a frenzy, it exerted a powerful hold on his imagination. His ideas for the 54 screenplay began to take shape. "The more research I did, and the more photos and videos I saw, the clearer it became that nothing had been as exciting as Studio in its prime."

Christopher's original idea had been to write a disco "American Graffitti", telling a 70's story of adolescent restlessness. "That was my life in high school - - aimless driving and sneaking into discos." While studying film at Columbia University, he discussed the idea with his teacher, writer-director Paul Schrader. "As we bantered back and forth, we came up with setting the story at Studio 54 and putting the hero behind the bar. So my research started from the bartender, busboy and coat-check girl point-of-view."

Bartender Shane O'Shea, the story's hero, is a fictional character from a working class family in Jersey City. "Only in the world of Studio 54 could a bartender become famous -- well, sort of famous," Christopher said. "The movie is about his journey from Jersey to that land of Oz."

Shane's journey begins when he asserts his desire for excitement and independence, and at Studio, he feels he's arrived at the center of the universe. Everything is easy -- friends, sex, drugs, cash. The boss likes him and famous people know his name. But the friendships are fleeting, the drugs aren't always fun, the money disappear

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