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About The Production
Principal photography for Meet Joe Black got underway on June 11, 1997 inside a coffee shop on New York's Upper West Side at Broadway and 103rd Street

Principal photography for Meet Joe Black got underway on June 11, 1997 inside a coffee shop on New York's Upper West Side at Broadway and 103rd Street. Here Brest filmed the scene in which Dr. Susan Parrish, played by Claire Forlani, has a chance encounter with a charming young man, played by Brad Pitt, who sets off unexpected sparks. The coffee shop interior completed, filming then shifted downtown to Lexington Avenue and 23rd Street where the unit cordoned-off a four square block area. Shooting on Saturday and Sunday to keep from contributing to New York's already-congested weekday traffic, the unit rehearsed and then filmed a complicated sequence involving a stunt, that had to be meticulously timed, in which Susan and the young man walk out of not only the coffee shop but also, it would appear, each others' lives.

Pitt's first scene as Joe Black involved the character's first time ever encounter with peanut butter and was filmed inside a kitchen in the Cartier Mansion off Fifth Avenue, after which the unit moved to Fifth Avenue's Metropolitan Club. Filming continued around the city and included such locations as Fifth Avenue in Midtown and Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side.

Later, the cast and crew took up residence inside a former National Guard Armory in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, which the filmmakers had reconverted into a vast sound stage. The armory's gigantic drill floor (150 by 270 by 80 feet--larger than a football field) provided Dante Ferretti with the necessary space in which to construct the first and second stories of the Parrish's Fifth Avenue triplex penthouse apartment. (The third story, which contains a full-size, functional, heated swimming pool had to wait to be built until the scenes on the bedroom floor of the penthouse were completed and the set struck to make room for the pool's construction.)

Ferretti's designs and their execution are magnificent and unprecedented in terms of scale and opulence for sets built on a New York City sound stage. They are also pre-eminently suitable as the home of one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful men. It's not only the outsize dimensions of these breathtaking sets and their elegant furnishings that command attention, however; the magic also resides in the details.

Everywhere finely wrought particulars dazzle the eye: beautiful parquet floors with intricate inlaid borders; carved moldings on door frames and on the walls of each and every room, and brilliantly rendered copies on the walls of master paintings found not in museums but rather in private collections; rare antique furniture, silverware, porcelain china, and objets d'art; and bowers of fresh flowers in gorgeous vases everywhere provided daily by the set dressing department. These details attested to the painstaking effort that went, not merely into the design and creation of the penthouse sets, but into every single aspect of filming.

Beyond their beauty and tastefulness, the sets also serve the function of revealing Bill Parrish's character-the breadth of his taste, his temperament, the complexity of his character, the richness of his values and humanity, all qualities that intrigue Joe Black. Production designer Ferretti, who in addition to his film work has designed sets for the world's greatest opera houses, says of his creations, "Marty and I talked very carefully over every aspect of the set. Before we started working we went to see every penthouse apartment we could get into in New York, visiting the Cartier M

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