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Filming Above Ground The Sets And Locations
Inside a nondescript building in a secret location in midtown Manhattan lies NYC Transit's brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art Rail Control Center, which handles the entire subway system's never-ending flow of human traffic. In The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, this is where Garber sits at his desk and wages a battle of life or death with a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like hijacker. 

Although much of the movie was shot on site – due to the doggedness of Tony Scott's long-time location manager Janice Polley, along with NYC Transit's liaison, Alberteen Anderson – the locale that sets the pulse of the film remained hidden from cameras. 

Anderson initially took the filmmakers to the recently vacated former Rail Control Center in Brooklyn, made famous in the 1974 version of Pelham. Though dormant, the space is still functional and serves as a backup to the new center. "The Brooklyn facility gave us good insight into the layout and how the system works,” production designer Chris Seagers says. "We would have loved to film there, but logistically it wasn't practical. Everything was hard-wired in, none of the desks moved, and obviously we couldn't pull out walls or control the computer screens.”

After the initial visit to the former facility, Scott and a select few members of the filmmaking team were granted access to the new facility. "It was like NASA, this amazing, huge space,” Seagers says. The new Control Center looked like – according to Seagers – a movie set. "We decided to create our own version,” the production designer explains. "We took the essence of the new center's design, with all its flash, and combined it with bits-and-pieces of details from the older control room, which was classic New York City, down and dirty.”

The crew erected the fantasy Rail Control Center on a soundstage at Kaufman-Astoria Studios in Queens. Among its features: 150-foot-long video boards with interactive playback. "Chris Seagers got the guy who designed the actual NYC Transit boards to design ours, so it's virtually a carbon copy,” says Black. 

Meanwhile, back down in the tunnels, things were getting cramped. As anyone who rides the subway at rush hour knows, space is tight. Explains executive producer Barry Waldman: "When you're trying to film inside the train operator's cab, which is probably five-by-three, there is no way to squeeze in two actors, a make-up artist, hair, wardrobe, and sound person.” 

Not to mention the four, sometimes five, cameras that Scott employed. "Directors are getting used to having multiple cameras, but Tony definitely brings it to another level,” cinematographer Tobias Schliessler says. From his perch on an apple box, Scott quietly guided his multiple camera operators during each take, like a maestro conducting his orchestra. Even in the smallest of spaces, Scott often brought in a 360-degree dolly track. Yet not even the director could magically fit his actors, crews, and cameras into a closet designed for a solitary train operator.

The solution: build a better subway car. On stage at Kaufman Astoria Studios, the crew constructed a car from scratch, using pieces from real trains. NYC Transit was eager to help; after all, it's not easy finding ways to recycle 40 tons of steel. (And yet they do: old subway cars are buried at sea, used to rebuild eroding barrier reefs.) 

The new subway car was designed to accommodate all the cameras the director could want and more. "We could open all the doors where we wanted to, remove all the panels that we needed to, light it any way we wanted to, and build shooting platforms all the way around it,” Waldman says. Built on a hydraulics system and placed on a track, the car could move 40 feet then stop on a dime.

Even the actors couldn't tell the faux car from the real deal. "The first time I saw it, I thought t

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