Terry Gilliam is known in cinematic circles as the writer/director of fantasy films such as Brazil, Time Bandits, Monthy Python and The Holy Grail and 12 Monkeys. After his 1988 film The Adventures of of Baron Munchausen–which was plagued with budgetary issues and arguments with the studio execs- Gilliam wanted to move away from fantasy and make a much more realistic film.
His 1991 film The Fisher King, starring Jeff Bridges as a NYC shock jock and Robin Williams as a homeless man in search of the Holy Grail, may not be one of Gilliam’s best work, but it is the one film where shoots on location in NYC. Here are ten locations featured in Terry Gilliam’s The Fisher King.
The film begins in the small, prison like studio of Jack Lucas, a shock jock radio personality that will most likely remind you of Howard Stern. He is brash, unapologetic, and incredibly narcissistic. He berates and insults the callers and listeners of his program. His home is what you would expect a guy like him to look like, top floor with a wide view of the city. The glass skyscraper, known as the Metropolitan Tower, is located on 146 West 57th Street and 7th Avenue next to Carnegie Hall.
See more of the tall, mega skyscrapers going up along 57th Street.
Jack feels on top of the world, his radio show is extremely popular, and he is being offered a role in a televisions show. It all comes crashing down when he sees a news story of a fan of his going on a killing spree due to “advice” Jack gives him. The prince quickly becomes the pauper as Jack leaves his job, loses the TV role and becomes deeply depressed. Three years later Jack (still blaming himself) works at a small video store (remember those?) located on 15 Ann Street. He now lives in the apartment of his boss, lover, and caretaker Anne.
After watching the television program he was suppose to star in, Jack storms out of Anne’s apartment and goes on a drunken stupor throughout lower Manhattan. The first stop on his drunken journey and where he receives the wooden Pinocchio doll is the Plaza Hotel, where he sees a much richer man than him getting harassed by one of the cities many homeless citizens.
In business for over 100 years, the Plaza Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in NYC. Featured in numerous films including North by Northwest, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and American Hustle, the Plaza as been home to visiting Presidents, Kings, Diplomats, actors, entrepreneurs and more. Have a look inside at the famous Oak Room bar.
Pinocchio doll in one hand, a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other, Jack has a conversation with the inanimate object on the base of the General Sherman statue located in Central Park’s Grand Army Plaza. The statues full name is the William Tecumseh Sherman monument, which is in honor of the Indian and Civil War general who once famously said “War is Hell”.
The statue, recently re-covered in 23.75 karat gold leaf was the last sculpture created by Augustus Saint-Gauden. Through the years most of the goldleaf has been removed due to the elements, but in 2012 the Central Park Conservatory began plans to restore the statue to its former glory.
Depressed, angry and very drunk, Jack decides to commit suicide. He ties a single piece of cinderblock to each foot (along with the Pinocchio doll) and stands on the edge of the East River. Before he jumps, Jack gets attacked by two teenagers and is saved by a group of homeless people, led by a mysterious and crazy man named Perry. The whole ordeal happens on Main Street, a section of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The area seen in the film is covered in debris, garbage and barbed wire. No worries, the actual location looks much more safer and family friendly these days. Main Street is visited by families year round for its pebble beach and its nautical themed playground.
Jack finds out that Perry’s wife was murdered by the maniac who called his radio show, which led him to go into catatonic shock for years. Jack feels that he needs to help Perry in order to forgive himself over the events that ruined Perry’s life. At first he tries to bribe Perry (who waits for the love of his life Lydia, a clumsy, unorganized accountant) with $70 dollars, which Perry just gives away to another homeless man. Knowing that money will not do it, Jack figures out a way to get Perry to snap out of his
The Metropolitan Life Building on Madison Avenue and 24th Street on Madison Square Park should be instantly recognizable to those who followed our #MonthofScorsese series of film locations post, as it is the workplace the main character of Scorsese’s After Hours finds himself in front of at the end of the film.
We have actually have a written a piece about this very distinguished building before, as part of our NYC that Never Was series.
One of the most iconic shots in this film was actually added by Gilliam. The original scene at Grand Central Terminal was that the thousands of patrons would all stop to watch a large black woman sing. Initially Gilliam feared the scene would make it too much like his other films but it remains one of the most striking visuals ever filmed inside Grand Central.
Perry–knowing Lydia’s work schedule by the second–waits for her inside Grand Central. He notices her surrounded by a pack of nuns and follows her through the station, keeping his distance from her. Throughout the film Gilliam shows that Perry does not have the strongest grip on reality.While walking behind her, everyone inside Grand Central begins waltzing with one another. Music plays and the clock post in the middle of Grand Central becomes a sort of disco ball. Gilliam has noted that he shot this in one day, with professional extras and just random people entering and exiting the station.
Towards the end of the film, Jack has gotten his life back on track, with him returning to the radio. Once again he is up for a spot on a television show, but when he learns that it is a light comedy based on the homeless, he storms out. He goes to visit Perry, who is in a mental institution, once again in a catatonic coma. Still feeling guilty about Perry’s position in life, Jack reluctantly agrees to steal the Holy Grail, the one item Perry obsesses about.
The “Holy Grail” is in the home of an Upper East Side millionaire, whose home resembles a castle. Jack (dressed much like Perry) climbs into the home to steal the Grail for Perry. Once he has his hands on the grail, he notices that the millionaire is in the room with him, albeit unconscious because he’s actually trying to commit suicide. Jack leaves from the front door, which sets off the alarm, saving the millionaire’s life.
The home of the millionaire is actually Hunter College High School. Opening in the late 1800s, it was at first, an all-girls private school, staying that way for 78 years. The school became co-ed in 1974 and just like the college, it adopted the name Hunter after Dr. Thomas Hunter, the first president of the school. It is known by its students as “the prison school” for the very little natural light it takes in and its poor air quality.
The end of the film shows a re-awakened Perry, a personally forgiven Jack with the wooden Pinocchio doll between them, laying down completely naked in the middle of Sheeps Meadow in Central Park. It is the second time the two are there together, however, this is the first time where Jack joins Perry.
All film stills courtesy of Sony Pictures
To know what he is going to name his autobiography, contact the author @TatteredFedora