David O. Russell’s crime comedy-drama American Hustle is loosely based on the Abscam Scandal, but serves more as an excuse to explore an eccentric ensemble of characters. Set in the New York/New Jersey area during the 1970s, the film has already picked up three Golden Globes, as well as ten Oscar nominations.
Apart from some scene-setting, the majority of the film was shot with Massachusetts standing in for the greater New York City area. Here are nine of the locations from both states you’ll recognize from memorable moments in the film.
1. The Brooklyn of Irving Rosenfeld’s Childhood, and Camden, NJ
Just south of downtown Worcester, Massachusetts, lies Millbury Street. Home to everything from bars and ethnic markets to travel agencies, this street features in one of the movie’s earliest scenes: Irving’s reminiscence about helping drum up demand for his father’s glass business.
Later in the film, the footage of Carmine Polito greeting his constituents also takes place on Millbury Street. Representing the “incredibly diverse” Camden, NJ, the only noticeable differences from modern-day Millbury Street lie in the parked cars.
2. Irving’s Dry Cleaners
Who could forget the montage of outfits that Sydney tries on as she and Irving get to know each other? As owner of a chain of dry cleaners, he invites her to take her pick of clothes that have been forgotten over the years. In the movie, the dry cleaner in Mineola, NY also serves as a front for Irving’s various scams, but Reliable Cleaners of Natick, Massachusetts has no such deceitful purposes. Employees of the actual business served as extras in the film, and the owners were allowed to keep tickets printed as props for the film as souvenirs.
3. New York City
Irving and Sydney, who now goes by Lady Edith as part of their con, achieve great success as business partners in addition to their affair. Following a voiceover montage of their initial clients, the pair celebrates in giddy delight, dancing down the streets of New York. This offers one of the few brief glimpses of New York City that were actually filmed in Manhattan. Their dance continues inside as they spin around a gilded and mirrored grand hall filmed inside the lobby of Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza.
4. The art museum
Unfortunately for Irving and “Edith,” they attempt to con an undercover FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. To avoid jail time, they agree to use their expertise as part of an FBI sting. One of their first meetings when working with DiMaso takes place in a museum—the Worcester Art Museum, standing in for an unnamed location.
The distinctive Renaissance Court, home to the museum’s prized 6th-century “Hunting Mosaic,” serves as the backdrop to DiMaso’s introduction to the “sheikh” and the plan. Irving then takes DiMaso aside to show him a Rembrandt, and explains it’s a forgery. Who, he asks, is the master—the painter or the forger? Although the WAM has no doubts about the actual painting’s provenance (a genuine Rembrandt called “St. Bartholomew”) the film’s assertion has spawned some conspiracy theories.
5. The Hotel Chelsea, NYC
After their museum visit, the con artists meet a potential investor at the Hotel Chelsea. The historic hotel’s exterior serves as a brief scene-setting shot. Dating back to 1884, and at the time the tallest building in New York, the hotel has closed and reopened on several occasions, most recently closing in 2011 for renovations after a change of ownership. Although the hotel stopped taking reservations, several long-term residents, protected in some instances by rent regulations, continue to live there.
6. Carmine’s meeting with the unions of Camden, NJ
Carmine Polito expounds about the virtues of job creation, using as his example a mural painted by craftsmen employed during the Depression by the WPA. This description is not far off—the mural pictured here is located in Worcester’s Memorial Auditorium, and was painted in the 1930s by Leon Kroll. A memorial to the first World War in the form of a building, the Auditorium has served many purposes since 1933, from basketball arena to shelter for tornado victims. The building is unfortunately currently unused and closed to the public.
7. The Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue
Irving, Edith, and DiMaso begin to put their plan into action, but initially blunder in their recruitment of Carmine Polito. Irving runs after Carmine to convince him to stay, catching up to him just outside of New York’s landmark Plaza Hotel. During Irving and Carmine’s conversation, the famous Pulitzer fountain is just off-camera; the sound of the water mingles with car engines and horns to indicate the bustle of New York City life. The grand front entrance, complete with red carpet and rotating door, makes a brief appearance as the men re-enter the hotel. American Hustle actually filmed outside of the Plaza Hotel, but the interiors were recreated in a studio in Woburn, Massachusetts.
8. The club where Irving and Carmine celebrate
Against his best instincts, Irving begins to like Carmine, which leads to a memorable evening of bonding as the two plan how to revitalize Atlantic City. The smoky, wood-paneled room here is Nick’s Bar and Restaurant, located on Millbury Street in Worcester (the same street that stood in as both Brooklyn and Camden earlier in the film). Nick’s, which regulars could recognize from the wood paneling, kept two of the booths used in filming; it also stood in as Baron’s Restaurant, where Irving, Carmine, and their wives went out for dinner when first getting to know each other.
9. The big event
One of the film’s most pivotal scenes occurs during the event arranged to welcome the sheikh and finalize the business deal. Not only is this an extremely important moment in terms of the con, but Irving’s mistress Sydney/Edith also comes face-to-face with his wife for the first time.
The exterior shots for the arrival of cars and limousines, and the meet-and-greets, are from Worcester’s Union Station, originally built in 1911. The interior shots of the party, on the other hand—painted ceilings, ornate gilded molding, and all—are in fact Boston’s Wang Theater. The Wang Theater, formerly known as the Metropolitan Theater, served in the past as the home of the Boston Ballet (under the name of the Music Hall). Thanks to a sizeable donation by Dr. An Wang, it was renovated and continues to serve the Boston community today.
All images © Sony Pictures, unless otherwise noted. See more from our Film Locations column.