So this past Saturday, I took the two and a half hour journey up to Cleveland (I’m from Columbus) to try and get a glimpse of the The Avengers shoot that is happening up there. I felt like it was a crapshoot as to whether or not I was going to see anything. I had read that filming was supposedly ending the day I was headed up there. The D23 Expo was happening, with cast members in attendance, that same day which didn’t bode well either. So I was a little worried I’d show up with nothing to see. I wasn’t going to let that worry me too much though. I was still pumped to be going there, even sporting my Captain America shield t-shirt to show just how much of a geek I am. Thankfully, my trip up there proved both fruitful and awesome! I also learned that they will be shooting in Cleveland through this week at the very least (with Scarlett Johansson). So here is a description of what I encountered during my visit, complete with photos! (All the images can be clicked on to see them bigger and you can also check out the complete 44-photo gallery of my visit on the Monster Popcorn facebook page here.)
Within two minutes of parking the car on Euclid Ave., I saw someone walking on the opposite side of the street towards me that looked pretty familiar, even though they were too far away to be able to discern their identity. Enver Gjokaj (Victor from Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse) instantly came to mind and I thought to myself, how funny would that be if that was him? Sure enough, as the person got closer, it was Enver! I instantly regretted not having my camera out and that I wasn’t on the other side of the street as I sure as hell wasn’t going to run across the street with my camera in hand yelling “hey wait a minute!” I’m not that desperate. But this wouldn’t be the last time I saw him during my visit.
So as Enver walked towards the E. 9th St. set, I continued on my way to check out the set that was still under construction at Public Square/Terminal Tower. I had heard online reports of an Oktoberfest-looking area with beer pavilions being put up. When I got there, I saw the little pavilions containing beer taps that I had read about but soon came to the realization that that this area of town was being transformed for a Germany-set location in the film. All the street signs and facades being put up were not in english and they had three flags raised on the flagpoles, one of which was the flag of Germany. They had constructed an overhanging facade of what could have been a movie theater or department store titled “SchloBplatz” on the side of Terminal Tower. One of the windows to the right of the SchloBplatz overhang had been window-dressed to look like a toy or candy store. I could walk underneath the big purple overhang with the set construction crew milling about. I walked right up to the toy/candy store window and got to look at all the detail they put into it. They had roped off the Public Square area where the beer pavilions were at and I could see another crew member taking down the adjacent Renaissance Hotel signs and replacing them with “Hotel Strasse” signs. They had tons of lighting equipment lined up on the street ready to be put up. No filming was happening there that day but it was really cool to see the nearly finished set being built.
After getting my fill of the Germany set, I walked a few minutes towards E. 9th St. and Euclid Ave. This is where the New York City set was. As I approached it, I walked by quite a few Marvel Film Productions trucks as well as semi-trailer parked on the side of the street that said “Screening Theater.” I imagine this was where they would watch dailies and I wanted to find a way to sneak in and take a peek but alas, that wasn’t going to happen. The screening theater trailer was parked right next to the catering area which also held the Star Wagons-branded trailers for some of the actors. I don’t know who was staying there currently but Chris Evans was definitely a possibility as he didn’t attend the D23 Expo. I was actually amazed by how close I could get to the catering area. I literally could walk right up to the gate and just hang out. Every time I passed by the catering area, I would look in to see if I saw any recognizable cast or crew members.
I got to the intersection of 9th and Euclid and saw a crowd of people gathering around a blockade looking at the NYC set. Behind the crowd was a couple rows of production-used vehicles such as NYPD police cars, FDNY fire trucks, NYC news trucks, etc. There were a couple of demolished cars in there as well. The vehicles were taped off with very flimsy plastic. I started to look in the direction of the NYC set and there was tons of destruction to behold. The one block set was littered with pieces of buildings and crushed/flipped cars that had been destroyed in a battle scene that was filmed earlier. There was an old (abandoned?) bank on the corner that was renamed the “Capitol One Bank” for the film. The bank seemed to be the location of where the filming was happening inside. There were a few cranes/lifts just outside of it with crew members atop it pointing lights into the bank. I saw one of the crew start pumping smoke around a charred door. It was time for some filming action. The scene being filmed was pretty simple and just involved some civilian extras running out of the smoke filled building. They were assisted by a guy in a military outfit who was helping them escape. Nothing big, but still pretty cool to see. A bunch of extras in NYPD uniforms had lined up to the side of where they were shooting the scene and once they got the shot they needed, the NYPD extras walked onto set. I didn’t get to see what they were doing with that as the parking space I was in was timed and had to move the car to a better spot.
After finding a garage to park the car in, I headed back to that same intersection. As I approached it, some random guy shouted in my direction, “Hey Cap.. over here!” I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me or not, but I was the only one with a Cap shirt on. He motioned for me again and said, “Dude! Hurry up! Over here, quick!” So I picked up my pace and went over to the guy, he pushed me to the front of the blockade and pointed to the bank and said “Right there!” I followed his direction and, lo and behold, Captain America was standing two or three stories up on the outside of the bank. I snapped photos and video of Cap standing there and diving into the building headfirst a couple times as they shot a couple takes. As I stood there looking up at Cap, the kid in me instantly took over and I was so astonished by the sight of this fictional character not far from me, shield glistening in the sun. In that one moment, I believed I was looking at the real Captain America. I’ve only seen him as an image on the page or screen but there he was standing there in the flesh. It may have just been a guy in a suit on a film set but it was a total geek out moment for me. I f&#@ing saw Captain America!
After I recovered from my astonishment of seeing Cap, I wanted to see the battle set from the other side of the block (9th and Prospect), so I headed over to that side to take a look. The view from that intersection was a lot better and showed a lot more destruction. They had changed the outside of the buidings there and put in an Acura dealership (who no doubt paid some money to be featured in the film) as well as a fictional bagel place. There was rubble everywhere with more smashed cars. The street had been renamed “W. 42nd St.” giving it a geographical location in New York City. At one point, some extras covered in dust and dirt walked onto the set and waited alongside some crew members to go into a building to film a scene. All the rubble did have a false look to it, but they are, after all, made of foam. That’s the magic of movies for you though; on film they will register as realistic pieces of broken building and we will all be amazed by all the realistic looking destruction..
After seeing the battle damage better, I headed to the alleyway that cut back over to Euclid Ave., which also happened to be where the catering area was located. It was lunch time and the area was hopping with various cast and crew members going to and fro. Walking down the alley I came across a few stuntmen that were dressed up in motion capture (mocap) suits. Now, this is pure speculation of course, but I think all these guys in the mocap suits inferred something we’ve all thought: that the Skrulls are going to be in the movie. I’d love to be right on that, but it has yet to be confirmed.
I walked past the catering area and peeked in to see if I could see anybody I recognized but it was just a sea of random faces. So as I was about to leave that area, Enver Gjokaj walked right in front of me as he entered the gate to go eat. This time I had my camera ready and I snapped a quick photo as he passed by but only got his back. I decided since I’d driven all this way and only had a picture of him with his back turned towards me, I had to try and get a shot of him in the catering line. I felt a little like a paparazzi sadly but running into him twice and not coming away with some photographic proof that I did wasn’t an option. I’m glad I took the time to snap a few photos of him because that led to another quick but really cool moment in my visit. I was taking some shots when a guy in a big black trench coat walked out of the catering gate and looked at me and said, “Nice shirt.” I said thanks to the guy thinking he was a random crew member but as he walked by I saw the Captain America suit underneath it and realized that it was the Cap stuntman! I wanted to say something more but he was walking away under the concealing trench coat with his red boots peeking out underneath. I didn’t want to reveal him to the public and create a stir. He then disappeared into a doorframe for crew only. That was another really cool moment for me that I will always remember.
After all that, I walked around and took a few more photos but it was getting really hot out and my legs were getting a little tired, it was time to head back to the car and make my way back to Columbus. But besides seeing all the cool things while I was there, more than anything, I love that I’m now linked to the film history of The Avengers. I’ve walked through part of the Germany set, saw the real Captain America towering above me like a true superhero and had a brief encounter with the Cap stuntman. When I watch the movie when it hits theaters (and later on blu-ray), I will see the sets in the film and know that I was there. As I get older, not many people will know or remember that I was present when they filmed some of The Avengers, but in the many memories I will surely make as I go about my life, I will always remember that I once saw Captain America jump into a building to save some people. And it was amazing.