Philip Seymour Hoffman was a proud Irish American, his mother Marilyn O'Connor is a family court judge and he had recently filmed an Irish American movie called "God's Pocket" set in a Philadelphia working-class neighborhood but sections of it filmed in an Irish bar in The Bronx.
Here is what we wrote when he showed up in Woodlawn, the most Irish neighborhood in New York. The movie recently debuted to good reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. Hoffman also starred in John Patrick Shanley's movie "Doubt" where he played an Irish priest suspected but never proven of molesting a child.
John Mulligan’s Fireside Pub is a staple of the community on Katonah Avenue in Woodlawn. A familiar spot to all of the local residents, the bar has also gained the attention of location scout Michelle Baker, who selected the bar to host a scene for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s new production “God’s Pocket.”
The film, which also stars John Tuturro and Christina Hendricks, is based on the novel of the same name. The story is set in South Philadelphia in the late 70s – early 80s, revolving around a particularly Irish neighborhood.
The Irish pub provides an optimal location for the filming, with its timely, inviting exterior and dim but spacious interior.
Speaking with Tom Mulligan, son to owner John Mulligan, he relates that this is not the bar’s first feature film experience.
“They filmed part of another movie here in 2006 for 'Hoax,' a Richard Gere movie,” says Mulligan. “I got to play the bartender in that one.”
When asked about his experience as a film extra, he responded that, “I had this part where I was supposed to hand [Richard Gere] the phone.”
When asked if the part included lines for him, he said, “Yeah, I said ‘sure, here ya’ go.’ After that, they told me not to say anything to him, that the part had no lines, but Gere told them to keep it in, because it sounded ‘natural.’”
The scene being filmed today utilizes the back room of the bar and revolves around horse betting. “My daughters and I got to name the horses in the race,” says Mulligan. “They’re Kelso, Katie-Lynn Rose, Trigger Trish, Lone Star Tommy, and Trish the Dish,” after his daughters Kelsey, Katie-Lynn, and Trish as well as himself and his wife, Patricia.
Clearly a period piece, the extras on set are dressed in the pinstripes and plaid suits of the time, complete with oversized collars. Classic cars line a nearby side street off of the bar, a point that hasn’t gone unnoticed by some of the locals.
The production garnered the attention of a handful of the local residents who came out to determine what the fuss is all about. Brenda Marino, Woodlawn resident of four years, says, “All the local nosy neighbors are out here wondering like ‘what’s goin on? Who is it?’” After finding out that Turturro is on set to film the scene, Marino herself catches a bit of the bug, sticking around to catch a snapshot of the actor.
The community on Katonah had mixed reactions about the filming, though the common denominator is generally a curious interest in the goings-on. Speaking to some of the local business on the street, a few individuals had their two cents to offer.
Diarmuid Hackett, a bartender in The Rambling House down the street from Mulligan’s, felt that this kind of attention is good for a community. “They draw interest to the neighborhood, leaving people wondering where the movie was filmed and having them think they’d like to visit the neighborhood,” he says.
A clerk in the pharmacy across the street was less excited by the presence of the film crew. “It’s already a bad business week,” he says, “and now they’re taking another day away from us.” He also added that it was “too early to tell” if the presence of the crew would impact positively or negatively on business.
Mulligan speaks to the fact that his previous film shooting was a boom for business, drawing in new customers who wanted to see the featured pub. “People would come in and say stuff like ‘that’s where Richard Gere sat! I want to sit in Gere’s seat!’ and even if it wasn’t, I’d let them think so.”
It’s the afternoon before the acting talent finally shows up on set, and some of the gawkers on the street attempt to snap a cellphone photo of the stars. Production staff maneuver themselves into position and cut off the line of sight for most people, including a professional photographer trying to get a shot of Hoffman.
The effort from the staff seems a little unnecessary, though, because as a somewhat haggard-looking Hoffman makes his way down the block to the bar, he hangs his head to obscure his face from cameras. Brenda Marino, who’s been waiting for her sight of Turturro, manages to get a shot of him approaching on her cellphone.
The filming process takes hours, and the actors are holed up in the bar for most of the day before breaking for dinner at around 5:30. At the end of their break, as they return to the set to continue shooting, Hoffman brushes off a request for comment, his production staff worming her way between us to intercept any questions.
As the sun starts to set, I ask Mulligan if he has anything to add. “We also make burgers. Best burger in town, I like to call it.”