Who needs Hollywood backlots when you have Sunset Park?
After network television shows such as NBC’s “Shades of Blue” spent last summer filming in the neighborhood, Academy Award nominee James Franco and Golden Globe winner Maggie Gyllenhaal spent Thursday, June 30 shooting several scenes at two fixtures in Sunset, The Irish Haven and Johnny’s Pizzeria, for the forthcoming HBO show, “The Deuce.”
Owners of the establishments, along with residents, were excited to see the stars in Sunset.
“We all were very excited that James Franco chose Johnny’s Pizzeria,” said Sunset Park BID Executive Director Renee Giordano. “[John Miniaci, owner of Johnny’s Pizzeria’s] dad started the business in 1968 and the show takes place in the 1970’s so it almost is like going back to the beginning days.”
Miniaci himself was thrilled the drama — slated to premiere in 2017 — chose his restaurant as one of the locations. “The filming was an incredible experience,” he told this paper. “Franco was a great, down to earth guy. He’s strictly business when he puts his headphones on and is completely focused.”
Franco is also directing some of the show’s episodes, several scenes of which feature Gyllenhaal.
Three scenes in total were filmed at Johnny’s — two inside and one outside — during the last week of June.
The highlight for Miniaci was being able to be a part of the show.
“I am serving pizzas for the characters [in one of the scenes],” he said. “It’s something I do every day so it’s pretty incredible when you’re acting like yourself.”
Popular Sunset Park watering hole The Irish Haven was another filming location for the period piece. The bar has previously been featured in shows like “Gotham,” and “Inside American Mob.”
“A production scout looked at the space again and they thought it would work for three scenes for an episode,” said co-owner Matt Hogan. “For us, it’s huge. We have been a part of productions before I was involved with the bar.”
Both Hogan and Miniaci had great experiences with both the crew and the talent.
“I had the good fortune to be on during filming,” said Hogan, noting that, in the show, Franco has two roles. “It was great to see movie magic and how much work goes into just a few minutes of film. James Franco is also a producer and director, and plays twins so it was kind of cool to see him in character. He’s a constant professional.”
To top it all off, Franco adonned an Irish Haven t-shirt and spoke to plenty of locals.
“He was great. Even at the end of the shoot, he was sitting down being a regular person. You can get intimidated,” added Miniaci. “I asked him if he could wish my wife a happy 40th birthday and he filmed a video for her. It was a super experience.”
The continued filming in the area is encouraging, according to the owners.
“People forget about Sunset Park,” said Miniaci. “It’s a hidden gem and when people like James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal film here, it makes Sunset Park a household name. I’m so happy to be a part of that.”
“It’s bringing revenue to the city but also to the neighborhood,” added Hogan, “and it’s bringing the spotlight to Sunset Park.”