Things are not always as they seem when it comes to movie magic. Last week a production crew for the TV hit series “Magic City” descended on the historic Azure Apartments and turned the back corner of the structure at Glen Way and Morningside Drive into a “gentlemen’s club,” a.k.a., a house of ill repute.
Shooting the Miami Springs scene brought about a hundred crew members into the neighborhood, along with trucks hauling tons of filmmaking equipment, 20 extras, 15 vintage cars and three cast members. Five Miami Springs police officers worked off-duty blocking streets and directing traffic.
The made-in-Miami-Dade County series is set in 1959 and shown on cable network Starz. The crew is near the end of filming its second season and new episodes will appear sometime next year. It will be months before the Springs scene is shown.
Headlining the show is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike Evans, owner of a Miami Beach hotel, and Danny Houston as Ben Diamond, the personification of a rich, conniving and murdering gangster. The magnetic veteran actor Houston steals almost every scene he’s in.
Houston was cordial and agreed to have his photo taken with a reporter. The scene involved Houston and actor Steven Strait, who plays Stevie Evans, son of Ike Evans, and a lovely female actress who waited for Houston in the back seat of a 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood limo.
“Magic City” first shot in Miami Springs in October 2011 on North Drive and South Melrose Drive at Lenape Street. When shown, the full day’s shooting produced about a minute of airtime of two actors exchanging dialogue in a moving vintage Buick being towed by a film truck. The most recognizable Springs scenery was three Muscovy ducks on a canal bank.
As is the case with most filming, getting information was difficult because crew members and extras were prohibited from talking to the media. A photographer was asked countless time to not take pictures, although there’s no law prohibiting photography of anything at anytime on a public street.
Site manager Ian Williams, a 30-year veteran of the movie business, said, “We’re doing the exterior scenes here because of the historic building and the neighborhood, which fits the late-’50s period of the show. We’ll come back when the building is finished.”
Real construction on the long-vacant Azure Apartments has been on and off in recent years while being gutted and refurbished. For the scene, actors portraying construction workers applied plaster and carried lumber as Huston and Strait exchanged dialogue.
Days before the crew descended on the building, real construction workers built a façade and walls in front of the old building to make it appear as though it was under construction. Movie grips erected giant blue screens on top of the building which will allow computer geniuses to add minarets and turrets.
The day after shooting, real construction workers again started giving the movie side of the building a finished look for another scene scheduled for Dec. 18. The show is slated to wrap up this season by Dec. 21.
Although details were tight, some extras admitted making $168 dollars a day, a day being as long as it takes, sometimes 12-15 hours. Screen Actors Guild (SAG) members make $768 a day.
Homeowner and neighbor Richard Keller said he was paid $100 to keep his car out of sight. Soien Biedahl, a native of Denmark, lives on Glen Way and said he was paid $200 to hide his vehicle. Others admitted being paid more, depending on the level of inconvenience.
One vintage car owner said he has provided his car 21 times this year because he likes to see his car on film. Additionally, car owners are paid.
Lolita Latimore Favata owns an immaculate 1957 Olds and refused to say how much she makes to supply her vehicle but she did admit that she’s paid hundreds of dollars. “I love it because I have a car that everyone desires and she’s now a movie star. It’s our Sunday car.”
Another car owner said he was paid $285 a day to bring his classic Chevy.
One of the extras, whose job consists of standing around most of the time before getting blip of screen time, admitted that the job was boring. “But it beats having a real job,” he said.