8 Mile | 2002
Jimmy Smith Jr, aka B-Rabbit (Eminem) struggles to escape a dead-end life in the star’s home town of Detroit.
As the end credits proudly announce, the movie was “Filmed on location in the 313”, the area code for inner urban Detroit, traditionally separated from the posher northern suburbs by the titular 8 Mile Road.
And right on 8 Mile Road itself, in the suburb of Warren, is ‘8 Mile Mobile Court’, the trailer park where Rabbit is obliged to move in with his wayward mother (Kim Basinger) after splitting up with his girlfriend. It’s the A&L Mobile Home Park, 20785 Schultes Avenue, on the north side of East 8 Mile Road.
Taking inspiration from the grim vistas of inner-city decay, Rabbit scribbles lyrics down as he rides the bus from Schultes Avenue along 8 Mile Road (though the shots were taken along Chene Street).
He spends his days producing ‘crash parts’ at the New Center Stamping Plant, 950 East Milwaukee Street at Hastings Street.
At night, B-Rabbit tests his skills competing in rap battles held in a club called the Shelter. Although Shelter is real (and Eminem started out here), in the basement beneath St Andrew’s Hall, 431 East Congress Street, it was recreated for the movie in a warehouse at 240 Chene Street, a little to the east in the Rivertown Warehouse District. 30 Clifford Street, a few blocks northwest of Shelter, was quite extensively dressed to provide the club exterior.
And, just to complicate matters, backstage areas were filmed in an abandoned Rite Aid store at 1120 Griswold Street in the centre of downtown Detroit.
A few blocks east of the ‘Shelter’ exterior, at 1435 Randolph Street, stood Intermezzo, the restaurant at which Alex (Brittany Murphy) waited tables. It’s since closed.
Rabbit and his Three One Third crew hang out, and come on to the ladies, in the old Chin Tiki Club, which stood at 2121 Cass Street, downtown. Filming here encouraged speculation that the popular hangout from the Fifties and Sixties, which had been closed for nearly twenty years, might reopen. Its subsequent demolition put an end to the hopes.
Still surviving, alongside the empty lot where the Chin Tiki stood, is the strangely elaborate parking garage where Three One Third face off against rival rappers The Free World. This is the Michigan Building, 220 Bagley Street at Grand River Avenue.
Built in 1926 as the 4000-seat Michigan Theatre, an opulent concert hall-movie palace, it followed the career path of many fading grand theatres – becoming a nightclub before finally closing in the mid-Seventies. Unlike most of those theatres, though, the building was gutted to provide parking space for offices on the floors above. Its photogenically decaying plasterwork graces the screen again in Michael Bay’s sci-fi thriller, The Island.
There was a bit of controversy when it came to the scene of Rabbit and his mates torching the house in which a girl had supposedly been raped. Fearing for the city’s image, permission was initially refused, but an agreement was finally reached and 122 Beresford Street, in Highland Park, was duly burned. By the way, the site is just a few blocks away from Walt Kowalski’s house in Gran Torino.
Northwest of downtown, Rabbit angrily confronts the Free World and, in the ensuing ruckus, Cheddar Bob (Evan Jones) somehow manages to shoot himself in the leg. The fight is on the empty lot on the northwest corner of Grand River Avenue and Quincy Street in the uninvitingly run-down Petosky-Otsego neighbourhood.
The home of Cheddar, where he understandably lies low after the accident, is 1250 McClellan Street at Jefferson Avenue, in English Village, east of downtown.
With the promise of a career break from fixer Wink (Eugene Byrd), Rabbit turns up at the ‘WJLB’ radio station, which is housed in the landmark 1928 art deco Penobscot Building, 645 Griswold Street, downtown. What he finds there doesn’t further his ambitions one bit.
After finally winning out at the Shelter, it’s directly opposite the club exterior on Clifford Street, that Rabbit finally turns down the offer to host rap battles, and heads off down the alleyway alongside Griswold Street to take his one opportunity.