Zack And Miri Make A Porno | 2008
When longtime flatmates Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) and Miriam Linky (Elizabeth Banks) find themselves in dire financial straits, they resort to the plotline suggested by the title. Despite the nudity and the salty language, the film is actually a sweet romantic comedy, a sort of When Harry F****d Sally… and borrows heavily from director Kevin Smith’s experience making an indie movie in his own workplace with Clerks back in 1994.
Smith originally set the story in Minnesota like his 1995 Mallrats but eventually plumped for Pittsburgh, where he'd previously filmed Dogma (1999). Apart from budgetary benefits, this also offered the opportunity for a few George A Romero in-jokes.
The film opens with a car swerving to avoid a bicycle outside the Keystone Church of Hazelwood on Hazelwood Avenue at Sylvan Avenue in the Glen Hazel suburb, southeast of downtown Pittsburgh. The house shared by Zack and Miri is directly opposite at 200 Hazelwood Avenue.
It’s a further few miles east to Monroeville, the supposed setting of much of the film. The ‘Bean-N-Gone Coffee Shop’, where Zack and his producer-to-be Delaney (Craig Robinson) work as baristas, is 2525 Monroe Boulevard in the Twin Fountains Plaza strip mall. At the time the property was, as you’ll imagine, vacant. It’s now DQ Grill & Chill Restaurant, part of the Dairy Queen chain.
The coffee shop's back room, where some of the more frisky yet oddly tender scenes for Swallow My Cockuccino are filmed, was built on a soundstage at Tech One Park, 4000 Tech Center Drive in Monroeville.
Twin Fountains Plaza is tucked away behind the huge Monroeville Mall, which is where Miri works, and where Zack later convinces Delaney to come on board as producer. This Mall is of course famous as the location for George A Romero’s superb 1978 Dawn Of The Dead, hence the name of the film's fictitious hockey team, the ‘Monroeville Zombies’. You can, if you wish, get your own Monroeville Zombies t-shirt at the Living Dead Museum and Gift Shop, 121 East Main Street in Evans City (or on-line, of course).
There is no ‘Monroeville High. The school reunion where Zack and Miri bump into Bobby Long (Brandon Routh) and his porn-star partner Brandon (Justin Long) is a conflation of two long closed and shuttered institutions. The exterior seen is that of Gladstone Middle School, just above Zack and Miri’s house on Hazelwood Avenue. The more film-friendly interior is Prospect Middle School on Prospect Street in Mount Washington, south of Pittsburgh across the Monongahela River.
It’s quite a schlep to the bar in which Zack and Miri drown their sorrows after the water and electricity are cut off. It’s West End Café, 408 South Main Street in the West End district, west of Pittsburgh and across the Ohio River. Here Zack has his lightbulb moment and suggests making a porno film, wanly observing “Other people have options and dignity.”
Just one block south of the bar stood the storage space they initially rent as a makeshift studio to film their porno-sci-fi, Star Whores It stood on Neptune Street at Alexander Street and, yes, it really has been demolished.
The shady Mr Jenkins who rents them the place is played by Tom Savini, the make-up and prosthetics whizz behind George A Romero’s gut-churning zombie effects (and also director of the 1990 remake of Night Of The Living Dead).
While playing hockey with the ‘Monroeville Zombies’, Zack invites teammate Deacon (Jeff Anderson) to be his cameraman. The venue is the Rostraver Ice Garden, 101 Gallitin Road, in Belle Vernon – a 5,000-seat multi-purpose arena. In February 2010, after heavy snowfall, a large section of the Gardens’ roof collapsed. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries and the arena reopened with a new roof in October, 2010.
Auditions for performers (a scene eventually much cut down) are held in the McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin Street, McKeesport (a couple of miles southwest of Monroeville), and pole-dancers are interviewed at Club Erotica, 826 Island Avenue in McKees Rocks (a couple of miles northwest of Pittsburgh).
After an enthusiastic start, the project peters out, so to speak, and Zack is reduced to acting as a paintball target outside the Mellon Arena, which stood at 66 Mario Lemieux Place, until being demolished in 2012. The arena had previously appeared in 1979’s The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and 1995 Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner Sudden Death.
It’s here Delaney finds Zack and persuades him to watch a rough cut of the unfinished film in the basement of his home, at 3164 Washington Pike in Bridgeville, off I-79 several miles southwest of Pittsburgh itself. The house was for sale at the time, and has been very slightly remodeled by the new owners – those dinky canopies have gone.
If, strangely, you haven’t seen the film yet, remember to stay until all the credits have rolled.