Real Steel | 2011
Set mainly in a futuristic ‘Texas’, the movie was made entirely in Michigan, around the Motor City, Detroit. Even the ‘San Leandro’ fairground, where Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) pits his ’bot Ambush against a live bull, was built from scratch on local farmland.
About 70 miles west of Detroit, in the town of Mason, stands Ingham County Courthouse, 341 South Jefferson Street, which became ‘Ingham County Texas’, the courthouse, where reckless Charlie unwillingly gets custody of his estranged son Max (Dakota Goyo).
Full marks to you if you noticed the extraordinary number of doors into ‘Tallet’s Gym’, owned by Bailey Tallet (Evangeline Lilly), where Charlie works on his new robot, Noisy Boy. That’s because it’s a fire-station – the Detroit Fire Department HQ, 250 West Larned Street at Washington Boulevard in the heart of downtown (you can see Bruce Wayne whizz by the same building as he avoids the fireball in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice).
Unfortunately, Noisy Boy goes on to lose an arm – and his head – to Midas at ‘Crash Palace’. This vast space is the old Ford Model T factory at 91 Manchester Avenue in Highland Park. There are no CGI extensions – this is the real plant dating from 1910, where Henry Ford revolutionised the automobile industry with the introduction of the assembly line.
It’s northwest of Detroit, to the city of Pontiac, to find the ‘Starblaze Arena’. When Charlie goes looking for a partner to help buy a new robot and first sees the awesome Zeus, it’s at the famous 80,000-seat Silverdome, 1200 Featherstone Road. Built in the mid-Seventies as home of football team the Detroit Lions, it’s struggled a bit since they relocated to Detroit’s Ford Field in 2002.
Pontiac, which gave its name to the classic car made in the city, is used again in the 2012 remake of Red Dawn.
Back in the city proper, Atom gets his first fight, against Metro, and wins $2000 for young Max, at the ramshackle ‘Shaefer Zoo’. The ‘jungle village’ site is the old (and currently closed) Belle Isle Nature Zoo, Central Avenue on Belle isle, a city park in the Detroit River just east of downtown. For a breath of fresh air, you can reach this welcome green space via the MacArthur Bridge.
Supposedly on the way home, but actually a further 20 miles northwest of Pontiac, on the on I-75, Charlie and Max stop off at the Parkway Motel, 16200 Dixie Highway, in Davisburg. While staying here, Max not only installs Noisy Boy’s voice recognition software into Atom, but teaches the clunky old model to dance.
The new training allows Max to make his signature dancing entry with Atom at their next appearance, in Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, on the shore of Lake St Clair, just north of Detroit.
As Atom moves from underground fights to mainstream success, two famous Detroit landmarks are blended together to make up the glitzy WRB ‘Motor City Spectrum’ venue.
The ‘Spectrum’s’ arena, in which Atom destroys the two-headed Twin Cities, is the Cobo Arena adjacent to the Cobo Center, 301 Civic Center Drive on the Detroit International Riverfront. It's undergone a major renovation.
Built in the late Seventies-early Eighties, the vast multi-skyscraper complex, which has previously featured on-screen in Collision Course, Steven Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight and The Upside Of Anger, appears as three separate locations in Real Steel.
And when Charlie calls on the foster parents to take Max out to one last fight, it’s back to the Center once again. ‘New York’s Bing Arena’, where Atom finally faces the mighty Zeus, is the Center’s imposing riverside entrance on the Detroit Riverwalk.