Boston: As Seen On Screen
Think of the average trip to the movies and one tends to picture US locations up on the silver screen, from the spiritual home of cinema, Hollywood, to the Mean Streets of New York City. Beautiful Boston in Massachusetts has more than its fair share of TV tourism locations, and top-flight sights for film buffs alike. Don't miss visiting these five famous on-screen highlights when you visit the city...
Good Will Hunting
This landmark 1997 movie won Robin Williams an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay went to debut screenwriters Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who were then complete unknowns.
Following the story of Will Hunting, a troubled, delinquent maths genius who works as a cleaner at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), you can visit the bar in Will’s notorious Southie neighbourhood where he takes his date, Skylar, a Harvard University student portrayed by Minnie Driver, to meet his blue-collar buddies in the L Street Tavern.
Not nearly as sketchy as it obviously once was, this part of South Boston, or Southie, is now a very presentable middle class neighbourhood and well worth investigating. The bar itself is still a locals’ haunt, although the gruff bar owner is more than happy to discuss filming with tourists, and the place where the gang sits is marked by a framed poster of the movie. To find it, go to 658a East 8th Street, which is – unsurprisingly – located between Hart Place and L Street.
Meanwhile, in the centre of the city, in Boston Public Garden, is the most famous on-screen bench since the one Forrest Gump ate chocolates upon. Robin Williams and Matt Damon stop here for a heart-to-heart chat in a powerful scene, and you can visit the spot for yourself.
The site became a public memorial after Williams’s passing, and you can easily find a local who will direct you to the particular bench in question, and there’s often a chap who feeds squirrels hanging around, telling tales, and offering to take pictures of tourists as they sit on the iconic seat. He didn’t steal my camera. Your mileage may vary.
“Your move, chief.”
The interior of Cheers – the titular bar from the long-running, popular US sitcom – may have been filmed on a set, but the exterior shots of the bar were filmed on Beacon Street across the road from Boston Public Garden.
The bar was originally named the Bull and Finch, until it was renamed Cheers in 2002, after the show – which first aired in 1982 – made it the most famous pub in the world… probably.
Inside, there’s a replica of the TV show’s bar on the ground floor with a gold plaque immortalising Norm’s seat. The pub’s original bar is in the basement and substantially differs from its on-screen counterpart, but offers a much more cosy, authentic feel.
Decor is certainly reminiscent of the show, and features memorabilia, pictures of the cast, and, of course, a gift shop.
Frasier, who also has a bar plaque, did return to his old stomping ground in the ninth series of his eponymous spin-off show, but the bar was not a filming location because the set for the TV show Frasier was built on top of the Cheers set on the same stage.
The movie that finally won Martin Scorsese his long overdue Best Director Oscar at the 2007 Academy Awards, The Departed was famously set in Boston, taking in tons of the city’s gangster history and real-life locations.
Most iconic, perhaps, is the luxury apartment of Matt Damon’s character, whose windows famously frame the ending of the movie as they take in a spectacular view of the 18th Century Massachusetts State House, declared a National Historic Landmark.
The apartment in question is actually the Corcoran Room, located on the top floor of the Suffolk University Law Library, and is a great place to watch the sunset as it reflects off the State House’s golden dome.
Boston’s Fever Pitch was adapted from the 1997 British rom-com film of the same name, and not from the source material – Nick Hornby’s autobographical novel about an Arsenal-obsessed football fan. When the movie was filmed for US audiences, the sport was swapped for baseball, and specifically the Boston Red Sox’s historic 2004 World Series victory – their first in 86 years.
Luckily the pitch pun works just as well for a football field as for throwing a small, white baseball, eh?
Fenway Park is, therefore, a key filming location throughout the movie, and an obvious choice of team and location for the filmmakers, since the ballpark is the oldest in Major League Baseball, being the home ground of the Red Sox since 1912, and still featuring a hand-operated scoreboard, which has remained in use since 1934.
In 2012, to celebrate 100 years, Fenway Park was added to the US’s National Register of Historic places. (Hey, those guys don’t have castles over there!).
Accordingly, it’s one of the most atmospheric baseball stadiums in the whole of North America, and also one of the smallest. Located in an urban neighbourhood it has had to expand to meet demand in unusual ways, making it a particularly peculiarly proportioned stadium, which only adds to its appeal. An absolutely essential visit when in Boston – get tickets to see a game, and join one of the behind-the-scenes Ballpark Tours before you take your seat.
While there are many other movies set in Boston, from gritty dramas like Spotlight, and Mystic River, to un-DAD-ly films like Legally Blonde, you’d be surprised how many Boston movies are shot outside of the city.
One movie – about a talking teddy bear – was most definitely filmed on location, although it’s definitely not appropriate to watch it with your kids, despite its central premise.
Ted stars Mark Wahlberg, an actor who typifies Boston as much as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, with Marky Mark also appearing in The Departed (set in Boston, obviously), Patriot’s Day (based on the Boston bombings), and The Fighter (set in Lowell, Massachusetts). It follows the story of a man who spends all his time hanging out with his magically-enchanted, foul-mouthed, talking teddy.
Famous scenes include the part where Mark Wahlberg has to break Ted the news that he needs to move out, filmed at the New England Aquarium on the harbour front. Ted also joins singer Norah Jones on stage at the Hatch Shell concert venue, located at 47 David G Mugar Way on the Charles River Esplanade, in order to serenade his girlfriend with an off-key rendition of Octopussy. The song bombs a bit, but the couple soon make up at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, (located at 429 Columbus Avenue), a tiny local institution that dates back to the 1920s, and is a great place to grab a bite to eat today. So go get a sarnie.
On 31st March 2019 Virgin Atlantic will launch a double daily route (8.30pm outbound and 8.30pm inbound) between London Heathrow and Boston, which is the UK’s shortest transatlantic route – say goodbye to jetlag.
For luxury accommodation, try The Godfrey Boston at 505 Washington Street, a four-star hotel that features 242 beautifully decked out guest rooms and suites.
For the more rock ’n’ roll dad, The Verb Hotel at 1271 Boylston Street, offers 94 motel-style rooms, with vinyl at reception and in-suite turntables, not to mention guitars to plug in and play in the lobby after a night on the tiles, or at nearby Fenway Park.
For book worms as well as film buffs, 2019 is the 200th anniversary of Moby Dick author, Herman Melville’s birth, and visitors can celebrate by taking the new Massachusetts Whale Trail, proving Boston’s Harbour isn’t just about scenes from Ted and the Tea Party (although the kids will love recreating the revolutionary anarchy of 1773 and throwing chests into the river on the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum tour). The harbour's the kicking-off point for trips to see incredible marine wildlife, so book a tour to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary with Boston Harbor Cruises for your chance to spot humpback, minke and pilot whales, along with dolphins and seabirds.
For more information on visiting Boston and Massachusetts, visit massholiday.co.uk