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Marathon Man

One of New York’s most picturesque filming locations is Central Park, the most filmed location in the world.  Hop aboard On Location Tours’ Central Park TV & Movie Sites Tour to see this beautiful park, which was prominently featured in the classic New York film Marathon Man.

Marathon Man was based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name and starred Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier.  It was directed by John Schlesinger.  Dustin Hoffman plays Thomas “Babe” Levy, a Columbia University graduate student and avid runner, who is drawn into a mysterious plot surrounding his brother, his European girlfriend, and a Nazi war criminal in hiding (Olivier).

Several scenes from the film were shot on location in Central Park, including the scenes where Hoffman’s character goes on his daily run around the park’s reservoir.

The film includes one of the most horrific torture scenes ever put on film, when Olivier drills into Hoffman’s teeth without anesthetic, while repeatedly asking, “Is it safe?  Is it safe?”  This line, “Is it safe?” was listed as #70 on the American Film Institute’s “100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes” list.  During the filming of this scene, Olivier was so worried about accidentally hurting Hoffman that he would ask Hoffman if he was okay after each take.  At one point, Hoffman played a prank on Olivier by screaming as if he were really in great pain, scaring poor Olivier.

Another well-known story about the filming of Marathon Man is that Hoffman was rumored to have not slept for over two days in order to have the right level of exhaustion in the post-torture scene.  Olivier is said to have told Hoffman, “Try acting… it’s much easier!”  Years later, Hoffman admitted that during the filming of the movie he had been going through a divorce and had spent those two nights out partying, and that Olivier’s remark of “Try acting… it’s much easier” was actually referring to Hoffman’s lifestyle, not his method acting.

While filming the running scenes, Hoffman would not “fake” being out of breath.  Just prior to every take, he would run at least a half-mile so he was actually out of breath for the scene.

Although Marathon Man takes place in New York and most of the movie was filmed there, some scenes were actually shot in Los Angeles.  The scene where Roy Scheider meets Laurence Olivier was filmed in front of the Red Steps statue in downtown LA’s Arco Plaza, and the library scene where Dustin Hoffman meets Marthe Keller was filmed at the University of Southern California.  Hoffman had actually also filmed on the school’s campus ten years earlier, in The Graduate.

For his work in Marathon Man, Laurence Olivier was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

* In an effort to stay current, we are constantly updating our tours with new locations and cannot guarantee the presence of locations mentioned on our site. If you have a particular interest in locations from a specific TV show or movie, please let your tour guide know and we will do our best to accommodate your request.

Take the tours that feature some of these filming locations!

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