When they hear the name The Producers, film buffs, theater buffs, and New Yorkers may have several different images pop into their heads. Mel Brooks’ story of two theater producers who try to put a guaranteed “flop” on Broadway has gone through many incarnations over the years. Tour-goers on On Location Tours’ Central Park TV & Movie Sites tourwill get to see locations used in both the original 1968 film and the 2005 remake.
In 1968, Mel Brooks wrote and directed his original comedy The Producers. The film starred Zero Mostel as Max Bialystock, a washed-up theater producer, and Gene Wilder as Leo Bloom, a miserable accountant who has dreams of producing a show on Broadway. While going over Max’s books, Leo realizes that one could theoretically make more money from a flop than from a hit, if the show closed shortly after opening and they still had investors’ money left over. Max thinks this is a genius idea and convinces Leo to join him in his newly-hatched scheme to find the worst show ever written, raise two million dollars, close the show in one day, and flee the country with their millions. The “guaranteed flop” that they decide to produce is a musical called “Springtime for Hitler,” which was written by insane former-nazi Franz Liebkind (played by Kenneth Mars). They hire the business’s worst director, cast a flaky hippie as the lead, and Leo and Max know that the show, which is an incredibly offensive love-letter to Hitler, will be shut down immediately. However, their plan backfires when, on opening night, the audience believes the show to be a satire, and critics give it a rave review! Since they’ve sold 25,000 percent of the show to investors, Leo and Max ultimately get caught.
The scene where Leo agrees to Max’s scheme was shot at the Lincoln Center fountain. When Leo proclaims, “I’ll do it!” the fountain shoots up in the air very dramatically. This location has also been used in Moonstruck, Ghostbusters, Sweet Home Alabama, and Serpico, among many other films.
Several decades later, Mel Brooks worked with Thomas Meehan to turn The Producers into a Broadway musical. It opened on Broadway in 2001 to rave reviews, critical acclaim, and enormous box office success. Basically the same plot as the film, the musical starred Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock and Matthew Broderick as Leo Bloom. The music for the show was written by Mel Brooks and Glen Kelly. The stage version of The Producers ran for 2,502 performances on Broadway, for three years in London, and has been done by several touring and international theater companies. It won a record-breaking twelve Tony Awards in 2001.
The highly successful musical was then turned into a 2005 film, which also starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, as well as several other original Broadway cast members. It also starred Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind and Uma Thurman as Ulla, the beautiful Swedish aspiring actress.
Although most of the filming was done on a set at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios (this was actually the first feature film to be shot at the newly-built studio facility), some locations from the 2005 film are also seen on the Central Park tour. Tour-goers will get to walk down The Mall, the long, straight, tree-lined path where the little old ladies sing their musical number “Along Came Bialy,” and tap dance with their walkers.
Also seen on the Central Park tour is Bethesda Terrace, which is the most filmed and most visited location in the park. This is where, in the 2005 version, Leo agrees to Max’s scheme. There is also a fountain at this location and, much like in the original film, when Leo says, “I’ll do it!” the fountain splashes up high in the air. The reason this scene was not also filmed at Lincoln Center, like the original film was, was because the remake takes place in 1959, and Lincoln Center was not actually built until the 1960’s.
* 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.