Side Effects was shot primarily on location in and around New York City, which director Steven Soderbergh says can be intimidating. “There are so many iconic New York movies. I decided that the important thing was to make the locations organic to this movie. The narrative is the priority. That doesn’t mean we didn’t look for locations that were interesting and different, but I don’t go anywhere one of the characters hasn’t been.”
With that in mind, some of the locales that were chosen for filming definitely come under the heading of “gritty.” At Manhattan Psychiatric Center the filmmakers shot in an unused ward. “We used a huge dormitory, which wasn’t originally scripted, but it was suitably horrific,” says production designer Howard Cummings. “It is essentially a prison — a prison where people are getting medication and care, but it is still a prison. Everything is that institutional green that has an innate depressing quality.”
Security on the hospital set was tight. “To walk in the hospital, we had to go through two locked doors for security,” says Catherine Zeta-Jones, who plays Dr. Victoria Siebert. “There are some patients in this particular facility who are locked down because of the extremity of their cases. It was the real thing, which brought great authenticity to the experience.”
The Taconic Correctional Facility, the Queens House of Detention and Bellevue Hospital are seen in the film.
The production also made use of a courtroom where murder trials are actually held in New York. “Nobody gets to do that,” says Cummings. “But Steven shoots with minimal lighting and a smaller crew, so we are more nimble than most. He was able to do what would take anyone else a week all in one day. The setting gives real credence to the story.”
“On all his movies, Steven has tried to be as realistic as possible,” says producer Gregory Jacobs. “He likes to shoot in the real places whenever he can.”
“I always prefer to shoot in practical locations if I can, especially in New York,” agrees Soderbergh. “It provides a level of realism we can’t match on a soundstage.”
This emphasis on realism carried over to the actors’ preparation as well. To research their roles, Jude Law, who plays Dr. Jonathan Banks, and Zeta-Jones read up on psychopharmacology and worked closely with Dr. Sasha Bardey, who at the time of filming was deputy director of forensic psychiatry for Bellevue Hospital, and who previously worked with Side Effects screenwriter Scott Burns on the TV medical drama Wonderland.
Side Effects is available starting May 21 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2013 Open Road Films