New York Film Locations

Hackers Revisit

1 January 2019

otsoNY will start the New Year by revisiting the 1995 computer-age thriller Hackers starring Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie, Renoly Santiago, Laurence Mason, Matthew Lillard, Jesse Bradford, Lorraine Bracco, and Fisher Stevens.

The film followed a group of high school hackers and their involvement in a corporate extortion conspiracy. Made in the 1990s when the Internet was unfamiliar to the general public, it reflected the ideals laid out in the Hacker Manifesto with a screenplay written by Rafael Moreu who was highly inspired by the hacker and cyberpunk subcultures. He saw the film as more than just about computer hacking but something much larger and had been interested in hacking since the early 1980s. After the crackdown in the United States during 1989 and 1990, he decided to write a script about the subculture. For research, Moreu went to a meeting organized by the New York-based hacker magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly. There, he met Phiber Optik, a.k.a. Mark Abene, a 22-year-old hacker who spent most of 1994 in prison on hacking charges. Moreu also hung out with other young hackers being harassed by the government and began to figure out how it would translate into a film. The character Eugene Belford used Babbage as a pseudonym at the end of the film, a reference to Charles Babbage, an inventor of an early form of the computer. The fictional computer mainframe named the "Gibson" was a homage to cyberpunk author William Gibson and originator of the term "Cyberspace", first in his 1982 short story Burning Chrome and later in his 1984 book Neuromancer.

The cast spent three weeks getting to know each other and learning how to type and rollerblade. They studied computers and met with actual computer hackers, including Tristan Louis, Kevin Mitnick, and Nicholas Jarecki, who served as a technical consultant and credits his experience on Hackers as inspiring his later career as the screenwriter and director of the award-winning film Arbitrage. Actor Jonny Lee Miller even attended a hacker's convention.

The school scenes were filmed in Stuyvesant High School and the surrounding areas in the TriBeCa and East Village neighbourhoods of Manhattan in November 1994. Many scenes included real school seniors as extras. The interior scenes for the Cyberdelia nightclub were filmed at the disused Brentford Public Baths on the outskirts of London.

Updates to the Hackers Film Location page are due to take place in early January.


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