New York Film Locations

On the set of Desperately Seeking Susan

18 August 2012

OTSONY looks back to 1984, when Madonna appeared in her debut film, Desperately Seeking Susan.

Starring established actress Rosanna Arquette as Roberta, an unfulfilled suburban housewife living in Fort Lee, New Jersey who became fascinated with a woman she only knew about by reading messages to and from her in the personals section of a New York City tabloid. After she reads an advert with the headline "Desperately Seeking Susan" and meeting time and place. Roberta goes to Battery Park and gets a glimpse of the woman named Susan and played by popstar Madonna. In a series of events involving mistaken identity, amnesia, and other farcical elements Roberta goes from voyeur to participant in an Alice in Wonderland-style plot, ostensibly motivated by the search for a pair of stolen Egyptian earrings.

Director, Susan Seidelman came to New York in the mid-’70s and attended N.Y.U. film school. The grad film school, at that time, was on East 17th Street and 2nd Avenue. Madonna lived closed by and Seidelman knew her from people who were in the downtown music scene. Well-known actresses such as Ellen Barkin, Melanie Griffith and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kelly McGillis auditioned for the role of Susan, but in the end the part was given to Madonna.

When it came to deciding on a location, Seidelman had already made her mind up that New York would be the perfect place. Filming began at the end of 1984, and New York was still coming out of the 1970s bankruptcy crisis. Nothing was being renovated or repaired and so the area of 2nd Avenue had a rundown feel to it.

Seidelman also knew many of the places featured in the film such as the Bleecker Street Cinema, the second-hand clothing store "Love Saves the Day" and Danceteria, a club that Madonna frequented and which gave her a start in the music business.

During the Battery Park scene, the Statue of Liberty can be seen in the film when it was still covered in scaffolding during its two year renovation. Other filming locations include the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue and West 42nd Street, and the Diner at 158 Grand Street.


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