Friday, April 25, 2014

Location Matters: the spot where they blew up the old city hall in 'Lethal Weapon 3'

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 11:33 AM

click to enlarge Some say you can still hear the monkey noises they dubbed over the explosion when the moon is full.
  • Some say you can still hear the monkey noises they dubbed over the explosion when the moon is full.

Some say you can still hear the monkey noises they dubbed over the explosion when the moon is full.

Location Matters is a series that reflects upon pieces of Orlando immortalized in popular film.

July 1991: Orlando's current City Hall opens, a $36 million gem nestled at the corner of Orange Avenue and South Street boasting a squat postmodern design that somehow screams the name of our fair metropolis. The only lingering problem? What to do with the old City Hall, which at the time rested literally just a few feet in front of the new structure. Why, blow it up, of course, in a controlled demolition, and offset those costs by selling the film rights.

Area film producer Ross Testagrossa made nearly a hundred phone calls on behalf of the city before he got a hold of Lethal Weapon 3 producer Joel Silver. Silver just happened to be in the market for a building to blow up for the latest installment of his buddy cop series; he penciled in the October 24th destruction of Orlando's abandoned seat of government. The City Beautiful sat back and smiled, having made upwards of $50,000 on the deal.

Director Richard Donner and his Lethal Weapon 3 crew spent a week in Orlando, filming the City Hall destruction for what turned out to be LW3's opening stretch. As our heroes arrive on the scene of a bomb threat, the uptight Murtaugh (Danny Glover) is content to let the experts handle it...but his loose cannon partner Riggs (Mel Gibson) has other ideas. Convinced there's no bomb, Riggs and his wild mullet venture inside. Murtaugh nervously follows, and this pressure cooker situation eventually explodes (but not before at least one Cher joke). Apparently the demolition experts made sure the bomb exploded "forward," but looking frame by frame it's somewhat unbelievable the new City Hall wasn't even slightly damaged.

click to enlarge oldcityhalljpg

Bye bye, City Hall. Thanks for all the bureaucracy!

Eagle-eared movie watchers will notice what sounds like an animal roar during the explosion. No, that's not the shark from Jaws 4, it's actually the giant monkey from King Kong '76. Yes, there is a secret Hollywood cabal dedicated to subliminally indoctrinating you with the works of Dino De Laurentiis.

Lethal Weapon 3, whose basic plot finds Murtaugh and Riggs chasing a rogue arms dealer, proved to be the most successful of the entire series. The wanton destruction of Orlando, Rene Russo sex scenes, a soundtrack featuring Elton John and Michael Kamen --- what more could the average American in 1992 ask from a movie? Lethal Weapon 3 even made more money than Batman Returns, which gives one pause to consider where we would be if Rene Russo had played Catwoman. Rumor has it Mel Gibson was one of the many considered to play Batman before Michael Keaton secured the role. How would he have fit all that hair under the cowl?

It doesn't matter, for as far as Mel's fallen he'll always have Lethal Weapon, which revved up a generation of movie-goers who savored their balls-to-the-wall action with less elaborate costumes and more Curly Howard references. Not many people know anyone as dark and conflicted as the Penguin, but we all know someone as annoying as Joe Pesci. Nowhere is the searing mark of Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh more evident than in the words of 26 year-old James Pierre, who spoke to The Orlando Sentinel following a general screening of Lethal Weapon 3 in May of 1992.

"I don't give a damn about Orlando City Hall," Pierre said. "I want to see Lethal Weapon. I saw Lethal Weapon 1 and and I'll see Lethal Weapon 26 if they make one."

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