‘Hawkeye’: How The Creative Team Recreated, and Destroyed, 30 Rock For the Series
"What’s bigger, and what’s more Christmassy than Rockefeller Center?"
If you’ve ever been to New York City at Christmas time, you know you have to stop by the famed tree at Rockefeller Center. The Norway spruce tree stands over 50 feet tall with hundreds of twinkling lights that beckon to residents and visitors alike during the holiday season, becoming a must-see. (Hey, even Yelena wants to add it to her sightseeing list!) And this is why it is so shocking that Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye not only topples the tree over in the season finale but also unleashes chaos on the iconic skating rink below it.
“I tip my hat off to Kevin Feige because he wanted to go big, and what’s bigger, and what’s more Christmassy than Rockefeller Center?” Executive Producer Rhys Thomas, who also directed the episode, explains to Marvel.com. “That was something that everyone got on board with.”
In Episode 6, “So This Is Christmas?”, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop end up at 30 Rock for the Bishop Security holiday party — which Wilson Fisk has targeted after he and Eleanor Bishop unceremoniously part ways. Clint knows Kingpin will want to make a big show of power and stage an attack, and what’s a better, and bigger venue, than the New York City location?
Though the melee starts inside at the party, the chaos quickly spills out onto the street, and the nearby skating rink, leaving the two archers to try and fight off the Tracksuit Mafia on ice. Part of the episode was actually filmed on location over the Christmas holiday 2020, however, considering the events of the episode, not all of it could be filmed there. That meant that the rink was actually recreated on a soundstage in Atlanta.
Thomas, who actually worked out of 30 Rock for almost two decades, found it to be “sort of uncanny valley” considering he knew the location so well prior to Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye.
“Walking onto the backlot [in Atlanta], which was essentially just a bunch of shipping containers on a parking lot just in the middle of nowhere and seeing this thing emerge. It was crazy. The level of detail on the street is down to the weathering on the granite and the fake granite walls.”
Originally, the production team was just going to recreate one corner of the ice-skating rink to shoot on in Atlanta. But that was quickly scrapped for the whole thing.
“Initially I remember there was this idea where maybe we just need a portion of the ice rink…then you start looking at the sequence and it's like no, we needed the whole thing,” Thomas recalls. “We built the ice rink and the whole bottom level of Rockefeller Center. It was one of the most thrilling things; I've never walked onto a set like that.”
Not only was the whole rink created, but two very important things were also built as well: a replica of the Christmas tree and its topper. In a daring escape, Clint actually ends up inside the tree before Kate topples it over, which means that yes, Jeremy Renner really did climb into a version of the fake tree.
“That was one of our last days [of filming],” Thomas continues. “We took the tree into a stage and surrounded it with a blue screen, and we put Jeremy up into the tree. What was funny is we did a portion of it, and then a few days later, realized we needed a little bit more. But at that point, the tree had been basically chopped up and it was in a dumpster in the back.”
In order to finish Hawkeye Episode 6, someone had to go dumpster diving. “It was just the funniest thing because it was wishful. We were like, ‘we hope it's still in the dumpster!’ That was the message I got when I said I needed to do a little bit more and someone just dragged in this old tree and it suddenly became something. It was pretty funny, [but] I was embarrassed. I was like OK, Jeremy you have to stand here [with this] crappy piece of tree, but he had fun with it.”
With the tree from the dumpster, Thomas created, “this tiny section of branch that is just in front of Jeremy's face and so he's standing on the ground with this weird tree around him pretending he's stuck in it.” In the end, most of the scene of Clint stuck in the tree is actually “from when we had this little tiny dead thing out of the dumpster. It might be shattering the Hollywood illusion.”
However, no sooner did Clint find himself up in the tree that he had to come down. With a well-placed acid arrow, Kate sends the tree crashing down onto the rink – along with the giant tree topper, too, something else that was recreated just for the episode. Considering Clint and Kate use the object for cover from the approaching Tracksuits, it needed to be big enough for them to hide behind.
“It's very well-documented,” Maya Shimoguchi, art director for the Disney+ series, says of the topper. “There are lots of photos of it that we could look at, not on the tree. You can find really great photos of people standing next to it, so you can really see the actual scale of it.”
Crafting it out of a 3D model, “We simplified it a little bit because it is so complicated that there's no way we could exactly replicate it. But it was still a very large build and very, very complicated. We had to make, mold, and cast all the various parts and pieces, and then attach them onto the center of this really solid base that all the little spikes attach into. And then the real one, all of those spikes are filled with small crystals. There is an insane number of crystals that are built into the real, actual ornament. We skipped that,” Shimoguchi adds with a laugh.
The idea of miniatures —for both the rink, the tree, and the topper — was also tossed around, but in the end, Shimoguchi is happy with building the giant thing and assembling it all together for the final shot. And as Thomas adds, “It's Marvel so we don't do anything by halves. It’s the one place where you could get to do such a bold thing.”
All episodes of Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye are now streaming on Disney+.
Starring Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, Hawkeye also features Vera Farmiga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Zahn McClarnon, Brian d’Arcy James, and newcomer Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez. Helmed by Rhys Thomas and directing duo Bert and Bertie, Hawkeye is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
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