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City shows its best side to the camera in 'Gadget'

Friday, July 23, 1999

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

You can't miss it: The Sixth Street Bridge, back when it was still identified by numeral and not by superstar, Roberto Clemente. It's the reason "Inspector Gadget" came to town, and it figures prominently in the movie.

Matthew Broderick tries out the Go Go Gadget Copter over Liberty Avenue in "Inspector Gadget." (Frank Mast) 

Although the story takes place in Riverton City, you can't miss the Pittsburgh landmarks. The bridge was used so extensively for the Disney feature that it was closed from late September to mid-October.

"They did driving shots all around town, establishing Pittsburgh as the town of Riverton," says Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. The production also took to the sky last September, flying over Stanwix Street, Forbes Avenue, Wood Street and the Boulevard of the Allies.

And lest you think Disney didn't appreciate all those detours and delays you endured, the producers thank the people of Pittsburgh (plus the residents of Los Angeles and Long Beach) at the end of the credits. You'll want to sit through the credits anyway, since they're interspersed with comic bits.

The production spent time on the South Side, along the side streets off East Carson and the Slopes above. Inspector Gadget's house can be found on the Slopes, at the corner of St. Leo and Roscoe streets. College students moved out while the two-story home took center stage.

As usually happens, the inside of the residence was created on a soundstage, where walls and windows and narrow spaces aren't a problem. The house on the Slopes is flanked by empty lots, because the nearby buildings were torn down several years ago, says James Mahathey, a Penn Hills resident who was one of two assistant location managers. The space around the house makes it pop out and look like it's on a precipice -- in other words, perfect for a movie.

Mahathey, who also has worked on "Desperate Measures," "The Temptations" and "Wonder Boys," said "Gadget" was "the easiest movie I've worked on. It went smoothly. They knew exactly what they wanted, and we found it right away."

The neighborhood at 17th and Sarah streets was used when the Gadgetmobile goes gaga and pelts people with paintballs.

A minivan equipped with cameras to capture the view from all angles traveled down Sarah Street from 14th to 21st and down Jane from 17th to 20th to shoot backdrops, against which star Matthew Broderick and special effects could be superimposed. Some fake facades and signs were sprinkled through those blocks to make it more Riverton-real.

A statue of Rupert Everett, who plays the "rich, handsome and insanely evil" Sanford Scolex, was erected in PPG Plaza where the obelisk gained a corporate logo, and a temporary reflecting pool was created. PPG's glass towers were a major drawing card for the producers, and they are unmistakable on screen.

And, yes, that's Point State Park where Joely Fisher's Dr. Brenda Bradford tries to teach Inspector Gadget to use some of the gizmos grafted onto him. He orders a squirt of oil and gets toothpaste, a veritable gusher of goop the color of blueberry yogurt.

That blue goo, actually a thickened food additive mixed with blue tempera, was real, not computer-generated. Good goo just can't be faked.

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