Hempstead Harbor made a big splash as a film location Wednesday afternoon as the crew of Martin Scorsese’s 1970s-set mob film “The Irishman” staged a boat explosion there.
“It was lot more intense than I anticipated,” said Eric Swenson, 62, executive director of the Hempstead Harbor Protection Committee, a consortium of local municipalities who worked with the filmmakers on approvals and safety issues. “It was a pretty powerful explosion with a big, black mushroom cloud of smoke billowing above the boat,” a large cabin cruiser. “Very loud — pretty spectacular.”
Swenson said he “was very impressed with the whole organization about it. They had two safety meetings before it took place, and a crew on an emergency-response barge ready to go. People came out with a fire hose after the explosion to put out the fire on the boat and then got the boat out of there. We don’t normally like to see ships blow up in the harbor,” he added jocularly, “but we make exceptions for something like this.”
The explosion will be digitally enhanced in postproduction.
Prior to the shoot, conducted at the Harry Tappen Marina on Shore Road in Glenwood Landing, the Committee ensured that oil, gas and other fluids that could possibly spill into the harbor were removed from the boat. As well, “They have a barge in the marina that has a containment boom in case it’s needed,” Swenson said. The Nassau County police Marine Bureau was on hand, as well as the Town of Oyster Bay bay constables.
“We made sure that fluids are being removed from the boat, so no oil, no gas, no batteries with maybe battery acid are there” and possibly spill into the water, said Swenson. “They have a barge in the marina that has a containment boom in case it’s needed,” he added.
The harbor will double for the Detroit River in the film, based on Charles Brandt’s 2004 book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” about Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a mob hit man. Sheeran was allegedly involved in the disappearance of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa in 1975. Boats in the marina were relocated to one in Glen Cove “so they’re not in the vicinity of the explosion,” Swenson said. “Also, since it’s taking place in 1975, they don’t want newer boats in the shot.”
“The Irishman,” which has shot in multiple locations in the region, brought production Monday to construction firm Seville Central Mix Corp.’s plant in Lawrence — where it already had shot on Oct. 2 — as well as to the former Pathmark building at 1754 Grand Ave. in Baldwin. “In the book there’s a scene in a closed concrete plant,” said company president Peter Scalamandre, 60, who shut down his concrete business both days to allow filming.
On Sept. 25, “The Irishman” shot at the Rodeway Inn in Huntington Station, and a crew on Oct. 2 filmed a small airplane taking off and landing at Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley.
Set to premiere on Netflix in 2019, “The Irishman” might also receive an Oscar-qualifying theatrical run in December next year, according to trade reports. It stars Robert De Niro in his first collaboration with Scorsese in at least 22 years, as well as Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano and an out-from-retirement Joe Pesci.