My Accidental Set Visit: ‘Ant-Man’ Begins Shooting In San Francisco’s Bum-Filled Tenderloin

“They want me to look all bummy,” a guy in a hat tells the liquor store proprietor, by way of explaining the big shopping bag he’s holding, given to him by Ant-Man‘s production crew. The bag contains a dirty stuffed animal, some newspapers, an old little league trophy, and I can’t see what else. Minutes earlier, I’d heard an assistant director or production manager-type person give the crew (probably 50 people) a run down on what they’d be shooting that day. Adding excitedly, “and we’ll be using real homeless people as extras!”

So it was that for one day, the natural spectacle of San Francisco’s Tenderloin and the artificial, man-made spectacle of the Marvel universe joined forces. The idea that the crew saw a guy walking around looking shiftless and thought, “Ooh, great, but not quite ‘homeless’ enough. Can we give him a bag full of random trash?” seems somewhat emblematic of the whole experience.

NOTE: Since I know how sensitive some people are about spoilers, I can assure you at the outset here that unless you consider Ant-Man having at least one scene take place in a city a spoiler, there will be no spoilers. I will put anything even mildly spoilery (and I imagine these will be incredibly mild) on the following page.

It’s unclear whether the guy was actually homeless – he looked a lot more put together than most people in this neighborhood – or whether the Colt .45 he was buying was part of the costume or just something to do at 9 am on this fine Tuesday. In either case, he seemed to be enjoying this distraction as much as the rest of us.

I’d like to say I heard Ant-Man was going to be shooting and snuck down to the set like a real journalist, but the truth is, I just happened to be riding my bike downtown and ran smack into the biggest movie set I’ve ever seen. They had five square blocks blocked off in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a third world-esque collection of drug treatment centers and residence hotels that somehow still exists less than a mile from the headquarters of big tech companies making San Francisco’s real estate the most preposterously expensive in the country (ask us about our gentrification! wait, on second thought, don’t. oh god please don’t).

I was also caught by surprise that they’d already begun photography on Ant-Man. It was less than four months ago when Edgar Wright dropped out as director, after working on the movie for eight or nine years, at which point the script was given what sounds like a total rewrite. They were still talking rewrites in early June when new director Peyton Reed jumped onboard, and now here it is August, and they’re already shooting the thing. The timeline seems… rushed. Especially for something requiring this level of logistic planning.

There were two massive cranes holding up giant metal rigs hanging over the street at about the level of the building line, with guide wires dangling down to the street. One rig shaped like a square to hold big, diffusion tarps to soften the sunlight, one just a long beam with a hose running through it to create fake rain. There was another small crane attached to a truck holding the camera, and peach pickers everywhere holding up lights.

The production crew’s badges and the official shooting notices said “Bigfoot,” which was obviously a cover, but what wasn’t cleared up with a little cursory Googling was strongly hinted at by the signs reading “Pym Particle Productions” on all the trucks (get it?? because Ant-Man‘s name is Hank Pym!), and ultimately confirmed by the AD directly referencing Ant-Man during his production crew pow-wow (a few more specifics about that on the following page*).