Boardwalk Empire is an American television series from cable network HBO, set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition era. It stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson. The show was adapted by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer Terence Winter from a book about historical criminal kingpin Enoch L. Johnson by Nelson Johnson.
From Terence Winter (Emmy®-winning writer on HBO's The Sopranos) and Oscar®-winning director Martin Scorsese, Boardwalk Empire is set in Atlantic City in 1920 at the dawn of Prohibition. The series chronicles the life and times of Enoch Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the city treasurer whose double role as politician and bootlegger makes him the city's undisputed czar at a time when illegal alcohol has opened up highly lucrative opportunities for rumrunners and distributors. In a city defined by notorious backroom politics and vicious power struggles, Nucky must contend with ambitious underlings, relentless Feds, rival gangsters -- including Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Al Capone -- and his own appetite for women, profits, and power.
The art and costume departments researched the period meticulously. Details such as the boardwalk’s Baby Incubator sideshow and Chop Suey restaurant were lifted directly from photographs, and many costumes were original pieces. But the goal with the photography, according to Dryburgh, was “not to create a period look as such — we wanted to keep it modern.”
More than half of the series was shot in New York City locations (primarily in Brooklyn) that suggested the luster of bygone days. These included private clubs, a Masons’ lodge and a Methodist church in a Hasidic neighborhood.
The production’s flagship set, the Atlantic City boardwalk, was built outdoors on a vacant lot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The boardwalk portion was 45' wide and 300' long, a mere suggestion of the actual boardwalk’s 8-mile-long expanse in the 1920s.
The series shows the consequences of his actions as Nucky must decide how much sin he can live with. Moreover, the inclusion of Nucky as a tragic hero, alludes to the American public’s fascination with self-made gangsters. Thus, the series presents a critical narrative of relative morality and the dark side of the American Dream, and reflects America’s fascination with tragic criminal heroes.
Unlike the 1960s of Mad Men, when the advertising industry is an openly boozy bacchanalia, in Boardwalk Empire’s roaring ’20s, indulgence is forbidden—fermented fruit... Where Mad Men is all about the packaging of desire, Empire is about the suppression of desire, how the more we try to deny ourselves pleasure, the more intense the hunger for it becomes.
The dramatization and the prevalence of the ideal of success in the American television series Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Boardwalk Empire suggests an ingrained fascination and a recent disillusionment with the narrative of the American Dream within American culture.
[Martin Scorsese] just directed the pilot, but he's also one of the executive producers of the show as well, so he is involved. He reads all the scripts, he weighs in on our casting decisions, he watches all the cuts of the show. Up until the time we wrapped a couple of months ago, he and I had a standing Sunday afternoon conversation where we would just review what went on during the week.
[Creator Terrence] Winter: I was always interested in the 1920′s and the gangster world, in general. Toward the end of The Sopranos, HBO came to me with a book that Mark Wahlberg and his partner Steve Levinson had optioned, called Boardwalk Empire, which the series is inspired by, about the history of Atlantic City.
The set, which cost $3 million to construct, is the centrepiece of the lavish new crime drama Boardwalk Empire, which HBO is hoping will replace The Sopranos as its flagship show. Employing 300 crew members, 225 actors and 1,000 extras, and shot over 200 days, twice what a standard network drama would take
Initial reports in the New York Post estimated the price of the first episode at $50 million, making it “the most expensive pilot in history”; HBO said it cost $20 million; people familiar with the budget put it closer to $30 million.
“The number that you read on the internet is grossly over-exaggerated,” Winter says. “It may be the most expensive pilot ever made but it’s nowhere near what they say it was. That said… it’s not cheap.”
Boardwalk Empire: Behind the Scenes
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Video: VFX Bring Boardwalk Empire‘s Prohibition-Era Atlantic City to Life
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