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YVRShoots Series – ALCATRAZ Wraps 1st Season With Bullitt-Inspired Car Chase

Published March 26, 2012 on Vancouver is Awesome

In 1963 the prisoners on Alcatraz disappeared. Now they’re coming back. You won’t believe what happens next on Alcatraz. – teases FOX’s Alcatraz Highlight Reel for the two-hour season finale tonight, almost all of it filmed in rain-drenched Vancouver, except for two-and-a-half minutes of a Bullitt-inspired car chase filmed on the sun-drenched streets of San Francisco.

The 13-episode first season of Alcatraz tells the saga of a secret agency dedicated to finding and catching inmates from the infamous San Francisco prison gone missing 50 years ago and reappearing today. It stars petite blonde-bobbed Sarah Jones as police detective Rebecca Madsen; Jorge Garcia from Lost as her partner, Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto;  and Sam Neill as Emerson Hauser, her mysterious boss with a past life on Alcatraz. The fourth person of interest in this secret squad is Hauser’s equally mysterious partner Lucy Banerjee, played by Parminder Nagra of ER, who was shot by the sniper convict Ernest Cobb during the second episode and then revealed to have her own past life on Alcatraz as hasn’t-aged-a-day psychiatrist-to-the-inmates Dr. Lucille Sengupta.

Showrunners teased several big moments ahead of tonight’s finale during the Alcatraz panel at WonderCon over the March break, including Lucy’s reintegration back into present day after finally waking up from her coma. Below is Parminder Nagra filming scenes with Jorge Garcia and Sam Neill in late February outside Belkin House downtown dressed as the MacAlister Institute. In the second photo there is little to suggest the romantic attachment which formed between Nagra and Neill’s characters in their past lives on Alcatraz, when Hauser was a young policeman. But I only caught part of their reunion.

The bigger reveal about tonight’s finale is that Sarah Jones’s Detective Madsen will chase after and confront her Alcatraz inmate grandfather Tommy Madsen in a Bullitt-inspired car chase filmed for three days in San Francisco (it took the crew of Bullitt nine days to film the original chase for the 1968 movie). I’d hoped that they’d use the Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback that Jones’s character Rebecca Madsen has been driving in Vancouver — the exact colour, make and model of the Mustang that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt — but I guess there wasn’t time to ship it down to San Francisco for the shoot or to rebuild it so that it could do the stunt driving.

FOX promo photos show a Deep Impact Blue 2013 Mustang GT speeding down a San Franciso hill.  Sarah Jones did fly down to film scenes there but a stunt double did the driving. Jones hadn’t filmed in San Francisco since the pilot, which I wrote about in my first #YVRShoots series post on Alcatraz.

My second  #YVRShoots series post on Alcatraz was about episode six-Paxton Petty when a ’63, what the former inmates are called, blew up Victory Square downtown.

I didn’t see much filming of the final seven episodes: nothing of episode seven- Johnny McKee about the latest ’63 to surface, a former chemist who poisons the swimming pool at a businessmen’s club or of episode eight-The Ames Brothers, which looked like it was shot entirely on the old and new Alcatraz prison sets in North Vancouver’s North Shore Studios.

I had better luck catching glimpses of episode nine-Sonny Burnett about a violent ’63 kidnapper Burnett, played by Sarah Jones’s real-life boyfriend Theo Rossi from Sons of Anarchy. Burnett kidnaps a man in the opening scene filmed out on NW Marine Drive at Spanish Banks on a cold January night.  I missed seeing Rossi but walked through the park during the “crime scene” and photographed Jorge Garcia on set from a running path near the beach.

Later, Jorge Garcia and Sarah Jones’s characters track down Sonny Burnett in Strathcona as Oakland. I arrived as they finished filming the exterior scene in the rain, and watched a crew member carry off the Oakland street signs, Lynn St. and Jefferson St.

I struck out finding filming for episode ten-Clarence Montgomery and episode eleven-Webb Porter too. And didn’t do well at spotting the locations when they aired, although Rebecca Madsen looked like she was chasing convict Porter on the North Shore waterfront near the 2nd Narrows Bridge. Wherever they filmed it, Jones sure can run.

And that brings us to tonight’s two hour finale. I photographed Warden James, played by fan favourite Jonny Coyne, at the Jericho Pier on another rainy Vancouver day in February. Warden James began as my favourite character on Alcatraz and has become my favourite villain, with new revelations of his complicity in each episode. Could he be the Big Bad orchestrating the return of the ’63s for some nefarious purpose? And what was he keeping behind the big locked door beneath the prison?  At WonderCon, Coyne admitted he’d suspected something dark was going on with his character and advised fans to look for a wink from the warden on the docks in episode twelve-Garrett Stillman. I was too far away to see a wink, but this is the scene below.

And then there’s Lucy. Hopefully her return to the present will answer questions about her role in the past. She is out and about in episode thirteen-Tommy Madsen, as you can see at Belkin House.

What else will we see in the season finale?  Will Rebecca question her grandfather after the epic car chase? Is Tommy Madsen the source of the blood? Is he really the bad guy his brother Ray says he became?  What is the big cliffhanger?

Tune into tonight at 8 p.m. for the two-hour season finale on City-TV in Canada and FOX in the U.S.

UPDATE: The epic car chase actually starts in Vancouver (near Belkin House), goes to San Francisco for most of the stunt driving and then returns to New Westminster for the overturned, exploding car. As @Canadagraphs put it, that’s #goodgasmileage.


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