Paramount Pictures’ 1997 film “Face/Off,” starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, pits an FBI special agent named Sean Archer (Travolta) against a vicious terrorist named Castor Troy (Cage). Archer has hunted Troy for the last eight years and is consumed by revenge after Troy killed Archer’s son. To thwart his nemesis, Archer must "borrow" Troy's face using a surgical procedure to go undercover as Troy, but chaos ensues when Troy assumes the identity of Archer as well.
Towards the end of the film, there is an epic boat chase where Travolta and Cage battle it out on speedboats with explosions and gunfire galore. This action-packed scene was filmed at the Port of Long Beach, and location manager of the film, Josh Silverman, still remembers the excitement of it all and how shooting in Long Beach made everything run smoothly.
“That was probably my favorite project of all time,” Silverman said of “Face/Off.” Silverman has also brought projects like the film “For the Love of the Game,” starring Kevin Costner, and television shows “Columbo” and “Jake and the Fatman” to Long Beach.
Silverman remembers setting up a mobile command post on the port for “Face/Off,” and through a carefully-constructed system of communication, the film crew was able to operate multiple high-speed boats without disrupting daily operations at the port.
“We were able to do spectacular stunts with stuntmen who were barefoot waterskiing next to the boats that were in the chase scene,” Silverman recalled. “And then we were able to crash a boat into the barge with another big explosion—all right within the breakwater and among the shipping channels.”
In the wake of that shoot, the Coast Guard notified the movie studio that the system Silverman implemented was going to be marine operations’ standard for any future filming of that nature at the port.
“That was very satisfying,” Silverman said. “During the shoot, we had contact not only with the operator in the port, but with the Coast Guard and real time contact with marine coordinators who were handling shipping traffic in and out of the port. The bottom line for me, with respect to Long Beach, is I’ve always wanted to include all of its facets—the parks, the beaches, the Pine Avenue street area. I’ve always had an extremely favorable impression of filming in Long Beach.”
With its proximity to Los Angeles, Silverman said Long Beach becomes a very viable option beyond just creative needs.
“I would never hesitate to take any producers or directors to Long Beach,” he said.
When Silverman shot a pharmaceutical commercial, for example, he needed a place to film driving shots in a dense, urban area. Long Beach once again became the host for that shoot.
“We could not find an area in LA on a weekday, in the middle of the afternoon that would allow us the latitude that we required to accomplish what production was looking to accomplish,” Silverman recalled. “So we went to Long Beach and it was very much a ‘can-do’ attitude with the city...on a quick turnaround, we were able to get all the shots we needed—cars coming and going, people going about their lives. Anecdotally, I think that speaks to what I’ve experienced in Long Beach—they bend over backward to try and accommodate, and that’s really refreshing.”
Now a film producer, Silverman says places like Long Beach made it a joy to be a location manager on big budget films.
“I find the neighbors and neighborhoods in general to be very allowing and very flexible. They are very open to filming in their community,” he said.