Why Last Vegas Director Loves the ATL

Jon Turteltaub loves filming in Atlanta not only for the rebates but also for the state’s incredibly diverse architecture.

Photo by: Stefanie Keenan/WireImage/Getty Images Actor Morgan Freeman (L) and director Jon Turteltaub attended AFI's 41st Life Achievement Award Tribute to Mel Brooks at Dolby Theatre on June 6, 2013 in Hollywood.

It is no news that Atlanta is fast becoming a Little Hollywood of sorts and Georgia residents are now accustomed to seeing film and television crews pop up all over the state. The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Dumb and Dumber To are just a few of the titles currently filming in and around the city. And every morning it seems the town is atwitter about the previous night’s celebrity sightings – top A-listers like Jennifer Lawrence, Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell out on the town.  

Last Vegas, which is now in theaters, brought the all-star cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, Mary Steenburgen and Joanna Gleason to Georgia. In spite of the title, the majority of the film was shot in Atlanta. The film’s director Jon Turteltaub said that there are many reasons to want to film in Georgia, not only for the Southern hospitality but also for the diverse architecture. 

For example, Freeman’s New Jersey home was actually a sprawling split-level home in Dunwoody. De Niro’s Brooklyn pad is really an apartment building on Peachtree in Midtown. A mystery mansion stood in for Douglas’s posh Malibu beach house. 

“Atlanta also feels more like the East Coast then it does the south,” Turteltaub told FrontDoor. “It's really great because you can find the south there but you are not limited to it. We turned the club Velvet into a Vegas nightclub. We were shocked at how massive and great looking it was. There was really nothing we couldn't find there.” 

At a recent Atlanta screening of Last Vegas a man was overheard saying, “I didn’t think that was New Jersey. That soil looked a little too red.” 

Red clay aside, Turteltaub said that as long as the rebates are there that he and Hollywood would continue to bring their business south. We chatted with the director about all things Atlanta and what the community can do to keep business booming. 

Q: What is it about Atlanta that you like the most? 

Photo courtesy CBS Films Some of the film's night club scenes were filmed at Atlanta clubs Velvet and Vanquish Night Club. 

A: Atlanta has poised itself to be one of the major American cities for the 21st century. It has everything it needs, it is not only the capital of a state but also the capital of a regional area and it has everything it needs to be a major city of importance.

It really is a terrific city. It's not just vibrant it's also very integrated, which is a really important thing. You don't get that that much from other major cities. You certainly don't get that in Los Angeles. There's something really fresh and new and invigorating about that.

Q: What are the areas where Atlanta could improve itself?

A: It still needs to figure out its traffic. The thing that's good about it is how broad and open its population is, the accessibility. The bad part is that it is suffering a little bit from an identity crisis. Some neighborhoods don't exactly know what they want to be and you don't know exactly where you are. It seems the most iconic things about Atlanta are the Braves and Coca-Cola, not its history or its historical places. 

It can be an extremely advanced and modern city. Atlanta needs to embrace what it is and advertise it. And this is partly a statement against me but I didn't realize how immersed MLK, Jr. was in the history of Atlanta. His grave is in Atlanta. His church was in Atlanta; his organization is in Atlanta and his grave is there. People should be going to Atlanta to appreciate that and Atlanta should be doing more to embrace that.

Q: How do you find Atlanta compares professionally with the film community in places like Los Angeles and New York? 

A: The Atlanta film community is excellent. They are so busy that they don't have the time for a**-kissing which is really nice. The only complaint I have is that it's still growing and needs to keep growing. We shot in the warehouse instead of in in official stage because there aren't enough stages. It is doing so well and attracting so much business that it's probably hard for Atlanta to keep up with its own success. 

Atlanta has so much to offer that it could stand to open its doors a little bit more. I think the Hollywood community would appreciate a few more open doors and seeing more of the communities. You have such huge corporations there, I just hope that they appreciate having us in their backyard. It would be great to be invited to see things and feel more a part of the city and it would help to make sure that the public doesn't get sick of us. 

Photo courtesy CBS Films Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline party like it's 1959 in Last Vegas

Q: What were some are your favorite spots to go out to in Atlanta when you were in town filming?

A: It's so embarrassing but there was a Hooters right down the street from our hotel and it was in the middle of football season so we found ourselves there every night. And when that was closed we would find ourselves across the street at Willy’s because we were just want to sit at a bar and watch football at 10 o'clock at night. 

I did go to one great restaurant called Empire State South. I had a really great meal there. 

Since my kids were with me we spent a lot of time at the Georgia Aquarium and at the zoo. My kids were really excited about the whale sharks at the aquarium. We also spent a lot of time in Centennial Park, which was walking distance from the hotel. 

Last Vegas is in theaters now. Take your parents; take your grandparents and don't take it too seriously. Have fun. Morgan Freeman describing the sensation of three Red Bulls and vodka is worth the price tag. You can see the official trailer here.

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