Where Was The United States vs. Billie Holiday Filmed?

Directed by Lee Daniels (‘Empire’) ‘The United States vs. Billie Holiday’ is a biographical drama about singer Billie Holiday. Suzan-Lori Parks adapted the screenplay from Johann Hari’s book titled ‘Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. Set in the 1940s, the film tells the true story of Billie Holiday, a jazz and swing music singer who the government targeted to racialize the war on drugs. The 1940s era has been brilliantly recreated in the film, and if you are wondering where it was filmed, we have all the details about the filming locations.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Filming Locations

Principal photography for the film began on October 6, 2019, and was wrapped up on December 10, 2019. Reportedly, the filming was completed in a span of mere 44 days between October and December 2019. A large portion of the film is set in New York City. However, the film was primarily shot in Montreal, Quebec. Director Lee Daniels shared a picture from the sets of the film on his Instagram account, taken during the first week of filming.

Montreal, Quebec

The film was extensively shot in and around Montreal, Quebec. The city acted as the stand-in for New York City, where most of the film is set. Cinema Imperial, located at 1430 Rue de Bleury, Montreal, Quebec, is one location where filming took place. When the theatre opened on April 26, 1913, it had a seating capacity of 2,300 seats which has now been reduced to 819 seats.

The film’s art team recreated New York’s famous Carnegie Hall by transforming the location to resemble it. A musical sequence from the film was shot at this landmark spot. A crew member shared a behind-the-scenes picture on his Instagram, taken during the filming at Cinema Imperial.

St-James Theatre, situated at 265 Rue Saint-Jacques, Montreal, is another location where the film was shot. Located in the heart of Old Montreal, the theatre is a multipurpose event space consisting of many different halls, including the 7000 sq. ft. hall known as Imperial Ballroom. A picture shared by one of the film’s crew members captures the film’s director of photography, Andrew Dunn, preparing to film a scene at the St-James Theatre.

Filming also took place at the Bordeaux Prison located at 800 Gouin Boulevard West, Montreal. It is the largest provincial prison in Quebec, with a maximum capacity of 1189 inmates. Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city and is known for its prestigious universities, arts, culture, food, and many live events and international festivals.

Other locations in and around Montreal where filming took place include Le Plateau-Mont-Royal and The Old Port of Montreal. The Des Recollets Street was used to film a few exterior shots. The film’s art team transformed certain locations in the city to give them an era-appropriate look. The shooting of scenes such as Billie Holiday’s trial took place at one of these redesigned locations.

A few scenes were also filmed in the city of Beauharnois, which is a part of the greater Montreal area. The bustling streets, tall buildings, pleasantly sunny weather, and a blend of modern and old school architecture have attracted many filmmakers to film in Montreal. ‘On the Road,’ ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ and ‘White House Down’ are some of the productions that were filmed in Montreal.

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