Cincinnati earns kudos ahead of 'Carol' release

Posted at 9:26 AM, Nov 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-20 09:26:01-05

CINCINNATI — “Carol,” the movie starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara that was shot entirely in Cincinnati last year, opens in limited release on Friday. 

Multiple reviews have applauded the stars’ performances; however, the Queen City has earned lots of praise as well. Here's what the film's stars, critics and crew are saying about our city's latest turn on the big screen.

“Oh, My God”

Todd Haynes, "Carol's" director, told The Guardian this week about his OMG moment the first time he saw Cincinnati while scouting set locations for the movie, which centers on the love affair between two women,  played by Blanchett and Mara, in 1950s New York City.

“The state had newly introduced tax rebates for film-makers, so it was a financial decision first of all. But then we went there, and we were like, oh, my God,” the director told the British publication.

Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes and Cate Blanchett attend The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' screening of "Carol" in New York City.

The well-preserved architecture of the city, including the old Shillito’s department store building, made it a perfect stand-in for mid-20th-century New York, he said.

Buildings weren't the only thing that impressed the director.

“Oh, the extras,” Haynes raved. "These were Cincinnati folks, non-union extras. At first, I thought: uh-oh, aren’t they going to be really self-conscious? But it was the opposite of that. They looked like real people, they moved like themselves, they had a normal, messy human way that came through.”

“How Can We Shoot New York in the 1950s in Cincinnati?” 

The Queen City’s charm even won over Mara, who was initially skeptical of the location selection.

“When I first found out we were shooting here I was like ‘How, how can we shoot New York in the '50s in Cincinnati?’” the actor said in an interview posted Wednesday on YouTube. “It made no sense to me.”


After spending a few weeks in Cincinnati, Mara said she didn’t believe “we’d be able to find these locations anywhere else."

“It’s Been Phenomenal Shooting in Cincinnati Actually”

Cate Blanchett also praised the city where she spent 35 days filming in locations such as Eden Park, Over-the-Rhine and Downtown.

“It’s been phenomenal shooting in Cincinnati actually,” she said in an interview posted Monday on YouTube. “The architecture here is phenomenal. There’s so many buildings that haven’t been ... gentrified. Everyone, the fire department and police have been so cooperative.”


“Carol” would not have been the caliber of film that it is if it had been filmed in New York, she added.

“There Was No Way it Was Going to Look the Way It Did 27 Years Ago” 

Twenty-seven years before “Carol” filmed in the Queen City, two of the movie’s producers were part of another major motion picture filmed here. That movie, “A Rage in Harlem,” and those producers, Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Wooley, are big reasons Blanchett and Mara graced the Tri-State, according to an interview published Wednesday on

“Stephen said I should look at Cincinnati, and my first thought was there was no way it was going to look the way it did 27 years ago,” Karlsen said in the interview.

As Karlsen learned while scouting locations with director Haynes, including Cleveland and Montreal in Canada, Cincinnati still held its charm.

"We went on a location scout with Todd, and when we got there, he couldn’t believe what was before his eyes, and he made it work," she said.

“Cincinnati Is a Wealthy City”

Production designer Judy Becker, who also worked on “American Hustle,” echoed the sentiment of the actors, director and producer during last summer in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“In New York, except in a few protected neighborhoods, you can’t find a block that doesn’t have construction from the last 20 years,” she said. “Cincinnati is a wealthy city and there are lots of private clubs, which really worked for us.”

Movie crews for the film "Carol," starring Cate Blanchett, set up at the Main Street Diner at the corner of Ninth and Main streets in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, April 4, 2014.

The EW piece also revealed this bit of trivia: Every scene except for one was filmed on location. The exception?  A set was built to film an "erotic" hotel love scene between Mara and Blanchett’s characters due to privacy concerns.

Early Reviews Agree

Of course, praise for the Queen City will likely grow after "Carol" opens Friday in New York and Los Angeles, and then nationwide, including here in Cincinnati, on Dec. 12.

Here are a few critics' impressions of how Cincinnati fares in the film:

  • Scenes of Mara looking very Audrey Hepburn-gamine while walking down wintry city streets were shot in Cincinnati, Ohio, rather than Manhattan. “There are still parts of Cincinnati that are very period correct and beautiful,” said “Carol” producer and frequent Haynes collaborator Christine Vachon. -- Sacramento Bee review, Nov. 12, 2015
  • Carol was filmed in Cincinnati, a city that embraces retro-chic (or vice versa) . . . -- Film Journal International, Nov. 19, 2015.
  • Some of the film’s most moving moments find Mara simply peering out at the great nocturnal expanse of Manhattan — nicely played by Cincinnati locations ... -- Variety review after screening at Cannes Film Festival.