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"Salt" in D.C.: Where is Angelina, exactly?

Jolie during filming of "Salt" at the Archives Metro station in March 2009. (Courtesy of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority)

It's only a movie! That's what you tell yourself when Hollywood puts Washington on the screen and bungles the geography. "Salt" spent several days filming here last year and achieves a decent Beltway verisimilitude. Sure, you groan when Angelina Jolie orders a cabbie to "U Street," then alights at her Kalorama-like home. Or when she leaps from the L'Enfant Promenade overpass and Chiwetel Ejiofor shouts, "She's heading south on Route 1!" (It's 395, man.)

They're minor flubs compared with Jolie exiting her apartment building at a corner marked Sixth and Indiana. No way! In real life, that's the wide-open intersection shared by the D.C. Superior Court and an Au Bon Pain. Why change the signs? Turns out the neighborhood scene wasn't shot in Washington at all, we learned from Josh Friedman of the D.C. Film Office -- but in New York. It just looked Kalorama-ish. The street signs apparently were added to make sense of the next scene, when Jolie runs into the Archives Metro station, near the real Sixth and Indiana. Or something like that.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 22, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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I'm watching the USA series Covert Affairs, and am impressed how they're getting the geographcial references pretty much spot on despite it being filmed in a city that's definitely not DC, but has stretches of Treasury Dept/Regan Building architecture. Ottawa maybe?

BTW Burn After Reading's exteriors in Georgetown looked exactly like Georgetown, but turned out to have been a block in Brooklyn that they Georgetown-ified. Very impressive. I live there and was completely faked out.

Posted by: Georgetwoner | July 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

This is mild compared to the goofs they used to make filming The West Wing. In the episode where President Bartlett gets shot in Roslyn, you can see the Lincoln Memorial through the windshield as his limo drives across the Memorial Bridge. When the Secret Service agent in the back seat with him orders the driver to head for GW Hospital, the limo does a snap turn and roars back into Arlington.

In another episode when the President is going from the White House to the State Department, they show his motorcade driving past National Cathedral. I guess Bartlett wanted to stop off and smoke another cigarette there.

I always contended that the Secret Service should have made Charlie the President's driver. He was raised in DC and wouldn't get lost.

Posted by: hisroc | July 22, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

... and yes it does matter.

Posted by: alligator10 | July 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Yeah... well... whatever. Everyone who grew up in or even lived in Los Angeles always knew that all intersections mentioned on "Dragnet" were parallel streets.

One day, I promise, I'm going to write a D.C.-based thriller novel in which every landmark and direction is wrong. I may even open it in the mayor's mansion -- in the city's toney Anacostia neighborhood.

Posted by: roblimo | July 22, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I too am impressed with the job done by the folks at Covert Affairs, even though they too have no idea which way is which on the Memorial Bridge.

Posted by: therev1 | July 22, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

The least accurate recent movie supposedly set here that I can think of is Live Free or Die Hard. It's actually easier to count what they got right than what they got wrong. DC looked like Manhattan. And the movie's depiction of Woodlawn, MD was basically the opposite of what that town actually looks like.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | July 22, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

oh find something serious to worry about. Movies always do this.

Thelma and Louise ends in "Arizona" although its ending stuff was really shot in Arches National Park, several hundred miles north.

Posted by: summicron1 | July 22, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

They all need lessons from Dan Brown. His descriptions of locations in DC was well researched. Guess these hack producers, directors and writers can't be concerned with details and geographic accuracy. I remember some actions TV shows in DC showing mountains. They probably were molehills until Congress got through financing them.

Posted by: pjohn2 | July 22, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Covert Affairs - the pilot episode's action in Toronto masquerading as Washington, DC

Posted by: pjohn2 | July 22, 2010 8:24 PM | Report abuse

Actually that stuff doesn't bother me. I think it's kinda fun to spot the geographical blunders. These shows aren't documentaries, after all; it's just entertainment.

Posted by: justmike | July 22, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

I know it is minor but I wish TV/movie writers would stop putting "the" in front of our highways: He is getting in the The 395 or take The 495. This is not LA folks.

Posted by: Sec131 | July 22, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Well short of the season of 24 that was in DC. Multiple weekly blunders.

Posted by: ah___ | July 22, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

It is called mimesis..........

Posted by: habibhaddad | July 22, 2010 11:53 PM | Report abuse

well there were many goofs in West Wing.. then of course the palm trees in the episodes of JAG/NCIS... not to mention it only taking 30 minutes to get from DC to Norfolk (that had my sister and yours truly laughing)... but one of my all time favourite mess ups - when Kevin Costner runs out of a metro station right onto the towpath of the canal in G'town - yeah right!

Posted by: theatremarine | July 23, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"They all need lessons from Dan Brown."

Maybe in DC geography, but as far as actual writing, not so much! That was the most boring book I ever read!

Posted by: talleyl | July 28, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

The geographical "goofs" never really bother me. I mean, if you can believe that Angelina Jolie is an intelligence agent who is intimately familiar with the properties of spider venom, why worry about whether her apartment building is on U St., in Kalorama or in NYC?

I agree with Sec131. The thing that gets me is when writers use West Coast lingo for East Coast roads. I-95 is a highway, not a freeway. And, it is not "the 95", it is "95" or "I-95". X-Files and Live Free or Die Hard are two offenders that come to mind.

Posted by: tinnyphilly | July 28, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

NCIS - I love the program, but, geographically, it's ridiculous. The team is sent to Norfolk from DC and arrive in 5 minutes, stay 10 minutes, and then are back in DC in the next scene. In real life, that's 3 hrs driving each way. Same with Hagerstown (1.5+ hrs each way). They were also sent to Annandale (my town) to an intersection that doesn't exist, and I've never seen under ANY name. Also, they arrived at an address in the District that had an empty field and country roads. I think not. It's amusing.

Posted by: ldf1 | July 28, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

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