American Buffalo

American Buffalo


This adaptation of a David Mamet play was directed by Michael Corrente and stars Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz. The story concerns the conflict that occurs between Don (Franz), owner of the run-down Hagist Appliances, his unstable friend "Teach" (Hoffman), and Don's teenaged protégé Bob (Sean Nelson) as plans are formed to rob a collector of his coins. As in most works by Mamet, there's plenty of tension and repetitive dialogue.

Hand-drawn map of filming locations, circa 1996.
This contemporary handout prepared by the Rhode Island Film and Television Office details all the locations used in the film.

All filming took place around the intersection of Broad, Exchange, and Summer Streets in Pawtucket. Dustin Hoffman arrived in town on May 20, 1995, and May 22 was spent in rehearsals and blocking. The Providence Journal reported that "For one scene, Hoffman yesterday kicked a yield sign, then a garbage can, and then ripped the receiver off a pay phone to try to convey the anger of his character." The Times Square Diner was at the heart of the action, and would later play a part in the film, but remained open during preproduction activities. "Breakfast patrons appeared utterly aghast as Hoffman and company burst in the door and started their rehearsal shtick. Corrente... grabbed a broom from the diner at one point and came barreling out the door, making giant sweeping motions. Hoffman went back in and escorted waitress Sharlene Whitman from behind the counter and out onto the sidewalk where they posed for a photograph, arms around each other's waists."

Riverside Diner, 2000.
The former Times Square Diner was renamed Riverside Diner for the film and given this spiffy new exterior. (August 27, 2000).

An out-of-work construction worker named Dave Pepin, who apparently was just passing by, was hired off the street as an extra because he looked kinda like Hoffman. He had to work for free, however, so his SSI payments wouldn't be in jeopardy. Another local, Barry Coutu of Barrington, was hired as a stand-in for Hoffman.

Filming began on June 1, 1995. The initial scenes were shot inside the diner, which was renamed the Riverside Diner for the movie, and in the American Shoe Shining Parlor around the corner. In addition to the new name, the diner was also given a new silver and black exterior makeover. The pink exterior of another restaurant across the street, Restaurante Lisboa A Noite, was covered up with mustard-colored paint. New names were given to all of the storefronts in the sprawling Fanning Building on Broad Street, including the one where most of the film's action takes place, Hagist Appliances.

American Shoe Shining Parlor, 2001
American Shoe Shining Parlor. The second chair from the right is where Dennis Franz sat to have his shoes shined in the movie. (March 11, 2001).

Teach's hotel room was located in the McDevitt Building on Broad Street, while the hotel stairway was in the Fanning Building. (Here's a little piece of coincidental trivia—the middle name of Libby Langdon, the director's wife, happens to be Fanning.) A parking lot at Broad and Humes Streets was transformed into a flea market. The decrepit 1915 Leroy Theater, which anchored one end of the Fanning Building and had been empty for a number of years, helped lend an air of economic desperation to the film.

Screenshot of Leroy Theatre block.
This screenshot from the film shows most of the block that served as the primary shooting location. The crumbling marquee of the Leroy Theatre is at left, Hagist Appliances at right.

Another view of the Broad Street block, circa 1996.
Another view of the Broad Street block, circa 1996. The building to the left of the theater had already been demolished, and the rest of the block would soon follow. (Pawtucket History Research Center).

Soon after on-site filming ended on July 11, the director and the three actors immortalized their achievement by placing their hands in cement in front of the Riverside Diner. This square of cement is optimistically referred to as the Hollywood Walk of Fame in some of Pawtucket's tourism literature.

Pawtucket's Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Pawtucket's super-glamorous "Hollywood Walk of Fame." (August 27, 2000).

The block that contained the Leroy Theater and the appliance store was demolished in 1999 to make way for a Walgreens. (125 of the Leroy's seats went to outfit the theater at the Blackstone Valley Visitor's Center on Roosevelt Avenue, and the first five three-foot-tall letters from the venue's sign now adorn director Corrente's Providence apartment). As of 2019 The Riverside Diner is a clothing store, while the shoeshine parlor space has been vacant since at least 2011.

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