Ride Along: Shooting in Atlanta

Production in Atlanta

From the first scene in the movie, many visitors to Atlanta will know exactly where the action is about to take place. With its lush neighborhoods and industrial inlets, Atlanta is home to both ends of the Southern hospitality spectrum. That said, it also brings in the seedy underworld of crime—and international crime at that. Atlanta’s industrial culs-de-sac shrouded in darkness are perfect for the surly happenings in this story.

On the flip side are the suburban neighborhoods, quaint and quiet, straight out of Southern Living magazine. Still, Atlanta has a strong urban community and nothing says Atlanta urban life more than a black car with a matte finish, which James rides so effortlessly through the streets of Georgia’s capital city.

The streets of Atlanta are accommodating ushers to the foils and follies this adventure entails. Even on the basketball courts where everything goes down in the neighborhood—future all-stars learn the fundamentals of the game, cops shake down potential informants and deals are signed, sealed and delivered on everything from drugs to campaign votes. Packer says shooting in this Southern city was all part of the master plan. “We wanted the movie to feel real and to utilize our resources the best we could. We wanted to shoot Atlanta for Atlanta and get a feel of the rhythms and the movement and pulse of Atlanta.”

Alvarez explains that shooting on practical locations in a city like Atlanta, where both Cube and Hart have large fan bases, presented crowd-control issues at times. He says: “You always have to factor in interruptions here or there because the guys are going to give autographs and both of them are very gracious stars and respect and appreciate their fan base. They want to take the time to go sign autographs and take pictures, because they know those are the people that are going to buy tickets to their movies, concerts or stand-ups.”

The citizens of Atlanta who were on the sidelines cheered on the cast whenever they had the opportunity. Reflects Hart: “It was cool. We were in these neighborhoods. We took the time to stop in between takes and speak and shake hands and take pictures and show appreciation to our fans who are supporting us.”

Cube agrees, “In Atlanta, it’s cool to pick the landmarks and let them ride. The people were real cool and receptive and excited that we were there filming. Not too often do you find excited extras on a movie set, but people were very excited that Hollywood basically invaded Atlanta.”

Just like any other Southern town, there are the gated communities that cuddle the social microcosms of those who can afford to get in to acquire that house of their very own. Still, with its gun ranges, this is what Atlanta represents—the old-timey Southern culture strolling alongside progressive liberals—living hand in hand.

Old warehouse factories symbolize Atlanta as an industrial leader throughout history. Some of those old factories have been converted to upscale condos and such, and the remaining abandoned ones serve as perfect places for the grand showdown in Ride Along. Story says that although he has directed movies on contained soundstages, being on location always brings another layer to the finished product: “I looked forward to taking the elements of a city, which are things that we could not art direct or things that we could not create. That made the process feel organic.”