When a movie or TV show is set in New York City—and if the people making it are savvy—real estate becomes part of the story itself. In Reel Estate, we look at some of the more memorable domiciles to grace the screen.
Need extra proof that the truth is always, always stranger than fiction? Look no further than HBO's forthcoming six-part documentary on Robert Durst, the estranged, scandal-plagued son of one of New York's most prominent real estate dynasties. In fact, his story's so strange it's already a feature film: 2010's All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling as David Marks, a lightly fictionalized version of Durst.
While the Durst clan threatened to sue the filmmakers for misrepresentation, the man himself told the New York Times that he liked the movie, admitting that "parts made me cry," though Gosling was "not as good as the real thing." (We won't touch that one.) The narrative follows Durst's marriage to his first wife, Kathie (Kirsten Dunst, re-named "Katie" for the movie), as well as her eventual disappearance, the execution-style murder of one of his friends (Durst is a suspect in both), and his later murder of a Texas neighbor, of which he was acquitted on the grounds of self-defense.
For a movie that revolves around the world of real estate, we don't see much of the actual homes, as many of the shots are too claustrophobic for us to actually see the splendor we assume Marks lives in. After a blissful few years running a health food store in Vermont, David is pressured by his father to move to Manhattan and join the family business. He and Katie move into their primary residence, a sprawling, seemingly pre-war Upper West Side penthouse, of which we see snippets:
A shot of Katie catching a cab outside the building was filmed at Riverside and West 93rd, notes On The Set of New York, meaning that it was likely inspired by Kathie and Robert's actual penthouse at 37 Riverside (between 75th and 76th), where they lived until Kathie's disappearance in 1982. The old-school high ceilings are missing, but the massive windows opening out onto a balcony look similar to the setup in the movie:
The real-life apartment has a bizarre story in its own right, inspiring a New York Times profile in 2011. About a year after his wife's disappearance, Durst moved out under pressure from the co-op board. Another resident, Joel S. Goor, scooped up the place, which was mid-renovation, and started doing work of his own. In the midst of a divorce, Goor sold it off for $2.75 million in 2005 to Roberta and Champa Weinreb, the Times reports. The couple had their own renovations in mind, but after a long, long back-and-forth, ended up suing the board—and several individual board members—in 2011 for allegedly unnecessarily blocking their plans (and costing them piles of money in the process). The case set an important precedent, as a judge ruled in 2012 that the board—but not its individual members—could potentially be held liable for damages of this nature.
In any case, records indicate that another couple bought the place for $2.07 million back in June, nearly $700,000 less than it had gone for nearly a decade ago. It would seem, then, that a failed renovation and a notoriously fussy co-op board do a lot more to damage an apartment's values than a potentially sinister back story.
And as for Durst? He's been living in Texas, but is still an active investor in New York real estate, and has spent the past few years snapping up rental properties in Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, and Harlem. In other words, he's a landlord.