In early 2019, filming began on Sony Pictures’ Morbius (2021) with location shooting taking place in London. The production team then moved to Manchester in late March, to make the city’s Northern Quarter their home while they filmed a number of scenes featuring lead actors Jared Leto and Matt Smith.
During the course of the shoot, parts of Manchester were transformed into Manhattan – or Manc-hattan as the city was dubbed. At the time, I spoke about the Northern Quarter’s transformation in a series of posts over on It’s A Stampede!, beginning with: ‘A Marvel movie is being shot in Manchester – can you guess what it is?’
But keen to put all of this information into one place – and still very, very happy that a Spider-Man movie was partially shot in my home city – I am now collecting together key points and images from my previous posts. Below are the highlights from what I saw/learned about the film when it landed in Manchester in March 2019.
Time to rewind the clock…
Sunday 24th March 2019
On Sunday 24th March, the Morbius production team started transforming the city into Manhattan. As soon as I became aware of the shoot, I headed to the Northern Quarter to take a look.
The majority of the production was being set up around Stevenson Square, with security staff milling around the area and set designers installing faux street signs. Newspaper bins and mail boxes were dotted around the street, and an American-style bus was parked outside the corner of Stevenson Square and Spear Street.
It was clear that the sets were in the process of being decorated, so I took a walk around the area to see what else was being set up. Along the way I stopped to speak to a couple of members of the security team.
Neither of the people I spoke to would confirm that Morbius was being shot, but one told me the shoot was for a Marvel movie, and the other told me that the production was called Plasma. I was aware that Morbius was being shot under the code name of ‘Plasma’, so that confirmed this was the Morbius shoot.
Taking a short walk away from Stevenson Square took me onto Port Street, where the entrance to a fake subway station had been created. To those unfamiliar with the city, this could have easily gone unnoticed as it looked like it had always been part of the street.
I then took one last walk around the streets/connecting back streets, but it was clear only the set-up was taking place.
Monday 25th March 2019
I was keen to see more of the production in action, but work got in the way and I was unable to get down to the set on Monday morning. However, during the evening I headed back to Stevenson Square for a fresh look.
On Sunday, Stevenson Square was fairly empty, except for the security guards, set designers, and the usual collection of city dwellers going about their business. On Monday, the situation was very different – shooting was now in full-swing, with extras lining the street waiting for their cue to leap into action, and members of the public stopping to take a look.
Filming was largely taking place around the cocktail bar, Lost in Tokyo, and yellow American-style taxi cabs were now moving up and down the street when ‘action was called. A van – belonging to ‘Kraven Pastries’ – was also parked up by the side of the road.
A friend of mine, who was working as an extra on Morbius, informed me that at least two scenes were being shot in Manchester. One of the scenes involved Michael Morbius attacking an ambulance in order to obtain blood, while the other scene involved a girl being chased by the FBI.
Beyond these details the information was scarce.
I stood and watched for a little while, but from my viewpoint it was difficult to make out any of the action.
Tuesday 26th & Wednesday 27th March 2019
Over the next few days I became incredibly busy with work, putting to bed any plans I had to scope out the shoot on Tuesday or Wednesday. However, I did keep an eye out for any information that was appearing in the local news – including images of night shoots and wire work.
I also became aware that a scene had been filmed on Oldham Street. This scene – which was shot during the day – involved extras, yellow cabs and the star of the film, Jared Leto, who was spotted filming outside Leo’s Fish Bar – a chip shop located on the street.
Thursday 28th March 2019
On Thursday evening, once work was done, I headed over to the Northern Quarter, but by this point the shoot had concluded. I took a quick walk around the area, but almost all of the set decoration had been removed, with the exception of the subway facade and some lighting equipment which was still attached to an adjacent building.
Later that evening I spoke to my friend who told me that both Jared Leto and Matt Smith had filmed a scene that day in which Morbius and Loxias Crown (Smith’s character) had an argument in front of the subway station. Another scene involved Morbius watching his fiancée, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona).
From what I saw and what I was told over the course of the five days that Morbius was in Manchester, filming took place on Stevenson Square, Port Street, Oldham Street, and Dale Street. As I later learned, filming also took place on Back Piccadilly, suggesting a number of the Northern Quarter’s side streets may have been used for the shoot too.
From this point on, it was now a case of waiting to see how much of Manchester would feature in the final cut of the film.
And now let’s jump forward in time…
15th January 2020
On Monday 13th January 2020, Sony Pictures released the first official trailer for Morbius. I was pretty impressed with what was on offer in the trailer, but in terms of Manchester’s presence, it looked like the city had not made it into this initial teaser.
Or had it?
One of the key scenes in the trailer involved Michael Morbius walking down an alley-way, with a Spider-Man poster on display in the background. This scene became a topic of discussion amongst fans, and the subject of a sizeable post on this blog.
The ‘poster’ scene looked very familiar to me. That alley-way looked very much like one of the side streets in the Northern Quarter.
I’ve walked through the Northern Quarter (and all of the side streets) countless times and I was sure I recognised that location. And after a little bit of a walk around this afternoon, I found it – it was Back Piccadilly.
Some of the graffiti has changed in the last year (a common occurrence with street art in Manchester), and sadly there was no sign of Morbius‘ presence, but here’s where that Spider-Man ‘MURDERER’ poster was filmed.
I also took a picture of the same building where the subway façade had been installed.
As you can see, it’s quite different to how it looked in March 2019.
Manchester has provided a home to many productions, including Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), so it was great to finally have a Spidey film shoot here. For as long as I have lived in Manchester I have always felt like parts of the city are ripped from the pages of a comic book, and knowing Morbius was filmed here only strengthens my feelings.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Should you want to know more about the Spider-Man movies, then check out one of the recommended reads below.