Helsinki stood in for Moscow in this movie. Because of the Cold War, Gorky Park could not be filmed on actual location in Moscow. The film group decided to come to Helsinki, the architecture of which is similar to Russian architecture.
Gorky Park aka Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure is an amusement park in Moscow, Russia and is named after Maxim Gorky. The park was opened in 1928 and is situated at Krymsky Val just near the Moskva River not far from the Park Kultury Metro Station.
Stars Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford were considered for the role of Arkady Renko which in the end was cast with actor William Hurt. Reportedly, Hoffman was unavailable, and producers Hawk Koch and Gene Kirkwood believed that Redford's image would be at odds with the public and the character of Renko, and as such, did not seek him for the film's lead male role.
Author Martin Cruz Smith conceived the idea for the faceless murders for his 'Gorky Park' novel in 1972 after he read a book called 'The Face Finder' by Mikhail Gerasimov. This book was about the reconstruction of faces from unidentifiable remains by scientists.
The last third of Martin Cruz Smith's "Gorky Park" novel takes place in New York, USA but this was changed to Stockholm, Sweden for the movie as scriptwriter Dennis Potter didn't like it. Stockholm was more 'Cold War' cinematic.
Actress Joanna Pacula was recommended for the female lead by Roman Polanski who she was dating at the time. Pacula was living in Paris in France and was unable to return home to Poland with the declaration of martial law in her motherland there.
For the filming location of Helsinki in Finland, prior to this movie, the last big Hollywood production filming there had been Warren Beatty and his production crew there for a month shooting Reds (1981).
The dish-washing liquid, a squat white bottle, green flat cap, on the kitchen counter in the flat in Gamla Stan Stockholm in Sweden is actually Timotei Shampoo which director Michael Apted thought looked more like dish-washing liquid than the real thing.
Most of the Russian characters are played by British actors, so the accent convention in this movie is that British accents are native Russians. This is why William Hurt speaks his part with a British accent, while Lee Marvin and Brian Dennehy speak naturally as their American characters.
Producer Howard W. Koch said of the making of this movie whilst doing press for the picture: "We couldn't even get into Russia to film it and I can't say any of us were surprised. But that's what makes it so special. We're chalking up a first here. Nobody ever made a modern thriller like this set in Russia. It's just a pity they don't like us doing it." Koch added: "They kept telling us 'There's no crime or corruption in Moscow'. But it's like any urban city in the world, of course there's crime. They just don't tell anyone about it. That's what you get with a closed society."
The Rolls Royce luxury car driven across from Tegelbacken to Gamla Stan, supposedly with Lee Marvin behind the wheel, was in fact driven by the Swedish co-producer, according to the press release at any rate, because having Marvin do it would have cost more. Marvin and William Hurt exit the vehicle right above the famous Five Small Houses restaurant and enter the foyer of a house rented for the occasion in Danderyd, a suburb north of Stockholm fifteen miles away.
Film Critic Janet Maslin in 'The New York Times' stated in her review first published on 16th December 1983 that the picture has "the leading character, a Russian police inspector [Soviet militsiya officer Arkady Renko], played by an American actor [William Hurt] affecting a British accent".
Director Michael Apted said during principal photography: "Every time we see a stranger in a shiny raincoat standing on the fringe of the crowd, someone jumps and mutters KGB. But I think we'll be left alone. There's nothing they can do about it, and they're too smart to get into any kind of situation they can't control".
Key personnel, such as director Michael Apted, costume designer Richard Bruno, production designer Paul Sylbert, and producer Hawk Koch, according to the Australian magazine Movie '84 (edition No. #1), "spent months researching every detail of Russian buildings, cars, uniforms, civilian clothes, hats, and even cigarettes, finally deciding on Helsinki in Finland as the substitute city for Moscow."
Of the film's lead actor William Hurt, who plays Soviet militsiya officer Arkady Renko, producer Hawk Koch said: "Bill is playing this to the hilt. We're all amazed by his performance. He's very intense. And he's got himself right into the role. I think we chose right."
The movie's screenplay did the rounds of the Hollywood film studios including M-G-M (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and Dino De Laurentiis Productions before Orion Pictures agreed to green-light the picture. The January 1984 edition of Photoplay Magazine (UK) states: "At first none of the majors would finance it. A lesser company American Cinema, finally agreed. And then went bankrupt . . . Finally they [producers Hawk Koch and Gene Kirkwood] gained initial finance with two Los Angeles businessmen, Uri [Uri Harkham] and Efrem Harkham, who had never been involved in movies in their lives."
According to the January 1984 edition of Photoplay Magazine (UK), during development, on a location recce, "early on, [producer Hawk] Koch [Hawk Koch] took a small advance guard in to that closed society [of the former Soviet Union aka the USSR] on innocent tourist visas to view Moscow in general and Gorky Park in particular - the equivalent of Central Park in New York, though around ten times smaller. Initial overtures to local film-makers on possible co-operation were swiftly repulsed. A dinner arranged in Koch's honour at the Moska Film Studios was cancelled without explanation just two hours after the Russians learned the true purpose of his mission impossible."
The film's source "Gorky Park" (1981) by Martin Cruz Smith is the first book in a trilogy of stories which are all set in the former Soviet Union (aka the USSR aka the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). The subsequent stories are "Polar Star" (1989) and "Red Square" (1992) neither of which have been filmed. All three books feature the character of investigator Arkady Renko who is portrayed in Gorky Park (1983) by actor William Hurt.
The central character iof Arkady Renko is a militsiya officer. "Militsiya" is an official term for a civilian police officer in many of the former communist states such as Soviet Russia (aka the USSR aka the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics).
The film's source "Gorky Park" (1981) book is the first of eight novels written by Martin Cruz Smith that feature the character of investigator Arkady Renko who is portrayed in Gorky Park (1983) the film by actor William Hurt. The novels are [in chronological order]: "Gorky Park" (1981) ; "Polar Star" (1989) ; "Red Square" (1992) ; "Havana Bay" (1999) ; "Wolves Eat Dogs" (2004) ; "Stalin's Ghost" (2007) ; "Three Stations" (2010) ; and "Tatiana" (2013). All eight books are crime novels but only the first, "Gorky Park" (1981), has been filmed.
The movie's source "Gorky Park' (1981) novel was a best-seller, won the Goldsboro Gold / Gold Dagger Award in 1981 for author Martin Cruz Smith awarded to him by the British Crime Writers' Association, and was described as the "first thriller of the '80s" by TIME magazine. The "Gorky Park" novel raced to the No. #1 spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List on 26th April 26 1981 where it stayed for two weeks, dropping to the No. #2 rank and staying there for around two months.
Second Martin Cruz Smith novel to be filmed. The first was Nightwing (1979) which had been made and released around four years earlier. To date [September 2016] , Gorky Park (1983) still remains the last Martin Cruz Smith novel that has been filmed despite the author having written many more novels.
Actress Joanna Pacula has been so very much associated with her role as Irina Asanova in this murder mystery crime movie set in Russia behind the Red Curtain where three bodies are found in the icy snow, that Pacula has gone on to appear in productions with such related relevant titles as ICE Agent (2013), Deep Red (1994), Black Ice (1992), Moscow Heat (2004), and The Art of Murder (1999).
The synopsis for this film's source novel "Gorky Park" (1981) as published on source novelist Martin Cruz Smith's website reads: "'A man thinks he is hardened to death; he has walked into hot kitchens covered from floor to ceiling in blood, is an expert, knows that in the summer people seem ready to explode with blood; he even prefers winter's stiffs. Then a new death mask pops out of the snow. The chief investigator had never seen a head like this before; he thought he would never forget the sight. He didn't know yet that it was the central moment of his life'."
The Russian authorities, in giving reasons for not allowing the film production to come to Moscow, claimed that no crime of the nature depicted in the book and film would ever take place on Russian soil.
Director Michael Apted felt really compromised by the refusal of the Russian authorities to let him film in Moscow as he wanted to really make a big thing about the unusual locations. Instead he had to show Moscow at its most drab and ordinary as Helsinki was doubling for the city.
Both Gorky Park (1983) and Child 44 (2015) are movies that involve murder plots that occur in Soviet Russia behind the Iron Curtain. Both films are based on best-selling novels by Martin Cruz Smith and Tom Rob Smith respectively. The two source novelists also both share three-tiered author names which both have a last name surname of "SMITH". At least one crew member worked on both pictures and that was someone from the sound department - Christopher T. Welch - who performed a role of sound editor on both movies, doing ADR sound editing on the latter film. The two pictures were both made and released around thirty-two years apart.
Both of the two theatrical feature films that starred actor William Hurt that first debuted in 1983, Gorky Park (1983) and The Big Chill (1983), related to coldness, as the murdered dead bodies in Gorky Park (1983) were found in its icy snow.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Director Michael Apted said of actor Lee Marvin's casting against type as Jack Osborne whilst doing press for the film: "Yes, a lot of people are surprised. In fact, they're in blank astonishment at the casting. They think I've gone bonkers. But I talked to people about him, and everyone who knew him said what an intelligent sophisticated man Lee really is. I felt he didn't have to play the cursing, swearing, stubble-chinned ex-Marine everyone knows. It's good to go against type-casting sometimes."
Producer Hawk Koch said of the production of this film during the Cold War and four of its characters around the time of its launch: "You could call it the frozen mitt. We've tried to stay away from politics all along the line. We're making a people story. There's a good Russian and a bad Russian in it, right? Just as there's a good American and a bad American."