Where was The Tender Bar filmed?
Retro, Buildings/ Offices, Clubs/Bars, Retail
Americana/Anywhere America, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building
About The Tender Bar
George Clooney took the director’s seat when producing the 2021 coming-of-age drama The Tender Bar. Starring Ben Affleck and Tye Sheridan the film is a screen adaptation of J.R. Moehringer’s same-titled memoir.
Spoilers ahead! Daniel Ranieri makes his screen debut as a young J.R. who finds a father figure in his Uncle Charlie (Affleck). Growing up in a single-parent household, J.R.’s father is a radio DJ dubbed “The Voice” whose whereabouts are unknown.
The Tender Bar unfolds over a 15-year period, starting in 1973 when J.R. and his mom move back to her childhood home to live with her father (Christopher Lloyd) and his uncle Charlie.
Lily Rabe portrays J.R.’s mother, Dorothy Maguire, while Sheridan portrays J.R. as the story unfolds. Ron Livingston personifies the Pulitzer winner’s future form through voiceovers.
Everyone isn’t fond of The Voice (Max Martini), and several radios get the brunt of the anger throughout the film. In Charlie’s case, The Voice supposedly owes him $30 and he brings it up whenever The Voice pops up.
J.R.’s mom wants him to attend the prestigious Ivy League Yale but no one believes that he has a shot at getting in. His grandfather is the loudest naysayer, and all he wants is for the three to move out of his humble abode.
The time spent hanging out at his uncle's bar entertaining the patrons by soliciting the answers to word puzzles eventually pays off. J.R. ends up making it to Yale and pursuing his ambitions to become a successful writer.
The movie received mixed reviews because of the cliché-riddled story. However, Ben Affleck’s performance is singled out as one of its highlights. Critics also agree that the period ambiance, interiors, cars, and The Tender Bar filming locations did a great job transporting viewers back to the ‘70s.
The Tender Bar Locations
The Tender Bar had been in the works since 2013 with Chernin Entertainment and Sony Pictures leading the project. Amazon Studios obtained the rights to the script, penned by William Monahan, in 2020. Clooney soon got on board as the director alongside his business partner Grant Heslov and their production company, Smokehouse Pictures.
Set in the ‘70s on Long Island, The Tender Bar production took place in Massachusetts. The cast members and crew descended upon the Greater Boston area on the 22nd of February 2021 when the cameras started rolling. For the better part of the filming process, they stayed on the east coast until filming wrapped up on the 14th of April.
Worcester County and the town of Ipswich also received their Hollywood close-up in the film. Other locations including a vacant South Shore Plaza restaurant building, the Massachusetts city of Lowell, and the town of Braintree had their fair share of screen time.
Here are some of the best scenes in The Tender Bar, some spoilers included, with details about the real-life locations where filming took place.
The Tender Bar is the second collaborative project between Clooney and Affleck. They initially teamed up to produce the 2012 historical thriller “Argo,” which Affleck also directed. It also happens that both have portrayed the DC Comics character Batman in different films.
Young J.R.’s first time at the Dickens bar scene in The Tender Bar
Jacob’s Corner, Beverly, MA
Charlie is the owner of a local Long Island watering hole called the Dickens bar, where a bulk of the film’s scenes unfold. He is liberal with the expletives and built up as a straight shooter who can teach young J.R. a thing or two about life.
Charlie watches over J.R. at the bar while his mom is at work. The first time he takes the young chap to the bar, J.R. is trying to get his schoolwork done behind the bar but there are plenty of distractions.
J.R. is amazed watching his uncle at work and mostly taken by the bar’s shelves which are stocked up with as many books as bottles of liquor. His uncle explains “Yeah there are books. Bare is called the f**kin Charles Dickens.”
Located at 278 Rantoul Street in the Boston suburb of Beverly, Jacob’s Corner is where they filmed the Dickens bar scenes. Talking to the Boston Herald, Vin Orlando, who owns Jacob’s Corner, described it as a true regulars’ bar.
The film’s location scout, Greg Chiodo, explained that they chose it out of 100 options simply because it is reminiscent of the neighborhood watering hole. Once Clooney saw the bar, that sealed the deal.
Young J.R.’s initial interactions with Uncle Charlie scene in The Tender Bar
45 Calvin St. Braintree, MA
The movie opens with young J.R. and his mom moving back to her childhood home in Manhasset, Long Island. Upon their arrival, his grandfather opens the door and as a form of welcome, he leaves the door open and retreats back inside.
Later, J.R. watches through the window as his uncle arrives driving a Pontiac. Charlie notices and gives the boy a thumbs up. During dinner, he hands J.R. five dollars, something that his grandparents aren’t too happy about.
When Charlie tells J.R. who is still clutching the 5 bucks to put it in his pocket, Grandpa Maguire chimes in “whyn’t he put it towards the ‘lectricity I would ask if it did any g**dam good.”
Braintree, a Norfolk County city, is the backdrop for several of the film’s scenes. A residence located near the South Shore Plaza served as the setting for Grandpa Maguire’s home. Clooney reportedly spent two days at 45 Calvin St. filming the interior and exterior scenes.
Braintree also stood in for Rockingham, N.C., where for the climactic moment when J.R. confronts his father. To set eyes on The Tender Bar location, hop onto the 236, 226, or 215 bus. The Red line will also get you to Braintree.
Bowling scene in The Tender Bar
Wakefield Bowladrome, 92 Water Street
The Tender Bar features a scene when Uncle Charlie takes J.R. and his friends bowling. That’s when Charlie gives J.R. a ball signed by Tom Sievers, the legendary Baseball Pitcher.
Uncle Charlie also dispenses some of his wisdom by advising JT that “You gotta be able to do without people and they gotta know it. The only way to play is all in. But you gotta need nobody to have anybody.”
The scene depicted candlepin bowling, and it’s one of the instances when the movie wasn’t exactly historically accurate. The variation of bowling is mostly played in the Maritime provinces of Canada and New England, U.S. It wasn’t played in the ‘70s, let alone in Long Island.
The Wakefield Bowladrome, a bowling alley located at 92 Water Street, served as The Tender Bar film set. While most productions change the name of scene locations to match those in the script, Clooney maintained the establishment’s name.
The production team also reportedly installed a 15 to 20-foot-long “Wakefield Bowladrome” sign at the side entrance of the bowling alley. Hop on the 107 or 120 from the Wakefield City Center to get to the Bowladrome.
Yale graduation scene in The Tender Bar
Harvard Club of Boston
One of the film’s moving scenes was when J.R. received the acceptance letter from Yale. Everyone in his extended family was present to share the moment, and even better, he received full financial sponsorship to attend the prestigious Ivy League school.
J.R.’s graduation from Yale was yet another climactic moment, and his mom and uncle were present to witness the pivotal milestone. Other than when he told his uncle “I’m going to be a lawyer…Mom says,” J.R. had lived up to one of his mom’s expectations.
Located at 374 Commonwealth, the Harvard Club in Boston stood in for Yale when the production team filmed the graduation scene. For the school scenes, the Brattle street-based Lesley College stood in for Yale.
The Harvard Club of Boston dates back to the early 1900s and it stands as a private membership social club. Make a reservation to visit the Inn at the Harvard Club, and Bus 1, 57, or 504 will get you to the establishment.
J.R.’s first day at the New York Times scene in The Tender Bar
Old Commerce High School, Walnut Street, Worcester
Another moving moment is when J.R. announces to the crowd at Dickens that he got hired by the New York Times. The subsequent scene shows him in action on his first day working for the publication.
Talking to the editor, the long-running joke about what the initials “J.R.” stand for also comes up. The editor points out that his byline is the first problem with the copy he’s handed. He explains that initials can’t be used without periods.
J.R. responds, “I’ve done some research. Harry S Truman did not use a dot after his middle initial.” The editor explains that they are called periods and that the Times uses them.
The production team dressed up the lobby located within the Old Commerce High School in Worcester to stand in for the New York Times office. The institution opened its doors in 1913 and until 1871, the building previously housed Worcester’s Classical High School.
A second building constructed at the corner of Walnut Street and Maple Terrace added to the square footage. Visit The Tender Bar location by hopping on the B6 or B7 bus.
Liquor store scene in The Tender Bar
Marcorelle’s Fine Wine and Beer Ipswich, MA
The coast town of Ipswich, located about 45 minutes away from downtown Boston, also had its cameo in the film. Clooney and the production team visited Macorelle’s Fine Wine and Beer to film the scene where Joey D (Matthew Delamater) comes out of a liquor store with a box of booze, ice, and red party cups ready for their party at the beach.
At the beach, the men enjoy their boozy drinks and Charlie talks them into getting into the water. J.R. is present and looks on adoringly when his uncle says, “Come on. Bring your drink. This looks like it happens every day?”
Located at 30 Central Street, Ipswich, Clooney even decided to go for a photo op moment at the location carrying his cardboard cutout. Macorelle’s has three locations: Rowley, Hamilton, and Ipswich. The alcohol retailer carries everything from fabulous selections of wine to ice-cold beers.
Just on account of the movie being based on a true story, it doesn’t hurt to explore some of the filming locations of The Tender Bar if you happen to find yourself in Massachusetts. Some of the tidbits about the memoir in relation to the screen adaptation are equally interesting.
According to Moehringer’s memoir, he felt safe at the bar. Despite the cursing and gambling, the patrons helped guide him through the ups and downs of his youth.
He also grew up hearing his dad on the radio and described the experience as a “haunting ache” given that he couldn’t see him in person. Moehringer also put the long-running question about what J.R.means to rest. It stands for “junior,” given that he was named after his father, Johnny Michaels who worked as a New York disc jockey.
Livingstone, who voiced the future/adult J.R., attended Yale, just like Moehringer, and the two graduated three years apart.