Property master Tommy Allen is responsible for tracking down many of the items that bring the HBO series to life. If a script calls for, say, a 1920s-era hearse, it’s his job to find it — rent it, make it or buy it.
One day he was asked to find a vintage seaplane for a scene scheduled to shoot two days later. He didn’t find one. But that’s the rare case.
Nucky’s Rolls Royce
Allen had a lead on a 1920s Rolls in England when he came upon a possible vehicle in rural Maine. Kept in a barn, the maroon and black auto was perfect. Some rehab work later — including a new, blue, paint job and custom shades — and Nucky’s ride was ready to roll.
The Darmodys vacuum
Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt) presents this vacuum to his common-law wife in episode two. Allen found a collector — who also had a copy of the original advertisement — willing to part with this cleaner.
Later in the season, a scene calls for a movie projector. Oh, and it’s gonna get trashed. So, not only did Allen need to find one working piece of equipment, he ideally needed to find multiples. He found a dealer, he thinks in Massachusetts, that had three. Allen snapped all of them up.
The bootlegging boat
One of the ways illegal liquor was transported to Atlantic City was by boat. That meant finding a vessel to use in filming. Allen looked everywhere, but eventually found something to use in the production’s backyard. The series wound up renting the Pioneer, a schooner kept at New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, meaning it literally had to cross the East River for work.
“Boardwalk Empire” is at times violent. Naturally, a hearse would be necessary. Luckily, Allen said, “it’s almost easier to find something from the 1920s than the 1990s because they’re collectible. ... For pretty much anything there is a group of people that collects them, from beer bottles to vacuum cleaners.” Allen found the hearse used in filming at a Pennsylvania museum. Not that it was easy to obtain.
“The trick there was convincing the museum to let us borrow it,” Allen said. “You just keep trying and keep begging until you convince them that it’s OK to be used in the movie.”