How Ray Kroc Movie 'The Founder' Replicated Suburban Sites in Georgia

By Gire, Dann | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

How Ray Kroc Movie 'The Founder' Replicated Suburban Sites in Georgia


Gire, Dann, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic dgire@dailyherald.com

In John Lee Hancock's bio-drama "The Founder," Northwest suburban businessman Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton, beholds an empty tract of land on Lee Street in Des Plaines that will become the site for the first franchised McDonald's restaurant.

The movie, opening Friday, also shows us Kroc's brick home in the Scarsdale subdivision of Arlington Heights, the village where he hobnobs with the social elite at the Rolling Green Country Club.

These locations, along with the first McDonald's restaurants in Schaumburg, Waukegan, Milwaukee and other Midwestern places, look as if they've been photographed at their original sites.

Nope. It's all Hollywood sleight-of-eye magic.

All those key settings in "The Founder" were built or photographed in the state of Georgia, where tax incentives, milder weather and less expensive labor attracted the budget-conscious producers.

The film, the true story of how struggling salesman Kroc created a multibillion-dollar hamburger empire, opens Friday.

Michael Corenblith, a two-time Oscar-nominated production designer, found old photographs to help him reconstruct Kroc's first franchised McDonald's, built in 1955 in Des Plaines. (A replica building now stands on Lee Street near the original restaurant's site.)

Because of their limited budget and ultrafast 34-day shooting schedule, the filmmakers had to be resourceful in showing McDonald's restaurants all over the United States, without actually leaving Georgia.

So, they repurposed their "Des Plaines" building.

"When you see Schaumburg, when you see Minneapolis, when you see all the McDonald's from around the country, those are subtle reworkings of only one set," Corenblith said.

"Just by changing the parking lot stripes configuration, it was a very subtle way to tell the audience that, no, this isn't the place you just saw because the cars are now parked perpendicularly and not diagonally or parallel. "

Corenblith's eye for authentic detail fooled even Keaton. He assumed the crew had found an old McDonald's restaurant and rehabbed it for the film shoot.

"We gave him a tour, backstage as it were, to show him that we had built this structure from the ground up," Corenblith said.

He searched carefully for a Georgia house that could serve as Kroc's brick colonial in Arlington Heights, complete with deciduous trees native to the Northwest suburbs but less common in Georgia. He found what he was looking for in the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates, though the house has little resemblance to the Arlington Heights original. …

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