Tragedy struck a New York City film set last night when a blaze broke out, and a New York City firefighter died trying to fight it. The fire started at approximately 11 PM, as the crew of director and star Edward Norton’s new film Motherless Brooklyn was nearing the end of their day of filming. The flames tore through the basement of a former Harlem jazz club that was being used as a set. Michael R. Davidson of Engine Company 69 was one of the firefighters who went into the five-story building to put out the flames, but he got separated from his unit and had lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital later that night. Here’s what Edward Norton and the producers had to say in a joint statement.
“Our deepest condolences to the family of Michael R. Davidson. A fire broke out tonight in the building where we were shooting our film. Our production was towards the end of our working day and had dozens of people working on site, when our crew noticed that smoke was coming into our set and into other parts of the building from below us. As soon as we noticed smoke coming up into our set, our crew immediately alerted the fire department and began alerting residents of the building even as we evacuated our cast and crew. To our great sorrow, we now know that a NYC firefighter lost his life battling the blaze that grew, and our hearts ache in solidarity with his family. New York City firefighters truly are the bravest in the world. We watched firsthand with astonishment as they charged into the smoke to make sure all were safely out and then fought to contain the blaze and prevent it from spreading, putting their lives on the line as they do every day. The FDNY are real life super-heroes and have our boundless admiration and gratitude.”
Michael R. Davidson was assigned to the nozzle on the lead hose-line, but he got separated from the other firefighters as conditions in the building deteriorated. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and the building was formerly the home of a notable bar called St. Nick’s Jazz Pub, which had closed in 2011. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro also added that two other NEg9UvXxsFeFkh||unidentified firefighters} had suffered burns and were in serious condition, while three others were injured while battling the blaze. Neighborhood resident Daquan Evans, 28, told the New York Post that he saw Edward Norton after the fire broke out, adding that he looked distraught.
“That actor Ed Norton walked right by. He looked pretty upset. This is crazy, this fire. You think a movie comes up here and it is good for the neighborhood. Not a fire . . . damn.”
The movie Motherless Brooklyn is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Jonathan Lethem, which is set in 1950s New York City. The story follows Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton), “a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome,” who tries to solve the murder of Frank Minna (Bruce Willis), his “mentor and only friend.” Edward Norton is directing from his own adapted screenplay, with an ensemble cast that also includes Alec Baldwin, Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Cannavale, Leslie Mann and Michael K. Williams. Production started last month, with neighbors stating that crews had put up signs for “King Rooster Jazz Club” about two weeks ago, with 1950s-era cars lining the streets during production. Michael R. Davidson has been a firefighter for 15 years, the son of a retired firefighter, who is survived by his wife Ellen and four children, according to The Hollywood Reporter.