Published November 17th 2000
By James MacGregor
Sylvester Stallone Joins Storm Over Carter Carpark

Hollywood superstar Sylvester Stallone has joined the campaign to save the Get Carter car park with a personal appeal to Gateshead city fathers, broadcast on network television. Stallone asked councillors not to demolish the city centre car park which featured as a landmark location in the 1971 British gangster movie Get Carter, starring Michael Caine. Councillors in the Tyneside town want to get rid of the car park as part of an urban renewal scheme. Netribution made its own appeal to Gateshead civic leaders earlier this year to reconsider demolition plans.

Stallone made his appeal in reaction to news that the local council intend to demolish the car park very soon. He was appearing with TV presenter Jonathan Ross in a Get Carter feature on the BBC network programme Film 2000. Stallone plays the lead character in the American remake of Get Carter, described by Ross as "A film that in 1971 redrew the boundaries of gangster films" and as "Probably the greatest British gangster movie of them all." Get Carter developed cult status, with a dedicated following. The very active Get Carter Appreciation Society revisit locations and re-enact scenes from the movie, both as camcorder mementoes, and to pay homage to their favourite characters.

Michael Caine took the original 1971 lead role as the cool, but violent, Jack Carter, an underworld figure who returns to his roots investigating the sudden death of his brother. The local underworld remains tight-lipped and Carter uses extreme violence, both to get the information he needs and to avenge his brother.
The car park, designed by award winning architect Owen Luder, who later becaomne President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, features a rooftop restaurant and totally dominates the city centre of Gateshead. The restaurant never opened its doors to the public. Instead, it became notorious as the setting for the confrontation scene between Carter and local villain Brumby, played by the late Bryan Mosely, to whom Caine directed the line:

    You’re a big man, but you’re out of shape.

    I do this for a living.

    Now sit down.

After their car park confrontation, Carter hurls Brumby from the top floor of the car park to the street below. The visuals where these scenes were realised are striking and memorable, lending a notoriety to their setting, something that was never part of the design, but was certainly the outcome of allowing the film to shoot there.

The huge concrete car park, an ultra-contemporary sixties design, towers over a shopping plaza, but has suffered lack of upkeep over the years. Attempts have been made to brighten the plaza areas. Now though, Gateshead councillors are well advanced with plans for demolition -part of a city centre rejuvenation to complement redevelopment of the nearby riverside as a centre of cultural excellence.

Blighted by years of indecision, the car park, formerly a statement of confidence, solidity and vision, has crumbled gently to its present state of neglect. But it is something of a cultural icon, for a film that has influenced succeeding generations of filmmakers. As Sylvester Stallone put it during Film 2000,

"If anything is a monument to Get Carter, that’s it."

To prove his point, Film 2000 showed groups of Get Carter fans filming reconstructions in the car park, including scenes in the never-opened restaurant and in areas of the car park now closed to general access, intercutting them with emulated footage from the orginal movie.

After learning of the cultural ambitions for the area, which include a new centre for excellence in music and a major art gallery converted from a former flour mill, Stallone made his personal plea to Gateshead Councillors. "If you have any artistic desire, please don’t tear that thing down."

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