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HAIL, CAESAR!

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    The film follows a single day in the life of studio fixer
    Eddie Mannix
    [Josh Brolin]...who is presented with plenty of problems to fix!

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures,
    Mannix office…


    The studio business sets are kept in a monochromatic palette to offset the Technicolor hues of each of the movies being filmed on the lot...but they very much define the era...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    Eddie [Josh Brolin] checks in with the historic epic of the title, headlined by the world’s biggest star, who causes some of his biggest headaches...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    The movie-within-a-movie,
    HAIL, CAESAR! A TALE OF THE CHRIST
    in full Technicolor!

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    And its star, Baird Whitlock
    [George Clooney] in full Technicolor...

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    The movie-within-a-movie...the sets echoing those of the 1940s/early ‘50s...
    Did we mention in full Technicolor!

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    The epic’s star,
    Baird Whitlock
    [George Clooney] unknowingly drinks from a goblet in which a background actor has placed a knockout drug...

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Malibu beach house…

    ...And awakens dazed and confused, to the sound of a housekeeper vacuuming a place he’s never seen...

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Malibu beach house…

    Two of Baird’s captors...in a gorgeous setting – note how the windows hint at captivity, but in fact are the architectural design of a high-end beach house, with reading material and cigarettes in abundant supply!


    Fisher Stevens
    Tom Musgrave
    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Malibu beach house…

    The Future,
    Baird Whitlock’s nameless captors, many of whom are Hollywood screenwriters...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Malibu beach house…

    The fabulous set deserves its own photo...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Malibu beach house…

    Baird [George Clooney] has come into
    The Future, embracing his nameless captors’ philosophy...

    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal


    Capitol Pictures…

    Meanwhile, back at the studio,
    Eddie [Josh Brolin]
    and his incredibly efficient secretary, Natalie
    [Heather Goldenhersh], make the rounds...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    First stop, the aquatic sensation, DeeAnna Moran [Scarlett Johansson]...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios



  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Not by accident, the synchronized swimming sequence was shot in the water tank at Stage 30 on the Sony lot, which was MGM when Esther Williams filmed her scenes there...

    Scarlett Johansson
    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    In the middle of production, the unmarried superstar tells Eddie [Josh Brolin] that she’s pregnant. He’s is charged with coming up with suggestions to maintain her façade of purity and innocence...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Joe Silverman’s office…

    Eddie gets the the reliable surety agent Joe Silverman [Jonah Hill] to agree that if DeeAnna [Scarlett Johansson] will secretly have the baby and give it up for adoption, he’ll foster the baby until she can officially adopt it.

    They fall in love at first sight, get married that night and decide they will “adopt” the baby together...
    Problem solved!

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures
    Editing office…


    The most trusted editor in the Capitol system, C.C. Calhoun [Frances McDormand] may be found hiding behind thick glasses and an even thicker layer of cigarette smoke.
    She often assists Eddie in “making things right”...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures
    Editing office…


    No one is allowed in C.C’s world without an invitation...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    On the set of a period drama, the cultured Dierdre [Emily Beecham] impatiently awaits her hick costar to pronounce his lines correctly...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios




  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Western film star, the singing cowboy Hobie Doyle
    [Alden Ehrenreich] has been brought in as the leading man in a sophisticated drawing room drama helmed by acclaimed European film director Laurence Laurentz
    [Ralph Fiennes]...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Sophisticated set for a sophisticated drama, very much in the style of movie-making at that time...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Laurence [Ralph Fiennes]
    is looking for a leading man's virtuoso ease, a cultured flair, which Hobie
    [Alden Ehrenreich] can’t seem to access...

    [That’s a modern camera on the left, shooting the movie being shot within the movie...]

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    The drama’s soundstage set, cast and production crew, with period correct cameras and equipment...

    Image©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Swingin’ Dinghy bar set for song-and-dance superstar Burt Gurney’s new sailor musical comedy...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Burt Gurney
    [Channing Tatum] has charmed his way into audiences’ hearts around the globe.
    He has been one of the most bankable stars to ever be churned out of the system...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Re-setting the camera and dance stage for the musical’s next scene...
    The camera and film equipment are absolutely period-accurate...

    Channing Tatum
    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios



  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Showing a wide view of the inner workings of the old studios and the craftsmanship of the work that went into the making of a movie. The floor is built in sections, so it could be pulled apart for the camera to be moved in close...


    Image©2015 Universal Studios

  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Capitol Pictures…

    Burt Gurney
    [Channing Tatum]
    leads the No Dames! tap dance sequence set in the Swingin’ Dinghy bar...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


  • set decorator
    Nancy Haigh SDSA

    production designer
    Jess Gonchor

    Universal

    Formosa Resaurant…

    At the end of a frenzied 24-hour multi-troubleshooting period, Eddie [Josh Brolin] meets with a recruiting agent from Lockheed
    [Ian Blackman], and turns down a great offer from the company, satisfied that his work has meaning after all...

    Photo by Alison Rosa
    ©2015 Universal Studios


 
When the world’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock [George Clooney] vanishes and his captors demand an enormous ransom for his safe return, it will take the power of Hollywood’s biggest names to solve the mystery of his disappearance in the Coen brothers’ comic whodunit.  
 
HAIL, CAESAR! is an homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, a valentine to the studio system laced with a lovingly acerbic edge. The film celebrates the dream factory, while cleverly pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the less-than-flattering inner workings of the film business in its heyday.
 
Eddie Mannix’s [Josh Brolin] job as a studio fixer begins before dawn, as he arrives just ahead of the police to keep one of Capitol Pictures’ prized starlets from being arrested on a morals charge.  His work is never dull, and it is around the clock. Each film on the studio’s slate comes complete with its own headache, and Mannix is tasked with finding a solution to every one of them.

                                                                                                                             --Universal Studios

 
At the same time as they comically send up the more hypocritical aspects of the studio system and the B movies it churned out to keep the quality movies afloat —"We loved that stuff. We just didn’t realize we were watching crap"— the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, show great respect and admiration for the professionalism and craftsmanship that characterized Hollywood’s Golden Age.
 
Through the myriad movies being shot on the Capitol Pictures lot, and then after-hours locations from clubs to homes, we follow the on-screen and off-screen lives of those whom Mannix protects.
 
All of which is configured by their go-to team, whom the Coens regularly rely upon: Set Decorator Nancy Haigh SDSA, Production Designer Jess Gonchor, Director of Photography Roger Deakins, and their incredibly talented crews. 
 
HAIL, CAESAR! is Jess Gonchor’s sixth outing with the filmmakers, starting with their Oscar® winner for Best Picture, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and it was Oscar® winner Nancy Haigh’s twelfth time to collaborate on sets with them. Even so, this film was an assignment apart.  “Making a movie about making movies is special,” Jess notes with direct simplicity that says it all.
 
They eagerly dove into researching the various kinds of films being shot for the movie, as well as the behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking back in the 1930s and ‘40s. Fortunate that the studios had photographers on set who recorded the look of the movies, they had access to a rich lode of archival material and were able to talk with craftspeople from the era who are still alive and were quite eager to share their knowledge.
 
"We went to great lengths to make it look like the 1930s to 1950s and built everything on site,” Jess told THR. “There were so many different crafts, it was like working in the ‘50s, with our mold-makers and crafts building everything the old-fashioned way."
 
Nancy’s valuable resources, the prop houses History for Hire and Omega Cinema Props, provided access to period equipment, cameras, lights and grip tools for the movies being shot within the film. “To be able to have cameras on sticks and silencers and blimps, it was just incredible,” Jess recalls. “The whole thing immediately became real.” Other key prop houses Nancy works with include a rich part of filmmaking history: the iconic studio prop houses for Universal Studios and Warner Bros., plus innumerable others – check Set Decorator Resources for the top of the top!
 
Unlike other films, the look of HAIL, CAESAR! is extremely varied:  the main story has one look, and each of the movies being shot on the studio lot has another unto itself. The team used color palettes to differentiate, with quieter tones for the “real life” sets, which distinguishes them from the movies that are being shot in vivid, highly saturated Technicolor hues.
 
“When we were in Eddie Mannix’s office, the look was almost blue collar, not glamorous at, all,” Jess describes. “Then when we moved onto the sound stages, we cranked up the color and the fantasy element. The sets were larger than life to demonstrate how we were traveling into the magical world of studio filmmaking.”
 
The movies within a movie included: a Western with a singing cowboy [Alden Ehrenreich], a synchronized swimming gala with a gorgeous aquatic star [Scarlett Johansson], a period drawing-room drama with a sophisticated, demanding director [Ralph Fiennes], a sailor musical comedy with a song-and-dance superstar [Channing Tatum] and the historical epic of the title with the aforementioned world’s biggest star [George Clooney] – each fully depicted as if being filmed in the moment.
 
“It blew my mind,” Channing Tatum reveals. “I was able to understand how movies were made back then—from the way they were shot to the way the camera moves seamlessly from one stage to the next. It’s like a dream walk through a studio lot in that era.”
 
And truly, in the end, the one thing that hasn’t changed and never will, according to Channing, is that films are still all about helping an audience escape. “The best part of HAIL, CAESAR! is that the movie is wildly entertaining on any level. It’s a tribute to an art form, even if some of its luster has been lost somehow along the way.” 

And Nancy offers the perfect epilogue, “After nearly 30 years working with Joel and Ethan, I still look forward to the next one.”  
As do we!
 
 


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