Poppy’s diner… ”...Countertop appliances such as a vintage milkshake maker, Raymond Loewy iconic Coke dispenser, a glass and chrome pie case from SDSA Business Member RC Vintage, classic diner lighting...and doghouses for the vicious robotic guard dogs Bennie and Joon, who are the reason for these reactions!”
Poppy’s salon… “Challenge: How to make many neon signs that have to survive a major stunt onslaught and dramatic crane moves? Glass neon tubes were not going to cut it—way too fragile. Thanks to our practical rigging gaffer Joe McGee, I was initiated into the joys of flexible LED tubing...”
Poppy Land… Actress Julianne Moore who plays Poppy loves the lair-cum-theme park, as does her character! “Poppy’s very interested in American pop culture and misses it. Everything in her world is there to satisfy her need to be at home.”
Poppy Land… Brandenburg explains the process... “Stage one: The ruins of an ancient Southeast Asian civilization Stage two: Create the huge tree roots invading those ruins, which were extended upward in post by VFX. Install large trees at strategic spots that involved stunts...”
Poppy Land, build… “Working out-of-doors in England presents challenges: rain is always part of the equation. Luckily, we had great weather for filming, but during prep, there were some interesting deluges. The store windows, roofs and diner set leaked like a sieve. Many mops, buckets and plastic tarps were sacrificed to the cause...”
Kingsman headquarters, demolished… Eggsy/Galahad [Taron Egerton] surveys the bomb damage, which is total...
Branderburg recalls, “Elements for Set Decoration included bent and twisted ornamental iron railings, bricks, beams, architectural elements like doors, windows, and pipes tons of dirt...or ‘crumblings’, as they’re called in Britain.”
Statesman distillery, Kentucky… Which leads Merlin & Eggsy [Mark Strong, Taron Egerton] to America...
“Statesmen is a US international spy organization founded during Prohibition. The distillery is the cover business for the Statesman, analogous to the Savile Row tailors of the Kingsman agency. It’s wildly lucrative, funding a sophisticated secret society of Southern gentlemen doing good in the world, in a spirited fashion...”
“The Barrel vault is a hidden section of the Statesman compound. Huge barrels were fabricated, with custom graphics applied. The largest one is actually a hidden elevator down to the secret hi-tech lab,” Brandenburg smiles...
The set was a stage build, at Leavesden Studios, London...
“A paean to the American liquor industry, the conference room is Agent Champagne’s domain [Jeff Bridges]. There are curio cabinets and portraits honoring each original Secret Agent, code-named for each type of alcoholic beverage: Gin, Vodka, Port, Wine, Brandy, Tequila, Rum, Whiskey...
Jack Daniels a.k.a. Whiskey [Pedro Pascal] makes use of his cowboy skills fighting off obnoxious drunkards in the all-American bar Brandenburg created in London, complete with a US flag composed of red white and blue beer cans on the wall and a custom pool table light made up of Kentucky license plates...
Royal Palace, Sweden… They also very carefully created a palace dining room... See below for details!
KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE introduced the world to Kingsman—an independent, international intelligence agency operating at the highest level of discretion, whose ultimate goal is to keep the world safe. In KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, our heroes face a new challenge. When their headquarters are destroyed and the world is held hostage, their journey leads them to the discovery of an allied spy organization in the US called Statesman, dating back to the day they were both founded. In a new adventure that tests their agents’ strength and wits to the limit, these two elite secret organizations band together to defeat a ruthless common enemy, a notorious criminal mastermind and global drug entrepreneur associated with The Golden Circle, a secret New World Order organization... —Twentieth Century Fox
We asked Set Decorator Rosemary Brandenburg SDSA to gives us a photo tour and notes on the fascinating sets of this international espionage caper set in the UK, the US, Southeast Asia, Italy and Sweden, but filmed basically in the London area!
And what better way, than to start with the quirky, fun sets of the villainess’s lair!
We built Poppy Land, the lair of villainess Poppy Adams [Julianne Moore], from scratch at an empty lot at Longcross, an old aircraft plant in the suburbs west of London turned into a filming facility.
The concept was to impose Poppy’s crazy dreamland of an idyllic midcentury US main street, seen through a Las Vegas lens...but set in the hidden jungle ruins of an ancient Southeast Asian civilization! Why not? And why not create it just outside of London?!
Working out-of-doors in England presents challenges: rain is always part of the equation. Luckily, we had great weather for filming, but during prep, there were some interesting deluges. The store windows, roofs and diner set leaked like a sieve. Many mops, buckets and plastic tarps were sacrificed to the cause.
Stage one: The ruins of an ancient Southeast Asian civilization
Stage two: Create the huge tree roots invading those ruins, which were extended upward in post by VFX. Install large trees at strategic spots that involved stunts
Stage three: As mentioned above, impose Poppy’s crazy dreamland of an idyllic midcentury US main street, seen through a Las Vegas lens...
We developed themes and décor for each shop, several of which had interiors at the site, others had interiors shot on location, and one was built onstage.
The diner served as her headquarters and office as well...Miles of black-and-white checked flooring, endless chrome detail, custom diner furniture in red and black spangled vinyl, bespoke grill and service counters, countertop appliances like a vintage milkshake maker, Raymond Loewy iconic Coke dispenser, a glass and chrome pie case from SDSA Business Member RC Vintage, classic diner lighting...and doghouses for the robotic guard dogs Bennie and Joon!
There’s a scene with a couple of extras mopping the floor, echoing the endless effort of our off-screen team of dressers, led by the indefatigable Neil Murrum, who constantly cleaned the orange sand tracked in from the Poppylandscape.
We all loved this set. The booths were particularly conducive to hanging out--I sat there commiserating with Producer David Reid the morning Brexit passed in the UK. We also loved Poppy’s office alcove within the diner, especially the midcentury desk, period cocktail accessories and medical collectibles.
We were fortunate to work with food stylist Katherine Tidy. The key food scenes involved the Swedish Palace and the Poppy’s diner burger scenes. Much debate on the color of the cheese, as cheddar in the UK is white, not yellow. And it’s not all that easy to find sesame seed buns.
Another fun set! Beautybot with her torturous ways was partly, but only partly, based on Producer Claudia Schiffer. We designed and built the gold smelting tattoo machine, and all the furniture in the salon. We loved the pink and gold color scheme, with the old Asian ruins intruding into the tattoo alcove. Claudia’s cosmetic and hair care lines are featured in the action. SDSA Business member Ian Hardy, proprietor of Practical Props, sent us Sputnik lamps for window décor.
POPPY LAND by night...
Challenge: How to make many neon signs that have to survive a major stunt onslaught, dramatic crane moves and cherry pickers with major rigging equipment? Glass neon tubes were not going to cut it—way too fragile. Thanks to our practical rigging gaffer Joe McGee, I was initiated into the joys of flexible LED tubing. We had a few exciting moments when the Chinese suppliers tapped out of our chosen colors and we were left waiting for many meters of some of our favorites, like pink. Was it expensive? Yes, and red was the most costly. Did we make the deadline? Yes, but only because there was a schedule delay for unrelated reasons!
STATESMAN... Champ’s conference room... Statesmen is a US international spy organization founded during Prohibition. The distillery is the cover business for the Statesman, analogous to the Savile Row tailors of the Kingsman agency. It’s wildly lucrative, funding a sophisticated secret society of Southern gentlemen doing good in the world, in a spirited fashion. They have Kentucky racehorses, private jets, a hi-tech lab facility, and of course, lots of booze and fantastic spy gadgets.
A paean to the American liquor industry, the conference room is Agent Champagne’s domain [Jeff Bridges]. It features a tasting room with a custom floor inlay, a large custom conference table sporting a carved Statesman medallion, above which hangs a custom multi-tiered chandelier featuring champagne bottle pendants. There are also curio cabinets and portraits honoring each original Secret Agent, code-named for each type of alcoholic beverage: Gin, Vodka, Port, Wine, Brandy, Tequila, Rum, Whiskey. Or is it Whisky? A frequent debate with Director Matthew Vaughn.
Portraits were researched by former SDSA Manager Karen Wiswell, crack at unearthing unusual and obscure primary sources, with her expertise in museum work from a former life. We had artists custom paint many of the portraits from licensed images.
The Barrel vault is a hidden section of the Statesman compound.
The set was a stage build, at Leavesden Studios, London, one of several filming lots used. Huge barrels were fabricated, with custom graphics applied. The largest one is actually a hidden elevator down to the secret hi-tech lab. Hundreds of standard-sized barrels were sourced in the UK and stacked in traditional fashion using custom-made wooden chocks. DP George Richmond and Gaffer John “Biggles” Higgins made good use of the china hat lights to motivate dramatic lighting on the set.
Ginger’s Lab/Observation Room/Harry’s cell...
While the Agents are code-named after alcoholic beverages, the support staff is code named after mixers. Ginger [Halle Berry] runs an advanced array of technology, from a cryotank ice bath to a machine for curing bullet wounds to the head.
Once our skilled but small in-house fabrication shop was tapped out with many special builds, we reached out into London’s resources of C&C builders, and specialty prop builders. They were all swamped, between STAR WARS, Marvel projects, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and any number of other very sizeable feature films being filmed all over London and UK areas. We were able to work a bit with one, and then another, but there was always a bit of jeopardy getting it all done. ...Observation Room
Director Vaughn wanted iconic American chairs for this set: what else but the Emeco Chair, originally designed for US Navy submarines in 1944? We ordered these gorgeous ones, with walnut seats and arms, which offered a great place to tie up the Kingsmen for their interrogation...and for observing patients in regenerative states, such as amnesiac Kingsman agent Harry Hart’s slow recovery from a near fatal gunshot wound... ...Harry’s cell
The cell is composed of individual tiles, padded and upholstered in our shop in off-white vinyl, with hand drawn butterflies designed and executed under the supervision of Graphics team leader Dominic Sikking, because of Harry’s deep interest in Lepidoptera.
The set was doubled on a tank stage at Leavesden for the scene where it floods with water, which was a bit of a challenge to execute.
Leather surfaces inspired by cowboy boots, lounge chairs with cowhide seats (shape inspired by Arne Jacobsen), and a complex mechanical pool table with the Statesman armory inside. Director Vaughn was very involved with the detail and placement of the weapons, and it took many versions and layouts to get it exactly to his liking. Thanks to Propmaster Ty Teiger, Armorer Nick Jeffries, Assistant Set Decorator Rebecca Pllkington, and finally, Andrew McCarthy SDSA, who worked on the weaponry array as it evolved.
Iconic Americana to be sourced and fabricated included a US flag composed of red white and blue beer cans on the wall, a custom pool table light made up of Kentucky license plates, beer neons and signs, a jukebox, light switches and plugs, bar stools, booth seating...and a swamp cooler! US based shopping executed by Kentucky-based Set Decorator Nancy Gilmore, Andrea Joel SDSA, and Buyer/Lead David Venezky. A few things we found in the UK, but resources were slim for this genre.
KINGSMAN... Tailor shop/Kingsman conference room...
Several of our sets, including this one, were faithful re-creations from KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, Set Decorator Jennifer Williams. The conference room was built on a large stage at Leavesden Studios, the London home of Warner Brothers, although Kingsman is a negative pickup for Fox.
On the same stage, we built and shot the Harry’s Mews interior, the Oval Office, the Statesman Jet interior, the Ski Gondola, various vehicle sequences, the Dressing room of the Swedish Cathedral, and several others. Another stage at Leavesden housed the Statesman Conference Room, Ginger’s Lab, and the Antidote Lab. At Pinewood, we built the Glastonbury Tent interior. London is so busy with filming that our wrap times were always very rushed as another film was poised to come in.
Destroyed tailor shop...
These photos show the backlot build, and some very detailed ruins, involving precise research into the construction materials used at London’s famous bespoke tailoring district, Savile row. Elements for Set Decoration included bent and twisted ornamental iron railings, bricks, beams, architectural elements like doors, windows, and pipes tons of dirt- or “crumblings” as they’re called in Britain.
Harry and Eggsy’s Mews house...
A mews is a row of 17th or 18thc stables with living quarters above, built along a cul de sac lane, now converted to exclusive housing. This is another in our series of faithful re-creations from Jennifer Williams’ excellent décor, with a few twists and new elements. I’m very grateful to Key Assistant Set Decorator Lucy Eyre who helped reconstruct sets from the first KINGSMAN, and who helped orient me to the UK system, so different from the LA-based department structure where I was trained.
We had the distinct pleasure of being the first company to shoot at Althorp, the ancestral home of the Spencer family, including the late Princess Diana, currently inhabited and run by her brother, Earl Charles Spencer. We used the house as the INT/EXT of the Country Hotel near Glastonbury where Princess Tilde stays, Tilde’s Swedish Palace Apartment, and the Swedish Palace dining scene with the King and Queen of Sweden.
It was great fun working with the staff, learning the inside ways at a noble British house. The stewards call Earl Spencer “Lordy”- I couldn’t stop chuckling at that. Initially I made the mistake of assuming we could use all of the gorgeous antique furniture. Under the gentle tutelage of Assistant Set Decorator Lucy Eyre, I learned that if even one of the better pieces I had my eye on were damaged during prep, filming, or wrap, the liability would exceed my net worth. So we rented many of the things we used, although a few items were considered sturdy enough to use, if very very carefully.
Our very accomplished Drapery Master Chris Seddens and his team did fantastic work throughout the project, evidenced by the beautiful bed for Tilde’s state apartment.
Our whole team was exceptional, and I would particularly like to acknowledge Production Designer Darren Gilford, Supervising Art Director Grant Armstrong and my core crew:
KEY ASSISTANT SET DECORATOR; LUCY EYRE
ASSISTANT SET DECORATORS: REBECCA PILKINGTON, CLARE PORRITT
PRODUCTION BUYER: DAISY POPHAM
BUYERS: PADMA FIXTER, KATIE SCOPES
PROPMASTER: TY TEIGER
ASSISTANT PROPMASTER: MARTIN KINGSLEY
PROPS BUYER: LISA TURNER
PROPMAKING SUPERVISOR: ROLAND STEVENSON
CHARGEHAND DRESSING PROPS: NEIL MURRUM, JOSH POLLEY
STANDBY PROPS: DAVE FISHER, DEAN FISHER
STOREMAN: SEAN DOWNEY
SET DEC DRAUGHTSPERSON: CLARA GOMEZ DEL MORAL
DRAPESMAN: CHRIS SEDDEN
GRAPHIC DESIGNER: DOMINIC SIKKING
GREENSMAN: JON MARSEN: GREENSTEAM
RESEARCHER: KAREN WISWELL
HOME ECONOMIST: CATHERINE TIDY
FLORAL DESIGNER; JENNY TOBIN
Brandenburg graciously acknowledges several other exceptional filmmaking professionals throughout the notes above,
including SDSA Business Members Willy Carter of RC Vintage and Ian Hardy of Practical Props...