Joe Wright:

  • Director Joe Wright

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • The forest cabin

    Hanna's home, hand built by her father.

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Camp G, wind tunnel

    Hanna [Saoirse Ronan] escapes from underground prison/lab.

    ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Marissa’s Wiegler’s Apt, Washington D.C.

    The bedroom of CIA secret ops chief Marissa Wiegler [Cate Blanchett] reflects her cold-steel persona

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Grimm Haus, Berlin

    Grim cabin replica at derelict amusement park

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Grandmother’s house, Berlin

    “To Grandmother’s house we go…”…too late!
    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • The Big Bad Wolf

    …in all incarnations, including Marissa Wiegler [Cate Blanchett]

    ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Safari Bar, Hamburg

    Marissa Wiegler [Cate Blanchett] engages Isaacs [Tom Hollander] to find Hanna

    ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Hotel restaurant, Morocco

    Desert respite & discoveries

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Hanna & the camping van

    Hanna [Saoirse Ronan] slips out of hiding.

    ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Grimm Kasse, Berlin

    Marissa Wiegler [Cate Blanchett] & Isaacs [Tom Hollander] hunt Hanna

    ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Grimm Haus, Berlin

    Knepfler, the magician [Martin Wuttke] reveals illusions to Hanna [Saoirse Ronan]

    Photo by Alex Bailey ©2011 Focus Features. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication.

  • Street corner, Berlin

    Hanna [Saoirse Ronan] eludes everyone, but searches for answers

  • 10 Downing Street…

    Clementine Churchill [Kristin Scott Thomas] awaits her husband’s return from an essential meeting...

    Spencer points out that they’ve just begun to move into the residence, so there is an eclectic mix of furniture, a few pieces of theirs with leftover bits from previous occupants...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • 10 Downing Street…

    Winston Churchill and Clemmie [Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas] deal with the news of the fall of France...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • 10 Downing Street…

    The Prime Minister’s simple bedroom...

    Spencer checks to the positioning of the corner pieces where his secretary will type his latest dictation...
    The portraits are of his parents, the flanking small paintings are in the style of Churchill...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • 10 Downing Street…

    Elizabeth Layton [Lily James]...

    You’ll recognize the crying baby as one of several busts that resided at Chartwell

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • 10 Downing Street…

    Churchill mentioned to a mother with her child, “He looks like me!” Her reply, “Mr Churchill, all babies look like you!”

    The portrait is of Winston Churchill’s father.

  • 10 Downing Street…

    The “before” of the bedroom...

  • 10 Downing Street…

    The Prime Minister’s simple bedroom...
    The Napoleon bust also followed him.
    Pinks were subtly used for throughout the film, both in sets and costumes, to represent Churchill’sproclivity for idiosyncrasy...

    Note the staircase outside the room...

  • 10 Downing Street…

    Another “before”...

  • 10 Downing Street…

    The attic, Churchill’s hideway...

  • 10 Downing Street,

    Churchill collected toy soldiers throughout his life...

  • 10 Downing Street,

    The King [Ben Mendelsohn] personally meets with Winston [Gary Oldman], a completely unexpected visit!

    Screen image ©2017 Focus Features.

  • Buckingham Palace…

    Spencer had the all the furniture upholstered “a tired gold” to reflect the state of the realm at the time...

  • Buckingham Palace…

    The location, a stately home which has it’s own tragic story, has been used as a school and conference area...

  • Buckingham Palace…

    “Loved this set and its end of empire feel, with the electric lamps a glaring moment of modernity,” says Spencer.

  • Buckingham Palace…

    “Again, this was re-created in a neglected stately home in Yorkshire. We commissioned the copies of the giant Stubbs paintings which had originally hung there, and gave them, together with the drapes we made, to the house afterwards as we all felt so sorry for this much maligned house.”

  • War Rooms…

    Churchill [Gary Oldman] is determined to find a way to save the soldiers at Dunkirk...

    Greenwood designed a massive 2-stage set, a maze-like circular warren...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • War Rooms…
    Gary Oldman says,
    “Even the pins were in the right places. It was eerily like the actual War Rooms, certainly among the best-designed sets I’ve ever been on. The detail was staggeringly good; I opened up a couple of books that were ‘lying around’ and they were remarkable recreations of logs and journals.”

  • War Rooms…
    About the strut work, Greenwood reveals,
    “They were in the basement and they thought they’d be safe and then somebody, an engineer, pointed out, ‘You’re really not safe, because the whole building will fall on you.’ So a naval architect went in and built this forest of beams, and the reason why they are wood and they look like that is because that’s how they used to do ships. And that’s what he knew. It’s like a forest down there!”

  • War Rooms…

    Wright says,
    “It was interesting to me that those phones would always have been silent. So they had these little lights on them that would flash. And those cords! It was all make do and mend.”

  • War Cabinet Room…

    The very British perseverance attitude of
    “make do” of this essential secret room...the fluted lights, the spotlights, etc...

  • War Cabinet Room…

    Churchill [Gary Oldman] explains to his War Cabinet, his plans for the evacuation of Dunkirk...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • London street…

    An entrance to the Underground...
    Churchill mentions to his chauffeur that he had never ridden a bus or been on the Underground...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

  • Underground “tube” train…

    Churchill [Gary Oldman] meets the some of the people he governs...and determines their fortitude and their will...

    Photo by Jack English ©2017 Focus Features.

April 11th, 2011

"Hanna has no preconception of what is beautiful and what is ugly. Everything just is what it is Hanna judges no one. That's anathema to most of us, as we are brought up and taught to constantly judge people, places, and things against ourselves, our aspirations, and our fears."

- Director Joe Wright

Director Joe Wright, Production Designer Sarah Greenwood and Set Decorator Katie Spencer SDSA have collaborated for over a decade on films that are breathtakingly beautiful yet grounded in a vein of realism.

The perfectly realized worlds of Jane Austen's PRIDE & PREJUDICE, and the torpid British country manor and outset of World War II in ATONEMENT were recognized with Academy Award nominations for Outstanding Art Direction, the later film also lauded with BAFTA and ADG award nominations.

Their current collaboration, the contemporary fairytale-esque HANNA leaps into the action genre, bringing us breathtaking moments with breakneck speed.

The surrealism hinted at in ATONEMENT grows into an elemental force throughout this coming-of-age spy-thriller, as Hanna [Saoirse Ronan] deals with sophisticated assassins as she tries to reach her master-spy father Erik [Eric Bana], whom she had known as a simple woodsman.

Life-and-death chases take us from the ice and snow of Finland to the searing desert of Morocco to villages of coastal Spain and Germany and the harsh cityscape of Berlin. Whether a geometric abstract of containers at a shipping yard, the pristine CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a secret underground prison or a deserted metro tube station, everything is realistic, yet artistic"¦up a notch, sometimes several. The visual experience is enhanced without impeding the action.

Wright talks with SET DECOR about his collaboration with Greenwood and Spencer on this and their other standout films.

How did you begin the visualization process for HANNA with Production Designer Sarah Greenwood and Set Decorator Katie Spencer SDSA?

Oh, it's very difficult to remember, really. Sarah and Katie and I have been working together for such a long time now that it feels like our kind of visual imaginations have melded and I find it very difficult when I've finished a project to remember which ideas were whose.

I think probably most of the ideas are Sarah's and Katie's...

As to where we began, Sarah and I always start way back in the script development by looking at locations before the script is finished. We went to Berlin and said to the location manager, "Show us what you think is extraordinary in Berlin." We specifically said, "Don't show us what's written in the script." So, they took us to things like the wind tunnels and the abandoned amusement park, Spree"”and when we found these locations, I went back to Seth Lochhead and had them written into the screenplay. The wind tunnels are where we filmed Hanna's escape from Camp G, and the park became an intrinsic part of the film's climax. So it was really a matter of responding to the world around us rather than trying to implement, to enforce the script upon the world. There's a kind of organic development, really.

This fairytale-esque story"¦the double-meaning of a Grimm tale"¦it always has another edge to it, another angle to it. Working with this prism, the film starts in Finland, in the snow. Can you tell us about the set aspects of this, including the cabin/hut?

Well, originally we were planning to shoot the opening sequence all in Bavaria. We had tax rebates available in Bavaria, so production was very keen for us to shoot there. But it soon became apparent that, firstly, there just wasn't what we needed in terms of what we were allowed to do there, and, secondly, we realized that there was likely to be no snow. So it was a little bit of a disaster. And so very, very late in the process, Sarah suddenly said, "Come on, let's go to Finland." I think it was the perfect moment to make that decision, because if we had tried to force that earlier, the production company wouldn't have gone for it. But it became a kind of crisis point, a crunch point, which allowed us to make that kind of bold move.

And I'm so, so grateful to Sarah and glad that we did do that, because I think it set the film off in a completely different tone. We were looking for somewhere that felt completely wild, and we just couldn't get that in Bavaria. So the compromise was that we shot for a week in Finland, and then the actual hut, the cabin that stands in the forest, we built in Bavaria and used fake snow for that. Again, it was really just a case of responding to what we saw around us. And with the Finland scenes"¦it was amazing that you turn up in a location one day and say, "Okay, we can shoot here." And you'd arrive the next day and, because of the way the winds swept the snow, the location would have changed completely! So it was really a matter of adapting at every moment.

The log cabin in the forest was built by local craftsmen in Bavaria and was a thing of absolute beauty. Built as Erik would have built it without resources to modern materials, it was crafted without the use of any nails"¦built entirely with found materials"¦everything was pegged. Sarah drew a very fine line in terms of not letting it become too fairytale, keeping it grounded in some sort of reality, and yet it was definitely a fairytale opening to the beginning of the film. And then the same house"¦the same shape of house is replicated in its kind of plastic form in Spree Park in the end. It was exactly the same shape and the idea was for it to feel like the same house, but now the fairytale had been"¦abandoned.

The interior of the cabin"”getting the right combination of isolation and the modern world?

It was a matter of actually set dressing dictating backstory. You know, how much did Erik bring with him? Did he ever forage on the outskirts of civilization for plastics or metals, or knives or whatever? And so it was a very fine line Katie walked there, and I think she pulled it off brilliantly. 

And then you moved to Morocco!

The actual shooting was tough because of the heat"”in excess of 115 degrees!

The idea for me was that as Hanna progresses through the film, we have a kind of history of civilization, almost. So at the beginning of the film, she's just got a sling and arrow and is kind of hunting and then the cabin, there are little bits of metal coming through, and, obviously, fire. Then in the desert, she starts to find community and then in the market, she's introduced to money. Again, one had to be careful not to kind of make that market too primitive. I mean, it's Morocco and it's a modern country, although there still are camel markets and people often dressed in a very traditional way. But they sometimes wear a baseball cap with their traditional dress. One of the things I really loved about what Katie did in that sequence was introduce a man selling mobile telephones, which I thought was a lovely kind of touch"¦the attention to detail was fantastic.

Yes, absolutely, including 200 camels for the market scene! And in Morocco we meet the family in the camper van.

Yes. I was very descriptive about the camper van. Occasionally I get a prop or a set in my head and I don't give Sarah or Katie much leeway on it. Some of those are for purely personal reasons and the camper van was very specifically a re-creation of my parents' camper van from when we were children. I knew exactly what type of van I needed it to be and what color and how it should be decked out inside. So that was one that I do remember being quite specific with Sarah and Katie about. And what's lovely is they know me well enough to understand that unless they think I'm going way off course on something like that, they know that that's the time when they'll just let me have my say on it.

That incredible collaboration you seem to have is evident on screen.

I hope so. We're a family, you know. As I say, we've worked together now for 12-13 years and it's certainly the longest creative relationship I've had. And the most important. I think that when people talk about a Joe Wright film, or a film directed by me, they're talking about the director as really kind of a figurehead, perhaps"¦but they're talking about my/our team as a group, as a collective"¦and that's very important. 

And so you were shooting camping in Spain in Morocco"¦in the mountains, on the coast, and in the winds"¦

Yes, it was a financial choice. Originally, I'd hoped we could all go on a jolly kind of road trip together and work our way up through Europe, but somehow, these days, the way films are financed/produced, it doesn't quite work like that. So we shot a lot of the Spanish scenes in Morocco and, in fact, imported a whole group of flamenco artists over to Morocco for the flamenco scene. And it was slightly"¦well"¦we turned a Moroccan village into a Catholic Spanish village.

And the 50 tents"¦?

Ah"¦the tradition of camping that is sort of engrained in Britain, I love the whole kind of camping culture. Funnily enough, Katie was able to find an exact replica, in fact the exact tent that I used to have as a kid, the orange and blue tent that Sophie and Miles and Hanna sleep in.

A lot of the film, weirdly, had a kind of retro feeling to it, and I think that's possibly because I was really inspired or referring to my own childhood with the movie.  Tom Hollander's character is a very retro kind of character, the tent is a sort of retro tent, the van as well"”and I think that adds to the kind of surrealism. You never really know or are quite sure where or when the film is set"¦maybe where, but not when.

Yes. From that opening shot in the snow, it could be any time"¦Speaking of surreal, the Grimm haus and abandoned amusement park"¦!

Well, I think what people comment about the most is the abandoned amusement park. And it's an amazing testament to Sarah and Katie's work that in the numerous Q&A's that I've been doing, people comment on the design of the film, on the locations"¦and not just the photography, but the actual design of the film. And I think that's quite unusual, really. It is quite strong. And it is quite bold. The amusement park was an incredibly, sort of fortuitous find, and then Sarah and Katie really made the most of it. And the wolf certainly was one of the key images in the film for me. We tried to do as little to the park as possible, but that was something I think Sarah and Katie couldn't resist making. 

So not only the hut, but also the wolf's-head tunnel was not extant? It didn't exist as such? It was created?

Yes.  The actual wolf's mouth was created. There was a tunnel, obviously, coming out of the mountain, with the railway tracks on it, but it was just an opening cut into the rock"¦and I said to Sarah, "Wouldn't it be great if there were some jaws, some teeth..."

And then Sarah took that and turned it into a wolf's head with open jaws. And in a way, that's a perfect example of our working practice, in that I come up with an idea"¦it's a nice seed of an idea"¦but then Sarah takes it and turns it into something better"¦and then Katie takes that and makes it even better, you know.

So I still get lovely surprises.

director's chair archives

Michael Engler: DOWNTON ABBEY 2019-12-31
Robert Eggers: THE LIGHTHOUSE 2019-10-28
Tanya Saracho: VIDA 2019-08-01
Bradley Cooper: A STAR IS BORN 2018-12-30
Drew Goddard: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE 2018-11-20
Tamara Jenkins: PRIVATE LIFE 2018-11-06
Drew Pearce: HOTEL ARTEMIS 2018-06-17
Joe Wright: DARKEST HOUR 2017-12-06
Bharat Nalluri: THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS 2017-11-28
Greta Gerwig: LADY BIRD 2017-11-06
Ken Biller: GENIUS 2017-04-27
James Gray: THE LOST CITY OF Z 2017-04-17
Niki Caro: THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE 2017-04-03
Ken Olin: THIS IS US 2017-03-27
Theodore Melfi: HIDDEN FIGURES 2017-01-27
J.A. Bayona: A MONSTER CALLS 2017-01-03
Kelly Fremon Craig: THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN 2016-12-02
Warren Beatty: RULES DON'T APPLY 2016-11-25
Jeff Nichols: LOVING 2016-11-02
Derek Cianfrance: THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS 2016-09-10
Stephen Frears: FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS 2016-08-15
Susanna White: OUR KIND OF TRAITOR 2016-07-03
Gareth Neame: DOWNTON ABBEY 2016-06-13
George Miller: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD 2016-01-13
Tom Hooper: THE DANISH GIRL 2015-12-15
Sarah Gavron: SUFFRAGETTE 2015-12-15
Edward Zwick: PAWN SACRIFICE 2015-09-25
Bill Pohlad: LOVE & MERCY 2015-07-10
Alex Garland: EX MACHINA 2015-06-11
Richard Linklater: BOYHOOD 2015-02-04
James Marsh: THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING 2014-12-19
Bennett Miller: FOXCATCHER 2014-11-30
Michael Hirst: VIKINGS 2014-06-14
Amma Asante: BELLE 2014-05-06
Brian Percival: THE BOOK THIEF 2013-11-26
Alfonso Cuarón: GRAVITY 2013-10-13
J.J. Abrams: STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS 2013-06-27
Juan Antonio Bayona: THE IMPOSSIBLE 2013-01-17
Joe Wright: ANNA KARENINA 2012-12-18
Ang Lee: LIFE OF PI 2012-12-01
Ben Affleck: ARGO 2012-10-27
Sacha Gervasi: HITCHCOCK 2012-10-27
Luc Besson: THE LADY 2012-01-10
Tomas Alfredson: TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY 2011-12-13
Michel Hazanavicius: THE ARTIST 2011-12-08
Mike Leigh: ANOTHER YEAR 2011-01-20
Tim Burton 2010-01-20
director's chair archives 2008-08-21

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