Main Photo
Rawlings apartment, Lake Michigan shorefront, Chicago… Director Steve McQueen discusses a crucial scene with actors Viola Davis and Liam Neesom, who play Veronica and Harry Rawlings... Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

WIDOWS

December 18th, 2018 by Karen Burg with Set Decorator Elizabeth Keenan SDS


Set Decorator
Elizabeth Keenan SDSA

Production Designer
Adam Stockhausen

Twentieth Century Fox

In contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of political and societal turmoil, when four armed robbers are killed in an explosive heist attempt, their widows...with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands' criminal activities...take fate into their own hands to forge a future on their own terms. 
                                                                        --Twentieth Century Fox
 
 
The film WIDOWS is based on the 1980s British television series, which impressed the then thirteen-year-old director-to-be, Steve McQueen...
 
The show immediately transported me into a criminal world where the most vulnerable and overlooked people were women. These women were deemed incapable of anything other than being judged by their appearances, yet they took on challenges against their stereotype and transformed themselves into more than capable forces, determined to take their destinies into their own hands.
 
At that stage in my life, I felt a strong parallel to these women as I, too, experienced being looked at under a similar gaze. Their adversaries considered the widows as people who couldn’t achieve anything, and they did. It had a profound effect on me.
 
To bring the story into the now, I changed the location of WIDOWS from London in the early eighties to Chicago of the present. This was vital for me in order to also tackle politics, religion, class, race, criminality and mourning, and to look at the locale (Chicago) and revert it like a telescope into the global. 
 
What’s so powerful for me about this story is that these four women from different racial, social and financial backgrounds came together to achieve their common goal. They understood that by working together they were capable of anything.”   —Director Steve McQueen
 
 
Known for his collaborative spirit, the director reached out to his production designer of 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Adam Stockhausen, who in turn reached out to Set Decorator Elizabeth Keenan SDSA International, of such diverse films as SELMA and A WRINKLE IN TIME, to accurately and stylistically create the many-faceted essence of Chicago...a microcosm through the lens.
McQueen says, “It was beautiful working with them. Elizabeth brought an amazing depth, she killed it, and of course, there is no way to describe Adam’s talent and eye and heart.”
 
Keenan graciously gives insider notes on the photo gallery above!

Objects



Photo 3
Rawlings bedroom… Set Decorator Elizabeth Keenan SDSA International gives us behind the scenes notes... “Sean Bobbitt, our incredible Director of Photography, bathed that bedroom in ethereal Lake Michigan light. Simple, restrained dressing seemed the only way to accompany a Mies van der Rohe designed apartment building.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 4
Rawlings apartment… “The real hero of this set is the penthouse view of Lake Michigan. Veronica and Harry's apartment is a haven from the harsh realities of Chicago.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 5
Rawlings apartment… “Pulling color through a set helps create cohesion, but that lake view is everything. The Milo Baum armchair was a cozy counterpoint to the modern interior and a more recent purchase amongst all of the classic modern furniture and the arms are enveloping. The metaphorical painting is from Martha Mae in Andersonville...salt and ink on birch ply. Pillow and throw from Omega|Cinema Props (Thank you Allan and Santiago). Dog bed from UK.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 6
Rawlings apartment… “This apartment seems to float in the sky... Again, trying not to compete with the view or interrupt the sightline. Low profile Kartell saucer, vintage Italian floor lamp, artwork from ArtPic. Mies van der Rohe dining table and chairs.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 7
Rawlings apartment… “The desk in the background is Veronicas...had to shave off a quarter of an inch from the right side to make it fit. She had been a teacher and the details play to that. This is very much her home. The bookshelves are actually a plug for another room.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 8
Rawlings apartment… “This was Veronica's haven. There are touches of Harry...the black leather couch, bar, over-sized bolsters, rosewood stereo cabinet and Eames chair in the other room, but this is her domain. The chairs were such a find in that blush leather.” Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 9
Rawlings apartment, Lake Michigan shorefront, Chicago… Veronica [Viola Davis] is threatened by local thug Jamal Manning [Brian Tyree Henry], who demands she pay back the $2 million her husband stole before he died in a robbery gone bad... Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 10
City services warehouse, robbery rendezvous point… Keenan recalls, “The warehouse was almost completely empty... Note the 4 tons of salt that helped sell this place as some sort of municipal storage spot.” Liam Neesom. Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 11
Robbery rendezvous point, explosion aftermath… “This was all my leadman Tony Barracca, who had worked on CHICAGO FIRE for ages and handled all the post-burn detritus. This show was about 70 sets in 53 days, and I needed him to gaff this scene while I dressed other sets.” Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 12
Cemetery… “As the title suggests, there will be a funeral or two. Each one needed to be unique and reflect a specific character. We designed some great sprays representing the local Teamsters Union, and I wish you could see those vs the pompoms here. We fabricated the semi-translucent tent for DP Sean Bobbitt to act as a glowing soft box.” Photo ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 13
Cemetery… Politician Jack Mulligan [Colin Farrell] gives Veronica [Viola Davis] his condolences, while family driver Bash O'Reilly [Garret Dillahunt] protectively looks on...rightly so! That soft box of a tent definitely helped illuminate all the dark tones in this shot. Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Photo 14
Cemetery… Jamal Manning [Brian Tyree Henry], who is running for City Alderman against Jack Mulligan, and his enforcer brother Jatemme [Daniel Kaluuya] menacingly watch the funeral proceedings... The art department created the memorial statue that the brothers are purposely disrespecting... Photo by Merrick Morton ©2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.



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