BRIDGE OF SPIES
Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo SDSA
Set Decorator Bernhard Henrich
Production Designer Adam Stockhausen
A dramatic thriller set against the backdrop of a series of historic events, BRIDGE OF SPIES is the story of James Donovan [Tom Hanks], an insurance claims lawyer from Brooklyn who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA enlists his support to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot. This comes after he has defended in court the Russian agent Rudolf Abel [Mark Rylance], who will be involved in the exchange, as will an American student being held in East Berlin.
Producer Marc Platt describes, “It was almost like we were making two separate films, which is representative of the extraordinary journey that James Donovan goes on. We first meet him in Brooklyn where he takes on the case, which was one movie, and then he travels unexpectedly to a completely different part of the world [East & West Berlin], a completely different culture, which felt like an entirely different film.”
To re-create the late 1950s-early ‘60s Brooklyn and the divided Berlin in 1961-62, Director Stephen Spielberg relied on Production Designer Adam Stockhausen, Set Decorator Rena DeAngelo SDSA in the US and Set Decorator Bernhard Henrich in Europe, and their teams on both sides of the Atlantic.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
Set Decorator Lisa Thompson SDSA
Production Designer Colin Gibson
Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max [Tom Hardy] believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by Imperator Furiosa [Charlize Theron]. They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe [Hugh Keays-Byrne], from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.
Miller envisioned the film as a continuous chase, with little dialogue, focusing instead on the visuals. “I really love action movies. I try to make movies that you read purely on the visuals...this was conceived as a rock opera.”
The visuals were stunning in detail, thanks to Production Designer Colin Gibson, Set Decorator Lisa Thompson SDSA and their deeply involved teams.
“It’s critical to honor the human instinct for invention and art,” says Miller. “Just because it’s a Wasteland doesn’t mean that people don’t make beautiful things. I’ve been all over the world and even impoverished cultures have a powerful aesthetic. So everything in our film had to have a function but be fashioned with great care and personalization."
Set Decorator Celia Bobak SDSA
Production Designer Arthur Max
Twentieth Century Fox
During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney [Matt Damon] is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.
“This whole film is about thinking your way through all kinds of obstacles and problems,” says director Ridley Scott. Thus he brought on the ultra-creative and problem-solving team of Production Designer Arthur Max and Set Decorator Celia Bobak SDSA.
Damon points out, “Ridley paints on a much bigger canvas than most people, and it’s exciting to do things on that scale.”
Whether it was the NASA control room and offices and the rocket industries they worked with, or the world of Mars and the controlled environments of the Habitat living/work space and the
Set Decorator Hamish Purdy SDSA
Production Designer Jack Fisk
Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT is an epic story of survival and transformation on the American frontier. While on an expedition into the uncharted wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is brutally mauled by a bear, then abandoned by members of his own hunting team. Alone and near death, Glass refuses to succumb. Driven by sheer will and his love for his Native American wife and son, he undertakes a 200-mile odyssey through the vast and untamed West on the trail of the man who betrayed him: John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). What begins as a relentless quest for revenge becomes a heroic saga against all odds towards home and redemption.
"I was interested in exploring not only the physical paths of Glass and Fitzgerald but also their psychologies, their dreams, their fears and their losses,” Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu explains. “The storyline was a great base, as in music, but what’s going on in their minds and their hearts are the solos, the trumpets and piano.”
Because only the bare historical facts are known, the story demanded imagination, but two words underlined Iñárritu and Screenwriter Mark L. Smith’s approach: cultural authenticity.
Thus, the director turned to Production Designer, history reproductionist, Jack Fisk, who has an almost fanatical devotion to historical re-creation and Canadian Set Decorator Hamish Purdy SDSA. They and their teams brought to fore aspects of the wilderness world of the 1820s unrealized until now.
One of the centerpieces of Fisk’s design is the sprawling Fort Kiowa set, hand-crafted in an old gravel pit in Spray Valley Provincial Park near Canmore, Alberta. Determined to echo history, Fisk’s team constructed the Fort using actual materials and designs from the 1820s, utilizing all found lumber.
“I really wanted this Fort to be authentic to the period -- which makes it a place you’d never want to live today,” Fisk laughs. “Instead of making it charming, we made inhospitable because these men’s lives were rough. Also, they weren’t trained carpenters, so we really used that idea of not doing things too well. I would get upset with our carpenters whenever they did something too nice. The motto for the fort became: ‘Good is bad, bad is good.’” “We had the agers hit the< i>Fort hard. One building was just too square so I had them pick it up a couple of times with a forklift and drop it just to shake it into a bit more dilapidated shape,” Fisk recalls. “We spent as much time aging as building.” And then Purdy filled it with elements accurate to times, the place and the people who both would have built it and would be living there.
To accommodate the need for natural light, Fisk even built two mirror-image fort buildings – one facing east for morning shoots and one facing west to take advantage of the afternoon sun.
A Pawnee village was created on a Los Angeles soundstage using authentic materials and techniques from their culture. Duane Howard, a First Nations actor who plays powerful Arikara warrior Elk Dog, was inspired by the film’s reverence for authentic cultural representation. “I commend the whole team because they truly did their homework. Every little thing in the film has a meaning, as it did in those times.”
While most of the sets are historically based, Fisk also designed dream-like elements, including the towering mountain of buffalo skulls and the husk-like ruins of a European church. Another atmospheric set is the trapper’s camp attacked by Arikara warriors in the opening battle. As the scene begins, the camp is dressed with makeshift tents, lean-tos, campfires and busy trappers skinning beaver and bundling pelts, with a keelboat moored nearby.
A resonant character amid the tapestry of THE REVENANT is Hikuc, a solitary soul encountered on the plains who becomes Hugh Glass’s unexpected savior. He is played by Arthur Redcloud, a Navajo, who states, “Iñárritu is part mad scientist, part painter. Every detail is important to him. He wasn’t interested in just taking our Native stories; he was interested in understanding what makes the stories so powerful.”