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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Veronica [Viola Davis] meets the widows of two of the men in her husband’s gang...
“Shot at the Four Seasons Chicago... We brought in the matching womb chairs from the architecture firm/location used for a later scene and added product for an injection of color. Only the sauna scene was built and shot onstage.”
“...Alice had to sell everything when Florek was killed but she kept those expensive sheets. Her mom, Agnieska, brought her the afghan and tried to help her get on her feet, in her own special way. Great Australian actress Jacki Weaver.”
“We started with an empty room and just kept adding layers. Thanks to ISS for all the firearms. Prop Master Phil Schneider and I ordered the guns and our wonderful graphic designer Davis Soukup made all the graphics. We had lots of taxidermy too...Bears greeting one upon entry...”
“Shot in a Catholic Church amongst the existing background chapel. While on a location scout, Steve had seen a huge suffering Jesus and wanted it replicated. We found a fabricator on Etsy, and then set the finished piece amongst offerings on a tiered table fabricated by construction.”
“I really tried not to caricaturize Linda after the audience sees all of those dresses. She was very ambitious and aspirational and wanted a better life for herself with the kids. Elements of Hispanic culture blended with traditional furnishings and an emphasis on family...”
Belle [Cynthia Erivo], who works several jobs, including as beautician and the babysitter who looks after Linda's children, is concerned that her friend, salon owner Breechelle, is being extorted for protection money by the very people running for office.
“This location was tricky architecturally with a stairwell interrupting one side of the room. Adam Stockhausen, production designer, conceived of this glass brick plug wall to create a new front door (to an upstairs apartment). Amanda's apartment is eclectic with the addition of a new baby...”
“We needed to feel the presence of Harry and crew upon first viewing this scene...the leather jacket and personal effects of the husbands. This garage was loaded with age and perfectly grimy. We created a 'club house' in the center of the garage that needed to look as if the guys had just walked out of the room....”
“We found a set of those chairs, and Joanna Iwanicka, one of our head scenics, went to town on them. The oddball mixture of cast-off furnishings helped carve out a club-house feel amongst the grime...”
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!