Two of Baird’s captors...in a gorgeous setting – note how the windows hint at captivity, but in fact are the architectural design of a high-end beach house, with reading material and cigarettes in abundant supply!
Eddie gets the the reliable surety agent Joe Silverman [Jonah Hill] to agree that if DeeAnna [Scarlett Johansson] will secretly have the baby and give it up for adoption, he’ll foster the baby until she can officially adopt it.
They fall in love at first sight, get married that night and decide they will “adopt” the baby together... Problem solved!
The most trusted editor in the Capitol system, C.C. Calhoun [Frances McDormand] may be found hiding behind thick glasses and an even thicker layer of cigarette smoke. She often assists Eddie in “making things right”...
Western film star, the singing cowboy Hobie Doyle [Alden Ehrenreich] has been brought in as the leading man in a sophisticated drawing room drama helmed by acclaimed European film director Laurence Laurentz [Ralph Fiennes]...
Showing a wide view of the inner workings of the old studios and the craftsmanship of the work that went into the making of a movie. The floor is built in sections, so it could be pulled apart for the camera to be moved in close...
At the end of a frenzied 24-hour multi-troubleshooting period, Eddie [Josh Brolin] meets with a recruiting agent from Lockheed [Ian Blackman], and turns down a great offer from the company, satisfied that his work has meaning after all...
When the world’s biggest star, Baird Whitlock [George Clooney] vanishes and his captors demand an enormous ransom for his safe return, it will take the power of Hollywood’s biggest names to solve the mystery of his disappearance in the Coen brothers’ comic whodunit.
HAIL, CAESAR! is an homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, a valentine to the studio system laced with a lovingly acerbic edge. The film celebrates the dream factory, while cleverly pulling back the curtain to reveal some of the less-than-flattering inner workings of the film business in its heyday.
Eddie Mannix’s [Josh Brolin] job as a studio fixer begins before dawn, as he arrives just ahead of the police to keep one of Capitol Pictures’ prized starlets from being arrested on a morals charge. His work is never dull, and it is around the clock. Each film on the studio’s slate comes complete with its own headache, and Mannix is tasked with finding a solution to every one of them. --Universal Studios
At the same time as they comically send up the more hypocritical aspects of the studio system and the B movies it churned out to keep the quality movies afloat —"We loved that stuff. We just didn’t realize we were watching crap"— the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, show great respect and admiration for the professionalism and craftsmanship that characterized Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Through the myriad movies being shot on the Capitol Pictures lot, and then after-hours locations from clubs to homes, we follow the on-screen and off-screen lives of those whom Mannix protects.
All of which is configured by their go-to team, whom the Coens regularly rely upon: Set Decorator Nancy Haigh SDSA, Production Designer Jess Gonchor, Director of Photography Roger Deakins, and their incredibly talented crews.
HAIL, CAESAR! is Jess Gonchor’s sixth outing with the filmmakers, starting with their Oscar® winner for Best Picture, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and it was Oscar® winner Nancy Haigh’s twelfth time to collaborate on sets with them. Even so, this film was an assignment apart. “Making a movie about making movies is special,” Jess notes with direct simplicity that says it all.
They eagerly dove into researching the various kinds of films being shot for the movie, as well as the behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking back in the 1930s and ‘40s. Fortunate that the studios had photographers on set who recorded the look of the movies, they had access to a rich lode of archival material and were able to talk with craftspeople from the era who are still alive and were quite eager to share their knowledge.
"We went to great lengths to make it look like the 1930s to 1950s and built everything on site,” Jess told THR. “There were so many different crafts, it was like working in the ‘50s, with our mold-makers and crafts building everything the old-fashioned way."
Nancy’s valuable resources, the prop houses History for Hire and Omega Cinema Props, provided access to period equipment, cameras, lights and grip tools for the movies being shot within the film. “To be able to have cameras on sticks and silencers and blimps, it was just incredible,” Jess recalls. “The whole thing immediately became real.” Other key prop houses Nancy works with include a rich part of filmmaking history: the iconic studio prop houses for Universal Studios and Warner Bros., plus innumerable others – check Set Decorator Resources for the top of the top!
Unlike other films, the look of HAIL, CAESAR! is extremely varied: the main story has one look, and each of the movies being shot on the studio lot has another unto itself. The team used color palettes to differentiate, with quieter tones for the “real life” sets, which distinguishes them from the movies that are being shot in vivid, highly saturated Technicolor hues.
“When we were in Eddie Mannix’s office, the look was almost blue collar, not glamorous at, all,” Jess describes. “Then when we moved onto the sound stages, we cranked up the color and the fantasy element. The sets were larger than life to demonstrate how we were traveling into the magical world of studio filmmaking.”
The movies within a movie included: a Western with a singing cowboy [Alden Ehrenreich], a synchronized swimming gala with a gorgeous aquatic star [Scarlett Johansson], a period drawing-room drama with a sophisticated, demanding director [Ralph Fiennes], a sailor musical comedy with a song-and-dance superstar [Channing Tatum] and the historical epic of the title with the aforementioned world’s biggest star [George Clooney] – each fully depicted as if being filmed in the moment.
“It blew my mind,” Channing Tatum reveals. “I was able to understand how movies were made back then—from the way they were shot to the way the camera moves seamlessly from one stage to the next. It’s like a dream walk through a studio lot in that era.”
And truly, in the end, the one thing that hasn’t changed and never will, according to Channing, is that films are still all about helping an audience escape. “The best part of HAIL, CAESAR! is that the movie is wildly entertaining on any level. It’s a tribute to an art form, even if some of its luster has been lost somehow along the way.”
And Nancy offers the perfect epilogue, “After nearly 30 years working with Joel and Ethan, I still look forward to the next one.”
As do we!
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