Lubbock, Texas, 1934... ”The outlaws made headlines. The lawmen made history. Two steely former Texas Rangers are tasked with tracking and bringing down notorious criminals Bonnie and Clyde in this crime drama based on real events.” –Netflix
Set Decorator Susan Benjamin SDSA International shows us the intensity of doing the whole production on location. Actually that’s plural...many locations!
Note the hotplate with pan, the standing Coca-Cola cart with empty bottles below, the ubiquitous skull with horns, the wall phone in previous photo...these seemingly basic elements anchor the set with time and place, the tools and machinery give definition ...
“We actually did three camps. They were all very specific and in different locations. The Dallas Bienville slum was the second encampment. It was the more permanent encampment where people were no longer able to afford their own homes but were not migrating...”
Behind-the-scenes shot of the actors preparing for an early scene where Kevin Costner as former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer buys an arsenal of guns... As Susan mentions, this is an actual aerobics studio completely reconfigured into the period shop!
“They’re looking at the two lawmen driving up... People at the time did not trust lawmen and there was a lot of support for Bonnie and Clyde. They were adored as folk heroes for outsmarting a system that had failed so many people...”
Susan relates, “Maney Gault’s family were very poor and their house was being foreclosed. There was not a big difference between the underclasses during the Great Depression. Everyone was suffering.
I saved those sheers just for this space. It was an old shack in the middle of a cane field. I loved that the curtains were quietly red white and blue. A patriotic Texan family despite their hardships...”
“Maney lives here with his daughter and her family... There was a big divide at the time between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the country. Even people who were middle class and surviving the Depression lived simply. There was not an over abundance of “stuff” in people’s homes...”
“The house of a wealthy Texas family, as Frank Hamer married into money. We wanted it to be warm and cozy to show his softer side and also to illustrate what he was giving up in order to go after Bonnie and Clyde. The Highwaymen were not paid a lot of money and were not given a lot of money to use on the job. Frank was fortunate enough to have his wife’s Ford to hunt the outlaws. Without it, they could not have been caught...”
“We actually created the entire interior of this furniture shop, with a morgue in the back, as it was at the time of the murders. Of all the poignant moments in the film, this is the most heartbreaking one for Hamer and Gault.
We often do a lot of work that ends up on the cutting room floor, but this time it did not bother me a bit. The focus needed to be on the two partners and the commotion around the dead outlaws...”
Set Decorator Susan Benjamin SDSA International has paired with Production Designer Michael Corenblith for a number of great projects, including depictions of true-life stories, from The BLIND SIDE to FROST/NIXON and THE FINEST HOURS, to SAVING MR BANKS and THE FOUNDER...so we knew the gritty realism of THE HIGHWAYMEN would not only ring true but also have a compelling artistic quality. We’ve talked with her often about the creative process and decisions made for many of these projects. This time, she gives us another great perspective, an index of how they brought about the story, shot entirely on location... Enjoy! Karen Burg Editor
From Set Decorator Susan Benjamin SDSA International...
THE HIGHWAYMEN tells the story of the Texas Rangers who hunted down and killed the infamous outlaws/killers known as Bonnie and Clyde. Following the lead of the director, John Lee Hancock, Production Designer Michael Corenblith and I worked hard to illuminate the existing conditions in the United States that lead to the creation and tragic demise of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
The country was in the midst of a Great Depression, the gap between rich and poor was ever widening, and new technologies were changing the way laws were enforced throughout the States. Although the events depicted occurred in 1934, the story of these celebrity outlaws and the men who caught them is as relevant today as it was then.
Making this film in a record cold and rainy winter in Louisiana was a labor of love.
And so I bring to you…
The Highwaymen Set Decoration Index:
Number of States filmed in: 2 – Louisiana and Texas
Number of Louisiana Parishes filmed in: 11
Number of States Set Decorator and Buyers shopped in: 11
Number of States driven in by Texas Rangers Hamer and Gault to find Bonnie and Clyde: 5 – Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana [See Map.]
Average Cost of gas in the United States in 1934: 10 cents [$.10] per gallon
Average Cost of gas in the United States in 2018: $ 3.55 per gallon
Number of Miles Set Decorator put on rental car: 15,000 miles
Number of Sets dressed: 56
Median family income, 1934: $1,160
Number of Migrant Camps built by Set Decoration: 3
Oklahoma migrant camp
Dallas slum, Bienville
Parish Louisiana Logging camp
Number of new tents purchased: 20
Cost of new tents: $11,169.68
Number of days filmed: 40
Set Decoration Budget for the movie: $476,000 for purchases and rentals.
Special thanks to the SDSA International vendors in LA who never stop supporting us even when we stray elsewhere:
History For Hire
Warner Bros. Props and Drapery
And the Atlanta SDSA business members who make it all happen in points south:
Made to Measure
Georgia Prop Source
Antonio Raimo Gallery