THE IRISHMAN

  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma...

    The neighborhood restaurant at the heart of the film...


    Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro.
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma, exterior...

    Production Designer Bob Shaw points out,
    “Scorsese usually likes to stay as close as possible to the historical model...”


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma...

    The neighborhood restaurant at the heart of the film, is the de facto “office” for Philly mob boss Russell Bufalino...it’s where he often quietly conducts business arrangements...


    Robert De Niro. Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Joe Pesci
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma...

    Dipping bread in wine, known as Intinction, speaks to the shared Catholic traditions of Italian American Russell Bufalino [Joe Pesci] and Irish American Frank Sheeran [Robert De Niro].


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma...

    Martin Scorsese directs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci for that scene...

    See article below for fascinating details!

    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma...

    Set Decorator Regina Graves imparts,
    “Marty wanted this set to be very real, very realistic and worn.
    From the dust in the air vents to the worn tablecloths with pasta stains, we tried to keep it very lived-in. We fabricated the corner banquettes to match the straight banquettes we rented from Omega, even cutting out a hole in the back of one for a pipe to pass through, for an extra realistic touch.
    The restaurant had to change over the course of time, and we did so by changing the tablecloths, cigarette machine, liquor bottles and TVs...”


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Villa di Roma, exterior...

    A reflection of the restaurant...


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Copacabana, exterior...

    For the interior, Bob says,
    “Two distinctive elements of the real place were the large white artificial palm trees and the palm swag railings on the upper lever. The scenic department sculpted and cast all of these.”

    Regina adds,
    “Plus we had the band fronts and the carpenters added a stage.
    From very early on, I scoured eBay and I think I purchased every black Copacabana ashtray known to man.”


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, exterior...

    The Latin Casino was shot on location at the Alahambra Ballroom in Harlem...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    “The Latin Casino differed from the historic location to create a more theatrical feel to the scene,”
    Bob notes...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    Before...
    Regina reveals,
    “We prepped that set for at least a month before the week-long shoot. We transformed the entire ballroom, scenics painting the walls, construction adding the stage and building the proscenium...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    Sketch

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    Bob recalls,
    “Late in the office one night, Regina and I laid out the shape and chose the beaded trim and ornament for the enormous curved velour show curtain that was the main feature of set. We cut the shape of the panels out of paper and pinned on the trim until we were satisfied with the design...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, balcony...

    You can see the results of their design on the stage curtains behind Robert De Niro as he and Joe Pesci perform a scene...


    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    At the banquet Russell [Joe Pesci] tries to warn Jimmy Hoffa [Al Pacino] that he’s going too far...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    The wide shot gives a more complete view of the transformation.

    Regina notes,
    “We brought in all the tables, chairs, lighting, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, art, drapery and furniture...also dressing the entire balcony...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Latin Casino, banquet honoring Frank...

    And this offers a glimpse of some of the details.
    Note the fabric design of the table linens.
    Fresh florals were delivered daily through this shoot...

    Joe Pesci, Domenick Lombardozzi.
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Andrea Doria Social Club...

    The actual statue of San Gennaro that is carried in the annual Feast of San Gennaro Festival parade!
    See below for the great story of how it came to be in the film!

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Palma Boys Social Club...

    Bob says,
    “This was re-created in the same space where the actual club had been located. Intially we thought we’d never shoot there because the room was only 10’ 4” wide and 51’ long. Even though the space was awkward to dress and shoot, Marty was very excited to be in the real location. In the end it was one of our favorite sets...”

    Regina adds,
    “I actually loved dressing that set, with all the layers.
    I think we succeeded in taking it back to its original glory...”


    Robert De Niro, Domenick Lombardozzi, Joe Pesci.
    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    #21
    Umberto’s Clam House, set location before...

    The location chosen to re-create the restaurant where the hit on Joe Gallo took place...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Umberto’s Clam House, after...

    Regina explains,
    “We did this set twice, once creating the exterior on a busy street in Soho, as you see here...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Umberto’s Clam House, ...

    “...and then again rebuilding the exterior, PLUS the interior on a stage in Astoria...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Umberto’s Clam House, ...

    Bob says,
    “This was a set that Scorsese wanted to re-create as accurately as possible. We were looking at the very faint photos with a magnifying glass. It was a while before we realized that the floor tile was a fairly bright green...”

    Regina adds,
    “We found a really great photo of the model ship on the wall engulfed in a circle of cork buoys, so we duplicated that, and tried to reinterpret the interior according to the other small, indistinct photos we had...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Friendly Lounge, before...

    The location chosen for the sets for Skinny Razor’s bar

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Friendly Lounge, after...

    Regina describes for us, since we don’t have photos of the interior,
    “Shot in an empty storefront this space was converted inside and out. The bar back was built by construction, as well as the wood banquettes. The set dressers laid VCT. We rented the front bar and dressed the interior with tables, chairs, bar back dressing and smalls. The metal light fixtures were a request from Rodrigo and custom made by Cityknickerbocker...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Friendly Lounge neighborhood...

    Several times these sets also needed to have the streets on either side and across from them be included in the re-creation...here’s an example...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Frank’s house, 1970s...

    Regina remembers,
    “That house, built on stage, felt like a very traditional home for the period, playing off the colonial ‘70s look of the brown appliances in the kitchen, the brick patterned floor tile, the colonial artwork hanging in the living room. Very Sears Roebuck...”

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Frank’s house, 1970s...

    Frank and his family, which includes his ex-wife who has remained friends with him and his second wife over the years.
    Here, the browns, ochres, “earth-tones” palette of the time...


    Anna Paquin, Aleska Palladino, Jennifer Mudge, Marin Ireland, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Robert De Niro.
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Jimmy Hoffa’s lake house...

    “A great location, with great bones...the wood-paneled walls played a big part in choosing the palette and furnishings.
    We stuck to a very traditional 1950s-‘60s colonial look. I’ve always thought of and referenced Lucy and Ricky’s Country House in I LOVE LUCY. It has that same look...”


    Al Pacino, Welker White, Rebecca Faulkenberry, Ken Wulf Clark, Jesse Plemons.
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Edgewater Hotel, Chicago 1959...

    Suite where Frank meets Jimmy Hoffa

    “This was modeled after a little apartment, very traditional 1950’s browns gold and green color palette...”

    Al Pacino, Robert De Niro
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Washington DC hotel...

    “This is the hotel we see a lot of after Jimmy Hoffa is released from prison.
    It’s 1974 and in DC, so we wanted to keep the room very “presidential” traditional, playing up the reds, golds and traditional element of furnishings for the setting, complete with a framed George Washington image hanging over the bed...”


    Al Pacino, Robert De Niro
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Deauville Hotel, Miami...

    Regina explains...
    “The living room area was circular, so I had 2 semi-circular sofas reupholstered a silvery white. I also loved the pair of gold iron headboards purchased from Etsy that we reupholstered in a blue velvet. Bob refers to the room as the “PILLOW TALK” room. The lampshades were fantastic vintage shades with gold trim.

    It was very important for me to have all the lampshades in the film, especially the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, to be original period shades. They don’t make those shapes as much anymore and something as simple as a lampshade can take you right out of the period if it’s not correct...”




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Howard Johnson’s, Ohio 1974...

    Although you might think they found a convenient Howard Johnson’s hotel, this is a complete re-creation.

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Howard Johnson’s, Ohio 1974...

    Russell and Frank and their wives enjoy the pool on the way to an out-of-state wedding...and a hit that Frank doesn’t know about yet....

    Kathrine Narducci, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Howard Johnson’s, before...

    Bob and team took on the challenge....

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.


  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Howard Johnson’s, coffee shop...

    Bob says...
    “The shape of the ceiling is a key element to this set. Most of the research came from Howard Johnson's post cards and promotional material.”

    Regina adds,
    “I found an original metal seatback from a counter stool on eBay and we had it reproduced by a local welder. We bought every Howard Johnson’s ashtray and juice glass we could find...and scored big when we found the original china from an old Howard Johnson’s! I think it really came to life with the light fixtures from Practical Props and the graphics and placemats Holly Watson designed for us.”




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Howard Johnson’s, Ohio 1974...

    We love all of the classic elements in this set!
    They emphasize Russell’s aloneness and discomfort in what he is about to tell Frank...

    Joe Pesci.
    Photo by Niko Tavernise ©2019 Netflix. All rights reserved.




  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Bowling Alley soda fountain...

    Iconic!
    And a more complex ice cream store was created as a setting for reactions to the horrific news
    of November 22, 1963...
    See article below for details...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Arthur Grasso’s Barber Shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel...

    “This was a larger transformation then you may think.
    We dressed the entire basement lobby of the hotel, creating a newsstand, men’s clothing shop, travel agency, florist shop and barber shop.

    The barber shop was a stage set that was built from top to bottom. The furniture was all re upholstered to match the research from the original Grasso’s barber shop. It was a fun set to shop for and to dress, and the editing between the stage set and the location was seamless!...”


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Stuckey’s...

    Before...

    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.



  • set decorator
    Regina Graves SDSA

    production designer
    Bob Shaw

    Netflix


    Stuckey’s...

    “An old defunct restaurant/rest stop on the Sawmill Parkway, it had 2 buildings with a parking lot in the center. When Bob saw it, it reminded him of the Stuckey’s stores he would go to as a kid.
    So, we created a Stuckey’s!
    The art department added an island for our gas pumps, and we turned the other smaller building into a gas station/auto body repair shop, for the scene where Frank briefly meets Russell long before they formally meet...”


    Courtesy of Netflix ©2019. All rights reserved.




Martin Scorsese demands the best.
He wanted the most realistic sets possible for his epic THE IRISHMAN, 
Production Designer Bob Shaw and Set Decorator Regina Graves SDSA tell us how they made that happen!
 
We talk about their collaboration and process in bringing about such true-to-life re-creations of the past decades for Scorsese’s exacting epic. Then we go into even more detail with Regina, about her process with her crew and notes about some of the key sets, which for this extensive portrayal is actually many!
 
But first, some amazing numbers:
Film viewing length: 3hours 29minutes 
Sets: 295 [294 dressed]
Sets built on stage: 28
Scenes: 319
Set dressers: 60-80 per day
Shooting days: 108 
 
SET DECOR: Collaborating with each other on this film and other upcoming projects...Please tell us about your process... 
 
Bob: I like to do as much research as possible before the set decorator and art director start. Usually I’ll put things in a Dropbox so we have something to start the conversation. 
 
Regina: Yes, it’s a great foundation. We look at a lot of research together, we discuss the characters, who they are, what they may do for a living, etc. We discuss the set or location and talk about different ideas for the spaces. When it comes down to the actual dressing, Bob and I usually play off of a specific fabric, wallpaper or piece of furniture that we really like and design the room settings around that.  

I take a lot of mental notes when Bob is talking...he references a lot of small detail from his childhood that I like to find and surprise him with on set. For example, he told me about a sugar bowl with a silver lid that he would always play with on his grandmother’s table when he was young. I had to make sure I found one just like it for Frank’s house!
 
 
When you’re in the midst of everything, how do you communicate, keep clear on decision-making?
 
Bob: Communication within the art department never seems to be a problem, no matter how busy we get. It takes diligence to keep on the same page with other departments. Staying in sync with the costume department is sometimes more of a challenge, because we can often be in different orbits or not located in the same place. We try to make good use of our prep time, because once we start shooting, we are usually running in different directions.
 
When I have the good fortune to work with Regina, we seem to get most of our decision making done late in the day when everyone else has gone home. We jokingly refer to going into the “selectron chamber”, which is just a table with a couple of color-correct lamps. There can be so many different color temperatures of light in an office that colors can look different from one side of the room to the next. 
It can often be the most satisfying part of the day when things really feel like they are coming together. As we weed through things, it feels like we are holding auditions and having final call backs. When we unpin a photo from the board, I sometimes say “thank you for coming” to the sofa or whatever it is. 
 
Regina: It’s a lot of work but we have a lot of fun doing it. Bob likes to whistle and play show tunes, so no matter how stressful the job can get, our work environment is focused but relaxed and personable. And we text often when we’re in different places.
 
 
Collaboration with Martin Scorsese
Did he push for exacting re-creations? Where was there flex?
 
Regina: I’m going to defer to Bob to answer these, as he has the relationship with Marty...  
Bob: Scorsese usually likes to stay as close as possible to the historical model. 
Since reality is not always cinematic, there can be exceptions. 
 
The Villa di Roma, which still exists in Philadelphia today, is actually rather plain and boxy. It’s the sort of restaurant that has the menu on a black and white letter board on the wall. It doesn’t convey a sense of the period. 
It took a while to convince Marty that we could achieve a “lived-in” sense of reality by building a set instead of shooting in a location. He said “you can smell the gravy in the floorboards” in those places. 
More of the story takes place in that restaurant than any other location in the script so it really had to be built. We took care to include as many “off notes” as possible to make it feel like home. The ceiling tiles were crooked, the floor tiles broken, and plumbing ran right along the walls of the dining room.
 
The Latin Casino also differed from the historic location to create a more theatrical feel to the scene. Regina and I laid out the shape and chose the beaded trim and ornament for the enormous curved velour show curtain that was the main feature of set, late in the office one night. We cut the shape of the panels out of paper and pinned on the trim until we were satisfied with the design. 
 
I’m not sure what it says that those are my two favorite sets.
 
 

Were you able to surprise him with anything?
 
Bob: The biggest surprise was when the set decoration department was able to borrow the actual saint used in the Feast of San Gennaro Festival for the window of one of our social clubs.
 
Regina: That was great! Marty wanted a statue of San Gennaro for the Andrea Doria Social Club window and he requested it 2 days before the shoot. Ashley, one of my fantastic assistant set decorators [Ashley Wellbrock, SDSA Associate], made one phone call to her Aunt Theresa, who she says is part of the “Jesus Posse” in New Jersey. Aunt Theresa made one call to the Diocese in NY, and in a couple of hours our guys were picking up THE original San Gennaro statue that actually gets carried at the San Gennaro feast! Thank god for Ashley, Aunt Theresa and The Jesus Posse.
 
 
Collaboration with DP Rodrigo Prieto — especially with practical lighting!
 
Bob: In the age of digital photography, sets are often primarily lit from the practicals. We would discuss the quality and light he was looking for in each scene, and then look for the fixtures to achieve it. Rodrigo is very specific about saying whether he is looking for a downlight, something that bounces off the ceiling, or whatever he is envisioning.
 
Regina: Rodrigo was very open about what he liked and didn’t like. I always had an arsenal of lamps on set for him to select from, in case he needed additional lighting or in case a shade wasn’t working for him, etc. Rodrigo suggested that we use the red lamp shades for the table lamps for the big banquet scene. At first, we were hesitant, but then we realized it was a great idea when we finally saw them in the space and lit up.
 
 
Tell us about dealing with the number of sets in the number of days you had. Were you able to stick to schedule? 
Logistics and problem-solving... 
 
Bob: Our supervising art director, Laura Ballinger Gardner, is astonishingly good at tracking everything. She makes flow charts of all of the work...very detailed and usually very accurate. Often these attempts to figure things out on paper are futile, but never with Laura’s work. I can’t imagine having tackled this show without her. I say that her credit should be “air traffic controller”.
 
Regina: Yes, Laura’s the best at scheduling (not to mention everything else). She kept things going so we always knew what was being built, when the scenics would be done, when the dressers would have the sets, etc. 
It was very structured, which made things so much easier and kept us all organized
 
Looking back now it’s easy to say it was a bear of a movie, but we didn’t hit that many road bumps. We were on a strict schedule and, of course, we were surprised with additional sets and schedule changes, but I feel like we took it all in stride and dealt with whatever was thrown at us. It was organized chaos at times, but it was all good. Somehow, we managed to get through it all. I think one of the reasons was that we had a great crew and we have all worked together multiple times. 
 
 
What are you thankful to have had in your back pocket?
 
Bob: I was grateful to have been personally familiar with many elements of the script. My mother’s family was from South Philadelphia, my aunt lived down the road from the Latin Casino, and my grandmother was from the same area as The Penn and Drape Shop. 
It helped to know the turf very well. 
 
Regina: One thing I’m really thankful we had in our back pocket was Ashley’s Aunt Theresa!
And my brilliant team. 

~~~~~~

Editor’s note:
Here are more fascinating details from Regina about process, her teams, resources and specific sets!

Regina’s team:
Assistant Set Decorators: 
Lisa Scoppa, Ashley Wellbrock SDSA Associate, Pippa Culpepper
I was very lucky to have these 3 women!
Lisa and Pippa were also Second Unit Set Decorators
Barbara Peterson-Malesci SDSA was Set Decorator for Second Unit Miami
Leadman: Jerry DeTitta  
OnSet Dresser, Key: Adam Goodnoff-Cernese + Gabu Camilo
Art Department Coordinator for Set Dec: Miccah Underwood
Kept track of the budget amongst other things, kept us rolling on a day to day basis
Set Dec Department Assistant: Jessie Fugarino, Set Dec PA superwoman 
Research/ Clearances: Nara DeMuro, thorough research made timelines and boards of all the characters, sets...built an online library for us!
 

Biggest challenge? 
I think the biggest challenges were finding a lot of the period furnishings.  
It’s not as easy as people think to find 20 matching period prison tables or to furnish an entire HoJo’s coffee shop, or Lums Stand, not to mention finding all the perfect oversized characters for a miniature golf course or dressing a 1950’s bowling alley. 
 
The number of storefronts that were dressed were also a challenge. Luckily, I had Pippa, who is a connoisseur at window displays! She soon became the one in charge of all the storefronts. 
 
We also had an amazing set dressing crew, without them there wouldn’t be any sets to shoot! We had a really great team, and we were all very organized and resourceful. We all worked together, compiling vendors, and dressing multiple sets at a time. Communication and, again, sticking to our schedule was key.
 
 
Resourcing!
Because the movie spans 50 years, we really had a lot of fun shopping for this show. We shopped all over the US and Europe, via traveling and online. We also used our local and LA prop houses.*
 
Early on, Lisa and I took a trip to LA and shopped all the LA Prop Houses. We ended up loading 3 tractor trailers full of furniture and set dressing which included the red banquettes for the Villa di Roma from Omega, and all the period gas station pumps from Air Designs, Alley Cats and RC Vintage.
 
History for Hire produced period liquor labels for us, as well as food labels for the multiple grocery stores we dressed. 
In LA, we also used Modernica Props, Advanced liquidators, Faux Library, LCW Props, Practical Props, Lennie Marvin, Linoleum City, Warner Bros, Universal and Premiere Props.
 
In New York, Carpet Time supplied us with miles of carpet and linoleum. Cityknickerbocker came up with great table lamps, even making us custom lighting for Hoffa’s office.  
Ron Fennick has a great collection of period vending and cigarette machines and pay phones. I think we rented all of them. 
We used all the local NY prop houses, too: Eclectic, Newel Props, Bridge Props, PropNspoon, State Supply and Arenson. American Resource Medical. 
We are so lucky to have all these resources at our fingertips; at times calling items in for an emergency ASAP pick up.
 
Wallpapers and window dressings from Astek, American Screen & Windows, Stricklands, Fabric City and Kravet, as well as Warner Bros and Omega Drapery departments. Visual Alchemy supplied most of the period-correct TVs. Capitol Awning was working seven-days-a-week to produce all our store awnings.
 
We purchased furniture from Chairish, Furnish Green, Chairloom, Ebay, Etsy, ReUse America and Facebook marketplace to name a few.
 
 
And your process working with your Assistant Set Decorators...
Again, I was very lucky to have them on board. They are all talented set decorators themselves, who have keyed their own jobs. I’m so happy they all wanted to work with me on this. I think we all knew from the beginning that this was going to be a special project, which will be talked about for years to come and become a Scorsese classic.  

Lisa, at first, took on the role as an assistant but then went over to man the second unit. When she left to do her own show, Pippa took over as second unit decorator. Lisa, Pippa and Ashley each bring so much to the table. They all have an incredible eye for detail, are very resourceful and love to dress sets. More important than any of that, though, is they are all good people with terrific personalities. I loved going to work and collaborating with them every day...no drama ever involved with these women!    
I tried to break up the sets best I could and assigned them different jobs in addition to the shopping and sourcing they all did. 
Ashley became the person in charge of the hardware (which is a NY Decorator’s job), Pippa was put on window dressing duty and Lisa took care of second unit.
 
 
Working with your Leadman Jerry DeTitta and crew… 
Jerry and I have worked together many times and I have to say I consider him not only a co-worker, but a very close friend. I feel the same way about his crew. We have a very easy-going relationship and we also have an open line of communication...we speak every single day when working together. 
 
If you thought my job was hard with all the sets we had to dress, you can just imagine his! He is very organized and also sticks to a schedule. He had to man about 40-80 people a day, and send them to dress and undress multiple sets, sometimes spread across New York and New Jersey. Sometimes we had 6 trucks a day working. I don’t know how he and his crew did it, but they did. Jerry is a very hands-on leadman, he visits each set we are dressing every day to make sure things are running smoothly, and he himself is very resourceful. There are certain things I don’t have to worry about with him, like ordering glass, the workings for the plumbing or pipe, etc. He just does it. He’s one of the best here in NY, and I was very lucky to have him on this project with me.
 
 
Working with Construction & Graphics & Scenic Artists…
Again, the best of the best. Nick Miller and his crew are great to work with, always helping us out, even building Hoffa’s desk for us after our team wasn’t able to find one of that size and stature. Holly Watson, our graphic artist, and her team did an incredible job on all the store signage, the magazines, ads, to name a few. Pat Sprott and her scenic team, all top notch and all were ready to help set dressing whenever needed.
 
 
What did you discover on this project? 
I discovered that I really like the rush of big films or TV projects and find them easier to do then smaller projects. I feel they challenge me more and keep my game up. 
I also found out through Ashley that we have a local vendor that can produce 2” metal blinds in an hour!! Who would have thought? We found this out after a very important shipment of blinds was delayed because of bad weather, held up in a FedEx facility. The blinds were very important to a scene we were shooting, and they never showed up! Ashley called me and said, “I found someone who can help. He can make 52 blinds, and we can pick them up in an hour!”
 
 
We have to ask, what was your favorite piece of set dressing? 
My favorite piece of set dressing was a model of a teamster truck that was used at the McClellan hearings. It sat on the table in front of Bobby Kennedy. It was one of the first pieces of set dressing I purchased. Holly (graphics ) made a teamster logo for it so it matched the one we saw on the research. I still haven’t gotten over the fact that the truck went missing after filming…  
 
 
THE SETS !
Regina bravely takes us through some of the key sets!
 
Restaurants were key, from Italian neighborhood eateries to nightclubs to diners...
Villa Di Roma, Philadelphia...Russell Bufalino’s unofficial “office”
Marty wanted this set to be very real, very realistic and worn. From the dust in the air vents to the worn tablecloths with pasta stains, we tried to keep it very lived-in. We fabricated the corner banquettes to match the straight banquettes we rented from Omega, even cutting out a hole in the back of one for a pipe to pass through, for an extra realistic touch. The restaurant had to change over the course of time, and we did so by changing the tablecloths, cigarette machine, liquor bottles and TVs. 
 
Umberto’s Clam House, NYC...The killing of Joe Gallo.
We did this set twice, once creating the exterior on a busy street in Soho and then again rebuilding the exterior AND interior on a stage in Astoria. We didn’t have as many photos of the interior as we did the exterior, so we had to really look closely and guess what certain color things were. We found a really great photo of the model ship on the wall engulfed in a circle of cork buoys, so we duplicated that, and tried to reinterpret the interior according to the other small photos we had. Lisa and I even went to the Umberto’s that is still up and running at a different location to see if we could find anything else out, but we didn’t. We had to shoot that set on stage first with the drop ceiling intact, then removed for an overhead shot.
 
The Latin Casino, NJ...Banquet in honor of Frank Sheeran
The Latin Casino was shot on location at the Alahambra Ballroom in Harlem. We prepped that set for at least a month before the week-long shoot. We transformed the entire ballroom, scenics painting the walls, construction adding the stage and building the proscenium. We brought in all the tables, chairs, lighting, dinnerware, glassware, flatware, art, drapery and furniture...also dressing the entire balcony. 
Our florist, Anne Wennigar, came every day to refresh the flowers.  
 
Howard Johnson’s coffee shop and hotel, Ohio
HoJo’s coffee shop was built on stage at the Marcy Armory. We had the banquettes and chairs custom-built and reupholstered. I found an original metal seatback from a counter stool on eBay and we had it reproduced by a local welder. We bought every Howard Johnson’s ashtray and juice glass we could find, through vintage shops as well as eBay and Etsy, and scored big when we found the original china from an old Howard Johnson’s! I think it really came to life with the light fixtures from Practical Props and the graphics and placemats Holly designed for us.
 
...also...
Friendly Lounge, Philadelphia - Skinny Razor’s bar 
Shot in an empty storefront this space was converted inside and out. The bar back was built by construction, as well as the wood banquettes. The set dressers laid VCT.  We rented the front bar and dressed the interior with tables, chairs, bar back dressing and smalls. The metal light fixtures were a request from Rodrigo and custom  made by Cityknickerbocker.  
 
Andrea Doria Social Club, NYC
This was a storefront in Brooklyn, we dressed the windows with the San Gennaro statue and another saint…
 
Palma Boys Social Club
Palma Boys was actually shot at the location where the original Palma Boys Social club stood. It was a total redress from the floors to the walls. It was a very long narrow space. 
I actually loved dressing that set, with all the layers.
I think we succeeded in taking it back to its original glory.
 
The Copacabana 
We shot the Copa at a comedy club on 23rd street. Again, so much went in to redressing that set. From the scenics painting the walls, designing the palm decor, the band fronts to the carpenters adding a stage. 
From very early on, I scoured eBay and I think I purchased every black Copacabana ashtray known to man.  
 
Villa Romano bar, NJ
Villa Romano bar was the place where the teamster rally for Tony “Pro” took place. That was a fun set. We had a lot of research for the interior, so really tried to get the feel of it all with the wood-topped folding tables, the beer pitchers and the amount of Tony Pro signage and confetti!!
 
Vesuvio, NYC
This was shot in the party room on the second floor of a restaurant in Suffern, NY. We brought in everything you see—tables, chairs, chandeliers, art. 
I remember this so well because the woman who did our draperies made a mistake and sewed ALL of the draperies together!! There were no splits! 
We found this out the day before shooting, as we didn’t have much time to dress the set. The town found us a local seamstress who worked thru the night to fix our draperies.
Yeah, that was one of our nightmares. Funny thing is I can only remember two, and they both happened in Suffern! 
 
Melrose Diner, Philadelphia
The Melrose Diner was shot at the “Goodfellas” Diner, that was the Whispers...not that whispers laundromat scheme scene. 
That diner has great bones, so we just added period window dressing and period set dressing on and behind the counters.
 
Ice Cream Shop, Nashville, November 22, 1963
This was shot at Hildebrandt’s in Williston, a great old-time soda ice cream parlor. It, too, had great bones, but we did a total redress of the lighting, smalls and displays, also bringing in custom ice cream chairs and tables…not to mention all the candy!
 
Machus Red Fox Restaurant, MI
This was shot at a golf course in Orange County. The front was totally transformed by the construction, scenic and greens crew- to look like the Red Fox. We were responsible for the lighting fixtures and the telephone that Hoffa uses.
 
Armory Lounge, IL  
This was shot in the basement of a local Elks-type club. 
We did so much in there, but saw so little. I think the only quick part that made the cut was Tony Pro shaking people’s hands as the news of Kennedy becoming president airs on the TV. He’s sitting at the bar with a cigar in his mouth.
 
Lum’s Hot Dog Stand, Miami  

Aww, this was a cute little set! Bob found a great little coffee shop /diner in Tuxedo, NY that he thought the exterior resembled a Lums in Miami, and we basically transformed the entryway into a small Lums Stand
What you don’t see is the real restaurant behind the little set that was built. 
We found all the old Lums glassware online, Art department designed and built a little kitchen that we outfitted, Greens added some palm trees and with the help of Visual FX, we were in Miami!
 
 
HOMES...“Italian Provincial”
This time period and style is very easy for me to digest and get right as I know it very well, having grown up in an Italian American household with my Italian grandmother living just below us. I call it “Italian Provincial”. 
The only way I can describe it is it has its own look: Je ne sais quoi. Plastic slipcovered furniture, Italian landscapes, religious art and statuary, lamps that usually come in pairs, man/woman figures, lots of greens, golds, reds, oranges. Smalls, like saints and rosaries, Palm Sunday palms saved and in the form of a cross, family photos, bronzed baby shoes, saved Mass cards, doilies, cut-embroidered tablecloths…
That bottle of Galliano or Sambuca in the china closet...I can go on and on…
 
...Bufalino house
Russell and Carrie’s house, a really nice set, was a total redress at the location. All new furniture to fit our Italian provincial style, new draperies, carpets and period Christmas tree and decorations. It was a fun set and I was really happy with it. 
Ashley originally found an authentic silver tinsel tree, but we were afraid it would catch fire, so we went with the ‘50s artificial fir with white snowy tips instead. 
Bob had the scenics paint a wedding portrait of Carrie Buffalino that we framed in a vintage frame. 
My husband baked Italian Christmas cookies and struffoli for the dining table (the extra cookies were later carted away to Marty’s trailer). 
[Editor’s note: Regina’s husband is a NY chef!]
 
...Frank’s first house, 1950s with first wife Mary + 3 children 
That was a stage set that was designed based on Bob’s grandmother’s house in Philly and on photos that we were given of Frank’s actual house where he lived with his first wife. I loved that set because of all the 1930’s-40’s-50’s elements in it, and I loved the wallpaper that we bought from Hannah’s Treasures...the wall tile...it all worked well together. 
 
...Frank’s 2nd house, with 2nd wife Irene 
This house, also built on stage, felt like a very traditional home for the period, playing off the colonial ‘70s look of the brown appliances in the kitchen, the brick patterned floor tile, the colonial artwork hanging in the living room. Very Sears Roebuck... 
For the 1990s, we changed it up by adding new lamps, new electronics and, of course, a new recliner for Frank. The scenics really aged the walls, carpets and upholstery—so much that when you entered the set you felt like you could smell the cigarette smoke embedded in all the dressing…
 
...Frank’s assisted living facility
This entire set was shot in an empty hospital that had been used as homeless shelter. Most of the furniture for this set was sourced from Hotel Liquidators. We dressed many empty rooms as well as Frank’s Room. The hospital railing was installed by the set dressers, as was the religious statuary. 
Everything you see in the first minutes of the film and in the last minutes of the film was put in by the art department. If you look closely, the facility was called St Regina’s. Again, a very large dress. I think we spent 2-3 weeks there prepping and dressing all the rooms. 
 
...Jimmy Hoffa’s lake house
Another great location that had great bones. The wood-paneled walls played a big part in choosing the palette and furnishings. We stuck to a very traditional 1950s-‘60s colonial look. I’ve always thought of and referenced Lucy and Ricky’s Country House in I LOVE LUCY. It has that same look.
 
...Jimmy’s condo, Miami 1972  
What a fun set! This was where they eat the Lums hot dogs. 
Early on, we decided on the turquoise peachy palette for this build, playing off the fun fabrics we found. The furniture was all purchased and some repainted to go with our theme. The tall kitchen barstools were kind of a joke but were really fantastic looking, so we went with them, as well as the pair of brass “parrot” mid-century standing lamps in the living room. 
I remember Marty requesting flamingos, so we made sure we had a flamingo statue or two and a print of flamingos on the wall…
 
...Sally’s house in Pontiac, MI 
Sally’s was a stage set that had to match the location set of the exterior. This house was supposed have been occupied by an older woman who was away in a nursing home, so we wanted it to look like an old woman lived there, dusty and well lived-in. We had to purchase multiple pieces of linoleum for the Hoffa scene. 
I have to admit the set actually felt so real, it had an eerie feeling to it, like we were in the actual house where Hoffa went missing.
 
...Tony Pro's Miami house/pool  
Another great location that we got to fill with cool ‘60s outdoor set dressing.
 
...Dolores’s house  
This was a great set! I was really happy the way it turned out. I’m sorry we don’t see much of it. It was straight out of the ‘80s, complete with overstuffed furniture and geometric rugs, that pink, green and grey palette, rose-colored vertical blinds. 
The only thing missing was a print by Nagel!
 
 
HOTELS & motels were significant as well...
All of these hotel sets were built on a stage and each one had a different look and feel, primarily because they were all during different time periods and in different states.  
 
...Howard Johnson’s
The HoJo’s hotel room was set in 1974, so it was decorated very much to the period. We looked at tons of research from different HoJo’s hotel rooms and riffed off of them. We made these great white upholstered headboards for the bed and daybed and had great draperies and bedspreads made. It was a cool looking little set and very authentic. I especially loved the wall mural that the art department designed and the little sink vanity area...
 
...Edgewater Hotel, Chicago 1959 – suite where Frank meets Jimmy...
This was modeled after a little apartment, very traditional 1950’s browns gold and green color palette.
 
...Deauville Hotel, Miami   
Another one of my favorites, very light and airy...blues, whites, pinks, golds.
The living room area was circular, so I had 2 semi-circular sofas reupholstered a silvery white. I also loved the pair of gold iron headboards purchased from Etsy that we reupholstered in a blue velvet. Bob refers to the room as the “PILLOW TALK” room. The lampshades were fantastic vintage shades with gold trim. 
It was very important for me to have all the lampshades in the film, especially the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, to be original period shades. They don’t make those shapes as much anymore and something as simple as a lampshade can take you right out of the period if it’s not correct.
 
...Washington DC hotel 
This is the hotel we see a lot of after Jimmy Hoffa is released from prison.  
It’s 1974 and in DC, so we wanted to keep the room very “presidential” traditional, playing up the reds, golds and traditional element of furnishings for the setting, complete with a framed George Washington image hanging over the bed.
 
...Andrew Jackson Hotel, Nashville, 1962
We had a lot of photo research of the actual hotel, including a photo of Jimmy cooking eggs on a stove at the hotel. We found a complete metal kitchen cabinet set similar to the one in the research photos, and then discovered a similar wallpaper, light fixture, dining table and went from there, finding the perfect living room furnishings at Bridge Props. It turned into another nice-looking set...
 
...NYC motel room where Frank chooses guns, 1972
This was shot in the same room as the HoJo’s motel room and also was a swing set for Dorfman Office
The hero of that scene was a yellow 1970’s bedspread found on Etsy.
 
...Lewisburg motel
This was shot in the lobby of the Ardsley Motel but again was a total redress…
 
...Park Sheraton Hotel – Lobby + Arthur Grasso’s Barber Shop
This was a larger transformation then you may think. 
We dressed the entire basement lobby of the hotel, creating a newsstand, men’s clothing shop, travel agency, florist shop and barber shop. Again, Pippa dressed all the windows to 1950’s perfection. 
The barber shop was a stage set that was built from top to bottom. The furniture was all re upholstered to match the research from the original Grasso’s barber shop. It was a fun set to shop for and to dress, and the editing between the stage set and the location was seamless!
 
 
OFFICES
Lawyers, Unions, Washington...office abound!
...Jimmy Hoffa’s Teamsters’ union office/headquarters in Washington DC
My favorite set! 
I thought it was very slick and loved the colors, especially the orange Knoll drapery fabrics we used. I also loved all the custom furnishings, lighting and art. Probably the most sophisticated and decorated of all our sets.
 
...Frank’s regional office, Delaware
This was a great location, again with great bones—the paneled walls brought us back to the period. 
The best part of this set was the tooled leather Teamster wall hanging behind Frank’s desk, on loan from his family, and also, the small black and white photo of a man boxing with a kangaroo. Legend has it that Frank Sheeran boxed a kangaroo when he first got out of the army. 
         
...Teamster Detroit Local/Jo
Jo’s office was shot at the same location as Frank’s office, it was great office in Long Island that looked like it came out of the 1950s. We used a lot of their green desks and added our own artwork lamps smalls and dressing.
 
...Lawyer Bill Bufalino’s office
Location in a municipal building...again all the furniture was brought in. 
 
...Hoffa’s Senate hearing
We shot this in an old bank building. This set had a lot of important elements. 
It was something that actually took place and had been filmed, so we tried to re-create the scene as best we could from the research. 
Again, the carpenters built us a long 20’ table, and we needed so many matching Bank of England chairs...around 125, and so many matching tables! Then the story of my favorite set dressing piece, the teamster truck. A lot of paperwork was created for that scene, as well as boards and diagrams.
 
 
The variety of other sets...
A quick list: Bank, Cab garage, Cadillac Linen Service, Concrete plant, Food Fair Market, Grocery stores: Chicago & Philadelphia, Butcher shop, Live Chicken market, Meat Company office, Milestone Hauling/PA, Delaware trucking company, Beauty parlor, Pennsylvania Drape & Curtains, Casket store, Fur shop, Silver shop, Shoe store, Salerno Clothing shop, Tony Provenzano's business, Angelo Bruno's business, Baptisms: Mother of Sorrows Church, courthouses, Prison, Car wash, Bowling alley, Florida Dog Racetrack...and more!
 
And, another key set...where Frank first meets Russell, a Stuckeys/Texaco...like the Howard Johnson’s, a step into the shared experience of an era...
This was an old defunct restaurant/rest stop on the Sawmill Parkway. It had 2 buildings with a parking lot in the center. When Bob saw it, it reminded him of the Stuckey’s stores he would go to as a kid. So, we created a Stuckey’s! The art department added an island for our gas pumps, and we turned the other smaller building into a gas station/auto body repair shop. 
 
What was the first set shot? And the last? 
Our first set shot was the Columbus Circle shooting, the flashback that you see the Italian bunting blowing in the sky and the people running in slow motion, where the mob guy gets shot in the head and the police grab the shooter.
The last was the exterior motel where Frank and Irene first consummate their love for each other.
  
 
Editor’s note:
*Set Decorator Regina Graves wishes to acknowledge and thank the SDSA Business members she and her team worked with on this extensive project, particularly:
Advanced Liquidators
Air Designs
Alley Cats/RC Vintage
Alpha Companies Motion Picture Rentals
American Foliage & Design Group
AMCO/American Screen and Windows
Arenson Prop Centre
Astek Wallcovering
Bridge Furniture & Props
Capitol Awning 
Carpet Time
Chairish
City Knickerbocker
Eclectic/Encore
Fabric City
Faux Library
Ron Fennick/ Fennick NYC
Furnish Green
Hand Prop Room
History For Hire
Kravet
LCW Props
Lennie Marvin’s Propheaven
Linoleum City
Lost and Found Props & Surface Archive
Modernica Props
Newel Props
Omega |Cinema Props
Practical Props
Premiere Props
PropNSpoon
RC Vintage
ReUse America Vintage Warehouse
Strickland Window Coverings Set Services
Universal Studios Property
Visual Alchemy
Warner Bros. Drapery
Warner Bros. Property
Zarin Fabrics
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
         
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



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