Sneak Peak, inside 2020 Oscar Nominated Movie sets


Last year, the cinema provided a wealth of different designs—from the muddy trenches, endless battlefields, and burned-out villages of World War I England; to the modernist, secret-filled home of a wealthy Korean family; to the ornate, baroque villages of ’30s Germany set against a backdrop of Nazi propaganda; the Hollywood of the ’60s, where nostalgia and pop culture reigned supreme; and finally, to gangster haunts as seen over five decades.

Comprising this year’s Oscar nominees for achievement in production design, talented production designers and set decorators from 1917, Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, and The Irishman will vie for the coveted trophy. The 92nd Academy Awards will be broadcast on ABC on Sunday, February 9.

Hollywood in 1969 formed the backdrop of writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, which portrays the lives of a fading cowboy star Rick Dalton (Leo DiCaprio), his sidekick/stunt double (Brad Pitt), and his neighbour Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

The film is Tarantino’s time machine to the places he remembered from his childhood growing up in Los Angeles. Designer Barbara Ling took her cues from the director, and they share a sense of nostalgia and pop culture.

Working with set decorator Nancy Haigh, they created some 150 sets, including the Playboy Mansion, Tate and Dalton’s Hollywood Hills midcentury houses, as well as the Manson Family’s home at the now-defunct Spahn Movie Ranch.

Nominated for 10 Oscars, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman features nostalgia and period-perfect interiors on full display. It tells the tale of underworld boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), mob hitman Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), and Teamsters head Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

The film’s sets were created by two-time Emmy-winning production designer Bob Shaw and Emmy-winning set decorator Regina Graves, who were recognized for their spot-on period work. Spanning five decades beginning with the ’50s, 295 filming locations depict Washington, D.C., Miami Beach, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Key sets include the mob-favorite Philadelphia eatery Villa di Roma, where deals were made over Chianti and pasta. The designers also built hotel rooms from the ground up at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Brooklyn.

Set in Germany during World War II, Jojo Rabbit centers around a young 10-year-old member of the Hitler Youth brigade, his stylish resistance-fighting mom Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), and the unlikeliest of characters, his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler.

In the film, designed by Ra Vincent, the Czech Republic doubled for Nazi Germany, and Vincent went with a different colour-and-style approach from most other movies with this setting. “Germany in the 1930s was this vibrant country, and society was in its artistic zenith,” says the New Zealand–born designer.

Working with set decorator Nora Sopková, they constructed the family’s home on a soundstage at Prague’s Barrandov Studios to reflect Rosie’s colorful personality. Touches of Bauhaus and Surrealism mix with period-accurate Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Victorian furnishings, antiques, and lighting.

Based on a story told by director, Sam Mendes, grandfather, the Golden Globe–winning World War I epic, 1917 tells the story of two British soldiers whose mission is to deliver a letter that prevents the slaughter of 1,700 men by the Germans.

Canadian designer, Dennis Gassner was approached by Mendes to work on the picture. Filming the rigors of war in a series of long takes was just one of the many challenges the Canadian designer, Gassner faced. The chill and snow of the English winters, building trenches in the mud, not knowing what lay underneath were just a few of the many ordeals. Becoming an expert in trench design, they created mini living areas every 10–15 feet for the soldiers. War-torn villages complete with a burned-out church and 150 buildings designed in 3D modeling were re-created on the back of London’s Shepperton Studios.

With one of the most talked-about cinematic houses of the past year, it’s no wonder that director Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite received a nomination in the production-design category. The dark comedy/thriller features a poor family who ingratiates themselves with the wealthy Park family and gradually takes over their lives.


Production designer Lee Ha-jun designed the modern home on an outdoor lot at the studio from scratch, crediting a fictional architect named Namgoong Hyeonja in the film. Designing a house for a film and one for living in are often two different disciplines, with critical considerations for shooting—most glass is reflective after all—and wide spaces to accommodate cameras and other equipment. With its modern silhouettes, judicious use of wood and glass coupled with minimalist character-personifying furnishings and “secret spaces,” the house sets the stage for fear, intrigue, and the film’s plot twist.


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