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Design for Living: Evaluating the Oscar Nominees for Best Production Design

Design for Living: Evaluating the Oscar Nominees for Best Production Design

1. “Mad Max: Fury Road: The challenge for production designer Colin Gibson was re-imagining how the apocalypse might look and creating fresh and arresting images for the wasteland and a new social order wrapped around humanity’s “comeback.” The West African desert provided riverbed canyons, large orange-and-pink dunescapes, a nearby mountainous ridge, and “empty, open nothingness for 360 degrees.” Meanwhile, the War Rig and the War Boy’s vehicles were conceived as salvage wreckage, but designed as a combo of fetish and beauty.

WATCH: “How Best Director Contender George Miller Made Oscar-Nominated ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (EXCLUSIVE)”

2. “The Revenant: Production designer Jack Fisk was passionately drawn to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s intense physicality and metaphysical journey. He transformed the frozen wilderness of the Canadian Rockies into a naturalistic wonder, building a fort with a pallet of wood discarded by the Park Service, and creating a “dilapidated” church that became a haunting dreamscape. The environment became a metaphor about nature and a life lesson for Leonardo DiCaprio’s monk-like fur trapper: “It’s not for you or against you but just there, and you have to make it work for you.”

READ MORE: “How ‘The Revenant’ Changed Emmanuel Lubezki’s Life” 

3. “The Martian: Production designer Arthur Max calls this “NASA-meets-‘2001: A Space Odyssey.'” His grand design for the magnificent Hermes spaceship is a triumph of the collaboration between art direction and VFX (courtesy of Framestore). It faithfully followed NASA’s design philosophy: modular with interconnecting segments, a gravity wheel that creates artificial gravity in rotation, and powered by an ion plasma nuclear propulsion engine. And after immersing himself in all of the research and providing a future outlook, “it was about making it look cool.”
READ MORE: “How They Crafted Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ into an Epic and Intimate Journey”

4. “Bridge of Spies: Last year’s Oscar winner Adam Stockhausen (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) used real footage of the construction of the Berlin Wall, which had never been depicted before in a Hollywood movie. This was key in recreating an authentic-looking war-torn East Berlin in the Polish town of Breslau, which borders Germany, along with using the actual Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, where the titular swap of spies occurred. The critical location was the bridge itself, which still looks great but posed a challenge because it remains a busy traffic artery. “It was emotionally significant to be shooting in places that were the real thing when we could.”

READ MORE: “How They Designed Cold-War Era New York and Berlin for Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies'”

5. “The Danish Girl: The subtle craft of transforming transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) extended into the creative production design of Eve Stewart, who used the celebratory paintings of Elbe’s wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), along with the dramatic difference in settings (restrictive Copenhagen vs. progressive Paris, though actually shot in Brussels). Stewart was inspired by Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi, whose muted palette became a motif at the beginning for the separation of spaces and Elbe’s loneliness. But the paintings became a way into the Parisian society and the very curvaceous Art Nouveau became a symbol of the feminization of Elbe.

WATCH: “Oscar Nominee Alicia Vikander’s Journey to ‘The Danish Girl’ (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)”

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