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.
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.”
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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.”