Forget it, Jake…it’s production design.
After the terror of It Follows, writer/director David Robert Mitchell is trying his hand at the neo-noir genre with Under the Silver Lake (in theaters tomorrow). The film stars Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man) as Sam, a man trying to track down a mysterious and beautiful woman who, after appearing in his pool one night, vanishes without a trace. Sam’s ensuing (and sometimes cooky) investigation across Los Angeles turns him into a hardboiled hero on par with Jake Gittes of Chinatown, Philip Marlowe of The Long Goodbye, and even Larry “Doc” Sportello of Inherent Vice.
To get a better idea of what it takes to build the look of a modern day mystery that harkens back to the halcyon days of noir cinema, I spoke with the project’s production designer, Michael Perry. The resultant interview was, to quote Sam Spade, “the—uh—stuff dreams are made of…”
Josh Weiss: Can you tell me a little bit about the general design for Under the Silver Lake?
Michael Perry: When I first sat down with David and the DP, Mike Gioulakis, we discussed approaching the overall look as a 1950’s Cinemascope musical. So, the jumping off point for my design was How To Marry A Millionaire meets Chinatown. Overall, I wanted the design to have a lush cinematic feel throughout.
Josh Weiss: Since this is a neo-noir, did you look to any famous noirs for inspiration?
Michael Perry: I skipped watching any of the classic ’30’s and ’40’s noir films but rewatched Chinatown and The Long Goodbye, which are neo-noir themselves, which, in a way, makes my design neo-neo-noir.
Josh Weiss: Going off that, how did you try to subvert the usual look of a noir?
Michael Perry: I chose a lot of poppy colors like what you’d see in a Doris Day film or other technicolor movies. For instance, in Sarah’s apartment, I used shades of pink and green that you don’t really see in contemporary color schemes. Another example would be the brightness and craziness of the Jesus & The Brides of Dracula rooftop performance.
Josh Weiss: What was the most fun? What was the most challenging?
Michael Perry: The most challenging was doing 75 sets and locations on a modest budget in Los Angeles. The most fun was getting to design and build an old school, James Bond-style, one wall perspective set. The technique was shown to me years ago by Roger Cain, son of Syd Cain, one of the original Bond designers, and I’ve always wanted the chance to have a go at it. For the “ascension chamber” I designed, built and dressed a lush, 1960’s Bond villain type lair, and it’s one of my favorite sets in the film.
Josh Weiss: How is Sam’s investigation and uncovering of the mystery reflected in the production design?
Michael Perry: Actually, his obsession with trying to solve the mysteries had a huge impact on the design. There are crumbs, clues and codes scattered throughout the sets, costumes and props. I would tell you where to look, but I’m sworn to secrecy and it would take all the fun out of finding them.
Josh Weiss: You also worked with David Robert Mitchell on It Follows. Did he want to harken back to that movie’s dark overtones in terms of the look or did he want something new entirely?
Michael Perry: We took a much different approach on this film — more color, bigger sets, more lights, and a much more lively camera.
Josh Weiss: You worked as an art director on the original miniseries of The Stand. What are your thoughts on the new one that’s being made? I only ask because I recently finished the book for the first time.
Michael Perry: First, I’m very proud of the work we did on The Stand. It was a really cool project that I remember fondly. I think it’s great they are making a new one, especially since it will be on CBS streaming, where they won’t have the ‘90s network censures to deal with and will be able to get closer to the book than we were able do. Just to put it out there, I would love the opportunity to design this. That would really be coming full circle on a great project.
Josh Weiss: Anything to add? Anything I forgot to ask?
Michael Perry: Working on a David Robert Mitchell film is a real privilege. Right from the get-go, everything is on the page and we all have a clear understanding of where we are going creatively. The film is the script and the movie is in his head so it’s a matter of helping him to put it on screen. David’s vision is the jumping off point for the design and then I get to run with it.
Jake Gyllenhaal is set to make his TV debut in an HBO limited series based on Gary Shteyngart’s 2018 novel Lake Success, reports Deadline. The Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated actor will also serve as an executive producer with Riva Marker, under their Nine Stories production company, with Endeavor Content. Shteyngart and Tom Spezialy will be co-writers and co-showrunners.
In a statement to deadline, Gyllenhaal and Marker said, “Gary’s novel is a beautifully executed character study highlighting the depth of human contradiction and complication, set against the timely backdrop of America today. We are thrilled to partner with HBO, who has consistently been home to some of the most exciting and acclaimed premium content over the past two decades.”
Gyllenhaal will play protagonist Barry Cohen, who the New York Times Book Review called an “anti-mensch.” Cohen is a hedge fund manager under investigation by the SEC who “flees New York on a Greyhound bus in search of a simpler, more romantic life with his old college sweetheart,” according to the publisher’s description.
That New York Times Book Review described Lake Success, which was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, thusly: “Shteyngart’s fourth and latest novel, ‘Lake Success,’ veers from its forebears by placing a Long Island-born financier at its center, rather than Russian émigrés or their children, and for the most part shuns themes of transnational displacement and the hyphenated existence. Yet the fuel and oxygen of immigrant literature — movement, exile, nostalgia, cultural disorientation — are nevertheless what fire the pistons of this trenchant and panoramic novel.”
Shteyngart, also the author of novels The Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story, told me, “I think Jake is absolutely perfect to play Barry. It’s a complicated character and Jake excels at making even the schmuckiest characters three-dimensional. Also I love working in TV! I’ve consulted for Succession at HBO and it was a blast!”
We may be finally arriving at the ultimate event of season 8 of Fortnite, the great excavation of Loot Lake. For weeks now, we have seen two “world events” happening. A helicopter landing at a dozen+ spots around the map, and three different dig sites where players have been asked to chip in and unearth a number of pits, hacking through lumps of dirt with hundreds of millions of HP.
Now, both of those events have combined. The Fortnite helicopter has landed at Loot Lake, and the entire area is now surrounded by a number of steamshovels that sure make it look like we are about to be asked to dig up the entire bottom of the lake.
This, of course, is the famed site of the cube explosion where Kevin disintegrated and became Cubehenge after an otherworldly butterfly cutscene. But we have seen the Cube dissolve into the expanse of an entire lake, back when this was a lake, so I don’t think it’s out of the question that we could see the return of the Cube in some way, which would link what we thought were two disparate storylines, the one started by the comet which led to the Visitor which led to the rocket which led to the Cube, and the one that began when the Ice King showed up with his floating fortress.
So far, all three dig sites have had different end results. The first one gave us a volcano vent. The second flooded the pit with lava. The third revealed a giant metal door in the floor. If we start digging up Loot Lake, it’s anyone’s guess what we could find there, although I have to believe that it probably has something to do with the arrival of Ruin, the Week 8 Discovery skin which we could uh, discovery somehow in this Loot Lake dig.
I’m not exactly sure how this will play out, but it seems like that at least a good chunk of Loot Lake will end up being filled by those breakable dirt patches that players will be asked to chop through. It has taken around a full day to dig out these other sites, so if Loot Lake becomes a much, much bigger site, maybe that could take…a full week of everyone working together? Possibly less, if it’s clear that this is “the big one” so more people could be encouraged to participate.
I am hesitant to bring up the eternal “we’re going to fight a world boss” theory, but…maybe? Fortnite players have expected some sort of world boss fight ever since this ability to track damage across all serves made its way into the game. And possibly even before that when we were seeing monster tracks on the ground as early as season 3. It is possible that we may dig up Ruin or a dragon or something and have to fight it at the end, but I have made this prediction a half dozen times now so I am hesitant to make it again. We’ll see, I guess.
Digging should commence in the next day or two. See you out there.