L.A. mystique ....
Back in the 1920's, penthouse suites at the fictitious Hotel Artemis were named
after popular vacation spots. A century later, all guests are codenamed using
of those suites, reflecting the Artemis's commitment to anonymity, along with
So Sherman becomes "Waikiki" when he checks in, while his brother Lev is
dubbed "Honolulu". The French femme fatale is called "Nice", the arms dealer is
"Acapulco", and The Wolfking, who's true name is Orian Franklin, is "Niagara".
enter, members must identify themselves with a chip implanted in their wrists.
exceptions are granted, as the bleeding bank robber Buke (KENNETH CHOI) learns
Writer-director Drew Pearce imagined the specifics of this near-future world
great detail, and its roots lie in his fascination with the city of Los Angeles.
"I'm originally from Scotland, and lived in England most of my life," said
"After our first extended stay in L. A. (on Iron Man 3), my wife and I knew we
move here permanently. We took the leap, packed everything we had in a
got on a plane. We've been here close to seven years and have never looked
Coming of age in an old European city influenced Pearce's experience of L.A.
love that the short history of the city, compared to London's, makes its history
accessible. In the Artemis, you can see a hundred years of life in one building,
layering of that history is physically visible all at once - just like the city
"Los Angeles has a distinct personality," he continued. "Someone once called
city of doorways, because unlike the East Coast or Europe, you have no idea what
inside of a place will be, based on its exterior aesthetic. The fanciest
restaurant might sit
behind a door in a rundown strip mall, and there's something exciting about that
It's reflected in the Artemis, which is definitely a movie of doors."
Or as producer Adam Siegel described it, "a world we look at through a
Jodie Foster liked the feeling Pearce evokes. "I grew up here," noted the
Academy Award-winning actress, who began her career at the age of three.
nostalgia about Los Angeles in Hotel Artemis that I share with Drew. The film
emotional love for the city - as a land of opportunity, lawlessness and rich
Drew has created something so original, so disarmingly visual that you see Los
with an entirely new lens. The film definitely has a thriller aspect," she
suggests, "but it
inhabits its own world. It's genre-bending."
Sterling K. Brown, who plays Waikiki, agrees. "It's simultaneously noir and
futuristic; funny, but with pathos. We're in an interesting environment that
reveals not all
criminals are created equal."
Many agendas are in play at the Hotel Artemis, and some overlap. "The stories
thread together, and also tangle," said producer Simon Cornwell.
""Secrets are revealed and scores are settled," added his brother and fellow
producer, Stephen Cornwell. "Not everyone can get what they want."
Whatever the details of their situations, the film's criminals have one thing
common. Says Brown: "We gotta get in, get off the grid, get away from law
and then get out."
The tightly paced story unfolds in one out-of-control night, but Pearce took
time crafting the tale. Actively seeking to direct his own work, he carefully
which of his ideas would be the one to make that happen.
"This idea refused to leave me, and hit all my sweet spots," he now reflects.
"There's crime, there's sci-fi, and there's the chance to do something visually
baked into the DNA of it. Plus, there's the simple hope to make a movie that
to the city I now live in - Los Angeles.
"At the time I committed to it, I promised myself I'd write the purest
the idea, which meant it would be an indie, rather than a studio film," he
"There's not a day that I regretted that decision. I'm proud of the process and
who have jumped on board with the same attitude.
"I wanted it to be a melting pot of ideas and themes - always laser-focused,
with as much depth as possible, like the best crime and near-future sci-fi I
grew up with."
The Future Is Here ....
Pearce and the producers all agreed that Hotel Artemis could only be filmed
Los Angeles. "Nothing else looks like L.A.," said producer Marc Platt, whose
work as a
producer of La La Land helped create another iconic but very different portrait
city. "Los Angeles is very much a character in this story and we want the
feel that in the most organic way possible."
Principal photography for Hotel Artemis began June 1, 2017 at a bank vault on
South Spring Street. Aside from one day on the Universal backlot and another at
Santa Monica Pier, the entire film was shot downtown. Locations ranged from the
rooftop of the historic Rosslyn Hotel on West Fifth Street, to a notorious block
South Hill Street known informally as "Rat Alley." Key riot scenes were shot
several summer nights on South Main Street. Interior sets, including hotel
hallways, elevators, the bar, game room and foyer were constructed onstage at
Production designer Ramsey Avery cited the city's Hotel Alexandria as an
inspiration for his designs. "It was the fanciest hotel in Los Angeles when it
1906," he said. "Downtown was the place to be back then."
But the real-life Alexandria declined more than the fictional Artemis ever
"Our hotel was never a flophouse," Avery explains. "Many of its beautiful
as murals and lighting fixtures, remain intact."
There are also some extremely modern updates - from body scanners, an
elaborate security gate and an alternate roof-top power source, to 3-D printers
replicate human organs as well as firearms, and the robotics The Nurse uses to
patients. "The Wolf King would have procured these things for The Nurse on the
market," said Avery. "He can always get his hands on the best through the
The film's blend of old and new extends to the characters' clothing, with a
Seventies feeling infusing many of designer Lisa Lovaas's costumes. Waikiki's
plaid suit, for example, has a cool-as-a-cucumber Seventies vibe, a la Steve
McQueen. But his vests are bulletproof - without being cumbersome. "Drew and I
agreed that the future of ballistic undergarments would be thin layers that
said Lovaas. "Our bulletproof vests are t-shirt weight."
Pearce worked with a futurist to shape the outlines of his fictional 2028.
"Our futurist was Thomas Wagner, who is a senior figure in NASA," said Pearce.
"He and I discussed all the possible tech we could use in this film. To that
piece of tech in the movie, from the microwave scalpel to the polyp spray,
exists (even if we don't know about it) or will definitely happen in the next
"I think it's true that speculative fiction is never about the future - it's
about the time it's written in," Pearce observed. "That being said, we strove to
balance. This story is ten years in the future, so a lot can change in that
time, but I
wanted everything to feel real, and buried deep into the life of these
This philosophy also guided Pearce's depiction of social conditions and human
behavior. "Natural disaster and police brutality are problems the world and
specifically are forced to deal with on an increasingly regular basis," he said.
problems and consequences depicted in Hotel Artemis are within the realm of the
possible, and that adds to the tension and reality of the drama, however
Credible medical technique was a consideration, too. Medical advisor Britt
Sanborn, a nurse for the past 10 years, had previously trained as an actress and
sensitive to the needs of both worlds. She was on set for all medical scenes and
advised in pre-production as the film's medical hardware was produced and/or
"With the help of futuristic robots, The Nurse performs surgeries that would
normally require a team," said Sanborn. "I had a lot of conversations with Drew
things like wounds that look serious but would not kill, or whether or not a
speak during surgery, and how various organs and wounds would bleed. We're
keep it as realistic as possible, but can take some liberties with a story set
"Jodie Foster asked really specific questions about the pathophysicality of
injuries," Sanborn noted. "She wanted to know what she was doing and why."
To portray The Nurse's trusted lieutenant Everest, Dave Bautista also had to
display confidence in the surgical suite. "Dave was just as interested as Jodie
understanding what he was doing, and totally nailed it," said Sanborn. "In one
sequence, he puts an oxygen mask on a patient, starts an IV, applies a
tourniquet, inserts a
fake needle, tapes it down, hands Jodie the scalpel - 'butt down' - and suctions
wound. All while delivering his lines. I was impressed."
The choice of Chung-Hoon Chung as cinematographer ensured that clinical
considerations would never result in sterility. "I initially envisioned a stark
for the surgical suite," said production designer Avery, "but Chung-Hoon's use
added an emotional aspect to every set. He has a very rich eye."
That rich eye extended to costumes. The deep red, crepe-back satin halter
that Lisa Lovaas designed for Sofia Boutella's character was obviously
seductive, as well
as functional in that it never hampered Boutella's movements in her daredevil
scenes. It also passed muster with Chung-Hoon.
"We had to go with something that would catch light in the hallways, and
the fabric to get just the right color," said Lovaas.
The collaboration was exciting for Pearce. "Chung-hoon Chung is an actual
genius," said the director. "I hope I get to work with him forever."
Jeff Goldblum was also a fan. "His presence and technique were exuberant,"
the veteran actor. "He was fun to be around. I think we're in for something
Back to the future...
The inspiration for the Hotel Artemis came from the past in the shape of
singer-songwriter Elyse Weinberg and this late sixties California sound ripples
the story and the soundtrack.
"The Nurse is a Laurel Canyon lady at heart," said Pearce "and that's
the movie, because it's music from a much happier time in her life. It's a safe
place for her
- like the Artemis itself. So, it was important to surround her with her own
music - from
her trusty turntable that spins the Mamas and Papas each morning to the portable
deck slung around her neck that soothes her with Buffy Sainte-Marie's
'Helpless', it's her
very own personal soundtrack."
To shape the wider sound of Hotel Artemis, Pearce went straight to the top,
commissioning acclaimed composer Cliff Martinez to create the score. Producers
Platt and Adam Siegel had collaborated with Martinez on the energetic, and now
score for Nicolas Winding Refn's LA-set Drive in 2011, so Pearce knew that the
composer could deliver momentum and modernism - a dynamic foil to the lush
of the Nurse's playlist.
"I needed the score for Artemis to be both tense and emotional - hard enough
denote the future but romantic enough to invoke the past of the hotel itself"
Pearce, "Cliff was my first choice because his work manages to combine modernity
real heart. He's a maestro in his field, and the music he made for the movie was
beautiful piece of the puzzle."
To close out the film, Pearce turned to close friend and collaborator Father
Misty a.k.a. Josh Tillman who also has a cameo in the film as bank robber, P22,
alongside Buke (Kenneth Choi). In 2015, Pearce directed the music video for
Misty's "The Night Josh Tillman Came to our Apartment" a sardonic look at a
debauchery in LA, and knew that the singer-songwriter's uniquely wry yet lyrical
sensibility would be the perfect blend of old and sharply contemporary needed to
film out, "Josh and I talked for a long time about what the song could be - how
to the ideas in the movie, how it would be unique to us. One of the themes
shared by all
of our characters they're all trapped, both literally and figuratively... hence
the idea, and
title, of the song we wound up finding.". The resulting 'Gilded Cage' penned
for the film is a knowing ballad to the city of Los Angeles, one that
glitter as much as its grit.
Hello, how can I help?
The Nurse is a character with compelling contradictions. Strong but fearful,
heals others while self-medicating in unhealthy ways. Despite this, or perhaps
it, she gives everything to her job.
"She is compassionate, but no-nonsense, the best kind of nurse," said medical
The Nurse can face anything, except the pain of her own past. As the boss of
Hotel Artemis, she lives in the Los Angeles Suite. Her given name is Jean Thomas
it's been many years since anyone called her that.
Foster enjoyed taking on the role of an older character. "It's fun to feel
enough to play a little, gray-haired lady, feisty and kind of Barbara Stanwyck-y,"
said. "She has rules and enforces them, but she also has panic attacks and
outside in years. She's a prisoner of her own grief."
If she's a prisoner, at least she has the companionship of gentle giant
kind of feel our relationship is the love story of the movie," Foster mused.
took him in when he was a young gang member who got shot up. He'll do anything
Dave Bautista, who plays Everest, has a huge following from his days as a
professional wrestler and his performances in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.
was eager to take on a dramatic role. "He's a super-soulful guy," said Pearce,
brought real heart to the movie."
Pearce assembled a powerhouse cast for his debut as a feature film director
was thrilled with the impact these artists delivered as an ensemble. "Every
something special and amazing to the movie," he said.
He's still amazed that Foster even entered his hotel in the first place. "The
of Jodie Foster was incredible, as she actually discovered the script on her own
reached out to us about the role," he said. "Don't ask me how she got it -
hadn't even left the office. Which is very in-keeping with the Artemis, to be
However it came about, Foster's participation affected everyone, actors and
alike. "Her honesty and credibility kept everybody on their toes," said producer
Costume designer Lovaas, whose mother was a psychiatric nurse and later a
clinical psychologist at L.A.'s Men's Central Jail, had strong feelings about
and the actress.
"Simple as it was, The Nurse's costume was my favorite in the show," said
Lovaas. "It had to be smartly practical, with pockets and functionality, because
how she lived. Jodie knew what The Nurse needed. She knew what felt right.
"The Nurse gives everyone a fair shake, just like my mom did," Lovaas continued.
"My mom was always moving, walking from cell to cell. Like The Nurse moving from
crisis to crisis at the Artemis in her basic Adidas sneakers. She covers a lot
always moving, always ready to help."
But just like the other characters at the Hotel Artemis, The Nurse must
As Pearce notes, "The rioting outside has our guests pinned down and running
of options, but the REAL problem is on the inside. The Nurse is trapped in her
Waikiki is trapped in a destructive relationship with his brother, whose own
addiction. Nice is trapped in an increasingly-sadistic job she hates and
trapped in his own insecurities. And that's a tradition of Los Angeles fiction -
Chandler and Didion, through Sunset Boulevard and The Graduate, to "Hotel
by The Eagles. It's a city that's always been a gilded cage."
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