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OCEAN'S 8

About The Production (Cont'd)
THE BIG APPLE

Principal photography on "Ocean's 8" was accomplished entirely in New York, where Gary Ross and his cinematographer, Eigil Bryld, made the most of the city that never sleeps.

"If you're going to shoot a movie about New York City, you have to go to New York City," Bullock states. "New York has an energy all its own; it ignites something in you and keeps you on your toes. All of us were very familiar with the city-I've lived there for a long time, so it's like an old friend, but it's still new and unexpected. And the city doesn't stop when you film a movie there. You just film around it."

The film's partnership with Cartier extended to one important filming location: the Cartier Mansion. For two days, the jeweler's flagship store on 52nd Street was closed to the public so it could be used for filming, including a pivotal scene in which Rose Weil and her "assistant," Amita, insist on inspecting the priceless Toussaint. What made the store closure all-the-more remarkable was that it was in December, the height of the holiday buying season. Production designer Alex DiGerlando says, "They gave us the keys to the kingdom. All the jewels you see in those scenes are the real thing. There are no movie props there."

In Brooklyn, the Bushwick United Methodist Church's annex was transformed into Lou's loft, which became the de facto headquarters for the team as they plan the heist. Dating from around 1900, the Romanesque Revival building features an open two-storied interior, with a balcony above and small alcoves on the second floor, which made it ideal. DiGerlando clarifies, "When we were conceiving of the loft, we needed something that was visually interesting, but also something that told a little bit about Lou's personality. She's very worldly, very hip, so we decorated it with items she collected during her years of travel."

A waterside warehouse in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood was used for the exteriors of the loft, as well as the interior of Lou's nightclub. In the same borough, they filmed a scene at Junior's Deli, famous around the world for its cheesecake.

Back in Manhattan, the production's collaboration with Vogue encompassed a day of filming in the magazine's headquarters at the World Trade Center, where Tammy maneuvers her way into a temp job for The Met Gala.

Other filming sites in Manhattan, apart from The Met, included the Plaza Hotel; Christie's at Rockefeller Plaza; The Pierre Hotel; Casa Lever, a restaurant in the landmark Lever House on Park Avenue; Bergdorf Goodman's department store; and The New York Times' 52-story tower. One of the movie's most recognizable locations was the iconic Eero Saarinen building at JFK that had once been the TWA Flight Center but is currently unoccupied. It became the setting for Rose Weil's hoped-for return to the forefront of fashion.

To stage Rose's runway show, the filmmakers called upon Alexandre de Betak, the renowned designer of inventive and memorable fashion shows. Prior to filming, de Betak took Gary Ross to three fashion shows. For the sequence, Vogue helped populate the first few rows with real-life regulars at New York Fashion Week.

Rose's new collection was actually created by costume designer Sarah Edwards, who designed 50 different looks in blues and grays, reminiscent of classic airline stewardess uniforms, echoing the mid-century style of the space. "Gary felt that if we did something that was in keeping with the time period of the building, it could be really beautiful but somewhat stilted from a fashion point of view," says Edwards. "We wanted her show to be a miss more than a flop. We didn't want it to be hideous, just something that would not resonate with the modern customer."

In designing the day-to-day wardrobe for the title characters, Edwards says, "We really took time to make sure the costumes suited their individual identities and got to the core of who each of them is in the film. With eight main leads, it was important to keep them all in their own lanes, so to speak, which was challenging but fun."

Edwards notes that the wardrobe for Bullock was designed to reflect "a cool, polished character. Everything is very minimal-long, lean and simple. Debbie Ocean is someone who needs to be able to move through spaces and situations in a somewhat stealthy way, and keeping the colors dark and silhouettes simple and clean was a way to achieve that."

The designer goes on to say that Blanchett's Lou, leaned more into patterns and colors. "We wanted them to feel like things she had collected over time-a very deliberate mix of old and new and different textures with a little bit of animal print and leather thrown in. Lou is a very chic nightclub owner, and Cate has got a really keen sense of personal style herself, so she really brought a lot to the table."

"Sarah Edwards is a genius," Blanchett remarks. "True creativity comes out under pressure, and man was she under pressure. She was really open to collaborating with all of us. Costume fittings with her were fast, furious and hilarious."

Another of the film's stars famous for her sense of style is Rihanna, who, as Nine Ball, wears a look that might be considered atypical for her: oversized denim overalls, big sweaters, and army boots.

By contrast, Edwards points out, "Daphne Kluger is a Hollywood starlet, the toast of the town. Anne Hathaway wanted her to have a sort of modern-day Elizabeth Taylor quality with a little Barbie thrown in," she smiles.

THE MET

The Met Gala is not just a party; it is an annual fundraiser for The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute and coincides with the opening of their spring exhibition. Due to time and space constraints, the film's costume display could not actually be installed at The Met; instead it was assembled on a stage at Gold Coast Studios on Long Island.

DiGerlando and his team spent almost nine months designing and building the elaborate set for the movie's costume exhibition, titled "The Scepter and the Orb: Five Centuries of Royal Dress." The name was chosen by Vogue's International Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles, who has curated several notable fashion exhibitions over the years and was suggested by Anna Wintour to curate the one in "Ocean's 8." Bowles offers, "Rather than getting into the idea of doing period costume, we framed the exhibition around the idea of royal dress, and its enduring influence on fashion designers."

Bowles was able to persuade top fashion houses to open their archives to the production. Selections of treasured designer gowns were packed and shipped to the studio, where museum conservators carefully dressed them on specially sculpted mannequins. They were then mounted on the stage to Bowles' and DiGerlando's specifications.

In the Tudor-esque entryway, the influence of British royalty is echoed in fashions by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, and by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli for Valentino. The court of Louis XIV of France is reflected in gowns by Dolce & Gabbana, Zac Posen, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano for Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Valentino, and Alexander McQueen.

All of the costumes are bedecked in a blinding array of crown jewels, that were actually handcrafted from scratch by property master Michael Jortner, working with a jeweler. Apart from the regal sartorial splendor itself, perhaps the most striking feature of the set is the reflecting pool covering the entire space, with the costumes seeming to hover above it. Much of the water was real; however, the water directly under dresses was digitally added in post to ensure that the priceless fashions were not ruined by the humidity.

No detail was spared on the set. Even the identifying labels for the display, all written by Bowles and his team, contained accurate background information about each gown and its historical reference, although they would not be readable on screen. Nevertheless, Bowles confirms, "Everything we did was absolutely as we would have done for a legitimate museum show."

The other sets constructed on the Gold Coast soundstage included a hallway leading to the museum's ladies room, and the bathroom itself. There was also an extension of The Met's Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing, with Egyptian sculptures made to approximate those at the actual museum. "The stage was actually a network of sets," DiGerlando says. "We built them to connect to one another, so we could flow from space to space."

All roads in "Ocean's 8" lead to one pivotal event: The Met Gala, "the intersection of fashion, art and celebrity-the height of New York sophistication and party culture and, arguably, the biggest night of the year," says Olivia Milch.

Even surrounded by celebrities bedecked in high fashion and glittering jewels, the dazzling Toussaint grabs the attention of everyone in attendance...especially Debbie Ocean and her crew.

"We were planning a jewelry heist but wanted to make it more interesting than stealing from a jewelry case or vault," Ross relates. "The backdrop of the Gala is so scintillating and electric, and we thought it would be great to take the audience there."

The cast and filmmakers on "Ocean's 8" had the extraordinary privilege of shooting the Gala scenes within The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The filmmakers had considered shooting the ball on a soundstage. However, Ross met with Metropolitan Museum President and CEO Daniel H. Weiss, and he allowed the production to film within the museum for two weeks, longer than any previous film.

Ekins says, "The excitement of shooting in New York City is indescribable, and the city itself not only provided an intriguing backdrop but was also so welcoming. And having access to such an iconic landmark as The Met was a special honor for all of us."

Located on Fifth Avenue, on the edge of Central Park, The Met's Beaux-Arts façade spans four city blocks, making it the largest museum in the United States. It is also one of the busiest, so the only way to film at the museum was to work at night. As soon as the doors closed to the public, at 5:30 p.m., the production would move in. But they would have to be out every morning, a few hours before the museum reopened, to allow them time to prepare for the day's visitors. The nature of the location also posed a uniquely daunting challenge to everyone involved in the production, as hundreds of cast, extras, and crew members-not to mention lights, cameras and other equipment-were surrounded by priceless and irreplaceable artworks.

"I called 'safety' meetings for the art, as we would for a major stunt. I mean, literally, one false move and you've wrecked more than the budget of the movie," Ross says, only half joking. "So we had to be very, very careful. We had extensive meetings with The Met about what we were going to do, letting them know every single movement: how we would load in and out, where the cameras could be and where they couldn't... And we designed our shot list accordingly and stuck to the plan. We all remained vigilant the entire time we were there and got out without a calamity," he smiles.

Despite the restrictions, everyone appreciated the rare opportunity to view the museum's masterpieces over the long stretch of time. Bullock affirms, "In-between shots, you could walk around and take in the museum in a way you'd never taken it in before-just stop and look at a piece of art, inspect it, and observe the brushstrokes. We had two weeks to just savor everything, so shooting at The Met was a gift on many levels."

Every year The Met Gala has a theme in keeping with the costume exhibition, which opens on the night the party. That theme is reflected in both the guests' attire and in the décor of the party. For "Ocean's 8," the chosen theme was European royalty.

"We decided on Versailles as our regal setting," DiGerlando details. "The Great Hall was conceived as one of the gardens of Versailles that you walk through and then you enter this grand palatial staircase."

DiGerlando's team installed topiaries and sculptures befitting a royal garden in the space where museum visitors first enter the building, complete with a formal garden folly to mask the information kiosk. In the museum's Temple of Dendur, where the Gala's dinner is held, the ancient Egyptian temple was surrounded by a wall projection of Versailles itself.

On the wide staircase that leads from the Great Hall to the galleries on the second floor, background actors dressed as footmen stood guard. "We came up with the idea of having fifty footmen line the staircase with candelabras, framing this beautiful hand-painted rug going up the stairs," describes DiGerlando. "Their costumes became a major part of the set dressing."

HAVING A BALL

Fashion is the focal point of the Met Gala, and Sarah Edwards worked with some of the world's top designers to dress the film's eight leading ladies for the ball. First, she talked to each of the women about which fashion designers they felt would suit their character. For the actresses, however, the gowns were about more than just "Who are you wearing?"

"It's about pushing the boundaries; it's about couture; it's about expressing yourself with fabric and construction in a way we can't do every day in real life," Sandra Bullock notes. "And all of us ladies got to wear some pretty amazing dresses for the Gala.

"Alberta Ferretti designed my dress and the craftsmanship that went into it was fantastic," Bullock continues. "I don't know if it was intentional, but my character's last name is Ocean, and when I looked down at the bottom of the dress and the train, there were starfish and shells and waves all embroidered in gold and silver on top of this sea of black. It's a work of art."

Helena Bonham Carter's gown also evoked her character's name. She explains, "They paired me with Dolce & Gabbana, which was a happy marriage, not only for me but also for my character. I went to their studio and saw this dress in the corner-a sort of '50s, white frock with roses all over-and I said, 'That's Rose.' And then, to make it even better, it was hand-painted to make the roses stand out dimensionally. I was like a moving rose garden."

Mindy Kaling felt a personal connection to Amita's dress, noting, "My gown was designed by Naeem Khan, who I've been a fan of for years. He's Indian, which was especially meaningful for me." The gleaming creation was done in several shades of gold with all the sequins and jewels put on by hand. "It was such a wish-fulfillment exercise as a woman who loves fashion."

Awkwafina had what Edwards calls "a Cinderella moment" as Constance, in her gown by Jonathan Simkhai, and the actress agrees. "It was so gorgeous, the prettiest thing I'll ever wear in my lifetime." However, she did have one problem with wearing "high" fashion. "It was hard for me to walk in heels, like I completely tipped over. So I had to practice how to walk in shoes that are not Uggs," she laughs.

Sarah Paulson's Tammy was decked out in a navy-blue velvet dress by Prada that Paulson says, "was everything I could have hoped for. I've had the joy of attending The Met Gala before and it's an incredibly glamorous night. I think everyone-including the art department, wardrobe, hair and makeup-really captured that glamour. It was wonderful."

Instead of a traditional gown, Givenchy created a very distinctive look for Cate Blanchett as Lou. "It was a fabulous emerald-beaded jumpsuit that was very rock and roll...almost Bowielike," Edwards affirms. "I thought that was ideal for her character."

Rihanna, as Nine Ball, wore an exquisite gown designed by Zac Posen. "The simple silhouette and the color were just perfect for her," says Edwards.

As the chosen belle of the Ball, Daphne Kluger is resplendent in a "Rose Weil creation" that was, in reality, designed by Valentino-a hot pink gown with a matching 25-foot cape, which gave her a regal appearance, befitting the Gala theme. Hathaway says, "I have a long history with the house of Valentino, so I knew whatever they delivered would be incredible. And I love in old movies when you would see Grace Kelly's or Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe by a famous designer, so to know I was getting a moment like that felt really lovely."

There was one design element that was unique to Hathaway's gown. Edwards clarifies, "It was important that we left enough 'real estate' for the necklace. So the dress was intentionally very simple-strapless with clean lines. And the color was absolutely spectacular with the diamonds. Everything was taken into consideration."

Edwards has tremendous appreciation for the designers, all of whom fast-tracked the creation of the gowns to meet the production schedule. "We were asking them to make these dresses in an almost impossibly short timeframe," she attests. "In films we're used to operating on a crazy schedule, but the couture houses are not. They all did an incredible job of getting those dresses made, delivered and fit, and I thank them all. It was a Herculean effort."

In addition, a number of design houses loaned the production hundreds more gowns and tuxedos to appropriately attire the extras in attendance at the ball. "It took an army of people to get the guests for The Met Gala dressed, but we were fortunate to have a terrific team," Edwards states.

Soderbergh remembers being impressed with the results. "We had just finished a scene and were breaking to move to another part of the set, and I watched as our cast and about 300 extras filed past me. It seemed to go on forever, and every outfit was amazing."

When filming was completed, Gary Ross returned to Los Angeles to complete postproduction, collaborating closely with editor Juliet Welfling and composer Daniel Pemberton. Pemberton created a score that perfectly blends the film's different tones.

Ross reflects, "It's an amalgam of things. It's funny, but not a straight comedy; it's a heist film, but not a drama. It's playful, it's joyful, but most of all, I think it's cool. And I think the audience will have a great time."

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