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THE UPSIDE

About The Production
Neil Burger's mandate for authenticity extended well beyond the film's characters. He, along with the cast and crew, were determined to apply that same precise attention to detail to the set and costume design as well. For example, another central focus of the film is the Park Avenue penthouse that serves as both Phillip's residence, and the vehicle through which he showcases his precious art collection. Knowing that Phillip's penthouse was so vital to the film meant that production designer Mark Friedberg and decorator Beth Rubino would have to abide by strict parameters.

For Friedberg, the process began with extensive research and preparation prior to his first meeting with Burger. In that first meeting, Friedberg came prepared with several architectural references and ideas. He had two directions in particular he felt the apartment could go, and pitched both to Burger. The first was in line with the script, a penthouse at the famously elite 740 Park Avenue. The second pitch was for an extravagant Tribeca building. In the end, the two decided on an apartment that would be in 740 Park, but decorated against the traditional styles of the building and instead with contemporary art and furniture.

"Neil Burger liked the idea that Phillip straddles a line between a particular elitism, someone who would live on Park Avenue, but also has a bit of irreverence for that world," Friedberg said.

Though they considered utilizing an existing apartment, in the end it made the most sense to build the set in a warehouse. Phillip's Park Avenue penthouse was built on a sound stage. The team built 6,650 feet of interior space, though it connotes a space over double the size, and they did so in roughly three months.

"The space is one of our chances to learn who Phillip is. The architecture was a large part of it, but for me, it was mostly a backdrop for the art," Friedberg says. "We have spent a lot of time building Phillip's collection as that is the real way he expresses himself - the kind of person he is and the way he sees the world."

Though Friedberg says a set like this would typically involve paint that accentuated the molding and several differently colored walls, he and the set decorator, Beth Rubio, decided that part of Phillip's irreverence would be showcased in his decision to paint the molding a flat, movie white and have a black shiny floor.

"It would be a stark contrast and graphic look for the building, very unlike the way it was meant to be experienced when it was first built," says Friedberg. "It gave it a sense of modernity even though it's an old place."

Though most of the penthouse has this modern feel with most of the color coming from Phillip's artwork, the library remains true to the old world feel of the era the building was built in. "I always thought of the library as a place where we got to see the inside of Phillip's brain a little more. A place where the things that fascinate him are more apparent to us, aside from just fine art," Friedberg says.

"The accessories or collections in the library are very much about movement," says Rubio. "That was a subliminal choice we made, that the objects around him show velocity. He no longer has that choice, but he is confronted with it daily. We were, in a small way, showing the daily challenge of his current circumstance against his previous life."

The library displays more collectibles than paintings - precious books, Da Vinci drawings and scientific depictions, but the rest of the penthouse showcases the artwork that Phillip is so enamored with.

It was important to Friedberg to put together a collection that didn't just reflect price tag or popularity, but true personality and personal history. "We wanted Phillip to have a personal say in the kinds of work he hangs. Some had to be A-list top shelf like the Twomblys, Motherwells, Turners, and Kandinskys," Friedberg says. "He has paintings that are worth tens of millions of dollars, but he has them because he loves them. He may even have had them before they got to that value."

In addition, his collection is comprised of art by people Phillip either knows or has met. In designing his collection, Friedberg and Rubino had fun mixing it up between museum level art, art by friends, themselves, or their children, and art made by local artists. The main gallery in the entrance space where the party takes place features a host of renown female artists including Marilyn Minter, Helen Frankenthaler, Kiki Smith, Mary Cassatt, Lee Krasner and Patricia Meyerowitz.

"It's not mentioned in the script anywhere. It's not necessarily a story point, but it's a design point of the collection, and we also thought that was something that Phillip would find interesting," said Friedberg.

In addition to the paintings and sculptures the light fixtures served as additional works of art within the penthouse. "Because we had enormous height, which you typically don't have on a movie set, the emphasis for the lighting was somewhat unusual. It was an opportunity for us to use fixtures by manufacturers who deserve to be seen on film," said Rubino.

In keeping with Burger's adherence to a realistic concept, Rubino and Friedberg utilized many uncommon approaches to build and decorate the set. The library was built out of real oak, the fireplaces, both stone and marble, were real functioning fireplaces, even medical advisors were consulted in order to build a master bedroom that would reflect the amount of years it had been since Phillip's accident. Some of the New York City locations included the famous Grey's Papaya at Broadway & 72nd Street, Grand Army Plaza at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue; Central Park; and the Webster Projects in the South Bronx.

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