About The Production
Neil Burger's mandate for authenticity extended well beyond the film's
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
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
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
someone who would live on Park Avenue, but also has a bit of irreverence for
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
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
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
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,"
"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
and scientific depictions, but the rest of the penthouse showcases the artwork
that Phillip is so
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,
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
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
Marilyn Minter, Helen Frankenthaler, Kiki Smith, Mary Cassatt, Lee Krasner and
"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
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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