About The Production (Con'd)
"To lose something that should have been immortal..."
The title "character" of the film is also very rarely viewed-clumsily wrapped
newspaper and placed out of sight, though it is never out of mind. "There is a
the story that certain objects have a pull on people in the way The Goldfinch
has a pull on Theo,"
Crowley remarks. "But however you define art, one thing most people would agree
on is it's
meant to be seen. The idea of keeping a work of art hidden, ostensibly lost to
humanity, is on
some level, a crime against the idea behind the impulse of that creation.
Anything that can reach
across time or across cultures and speak to somebody and perhaps make them feel
a little less
lonely, more seen, more emotionally connected to themselves, is of great value."
The priceless artwork at the center of the tale is part of the permanent
collection of the
Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands. Fortunately, the Mauritshuis was
provide the perfect "stand-in" for The Goldfinch. Production designer K.K.
"The museum used a 3D scanner to scan the surface and then rebuilt the painting
in layers to
scale. I admit, I was doubtful. I thought, 'This is going to look like a bad
reproduction,' but when
they held it up to the real painting, I was extremely impressed by how close
they were. For some
shots, we blew it up digitally and then a scenic artist over painted it to give
it exactly the same
brushstrokes and textures we could see in the print."
During their visit to the Mauritshuis, the filmmakers relished the
opportunity to see,
firsthand, Carel Fabritius's beloved masterpiece, which survived the massive
explosion that killed its creator in 1654. "Seeing The Goldfinch was a
experience," Crowley recalls. "It seems to have a light emanating from inside,
and no matter
where you walk in the room, that little bird is watching you. I can't imagine
anyone standing in
front of it and not being moved on some level that's hard to articulate, which
is the mark of an
incredible piece of art, I think."
The curators at the Mauritshuis generously gave the behind-the-scenes team a
the Dutch masters, which is the exhibit Theo and his mother are touring at New
Metropolitan Museum of Art on the fateful day.
Across the Atlantic, The Met was also instrumental in helping Barrett's team
film's art exhibit. Executive producer Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda says, "There
were obviously some
sensitivities about presenting a terrorist attack at the museum, but they knew
it was a fictional
story based on an important, prize-winning literary work. John Crowley did an
explaining his vision for the film and got them excited about it. They took us
under their wing
and gave us access to their curators who showed us how to put together an
art exhibit of our own."
The replicas of the artwork on the walls of the exhibit on the set had been
high resolution images licensed from The Met, the Mauritshuis, the Rijksmuseum
The graphic and scenic departments printed the images on photographic paper and
prints to look like aged paintings. More than 80 reproductions, most notably
Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson, were created for the museum sequence.
"I didn't mean to do it. But I extinguished
a light...at the heart of the world."
- Theo Decker
It would have been impossible to film the museum interiors at The Met, given
destruction that occurs, so Barrett's art department re-created several of the
connecting rooms in a large warehouse in Yonkers, often used for filming.
Flashbacks of the terrifying explosion and its aftermath recur in Theo's
waking and sleeping. Relating their approach to the crucial sequence,
Deakins offers, "It's very much about Theo's memory of the event, and we both
thought it would
be stronger if it was about the details and not the overall devastation. John
very much wanted
that when Theo wakes up in the dust, it is like he is in this kind of void
really, almost to mirror his
senses. And so we built on that."
"Roger thinks in images," Crowley states. "He loves to, as I do, soak up all
information about what's going on inside the story and what is the undercurrent
scene. We went through the script and, early on, decided we would play with the
focus in an effort to land Theo's relationship to his own memories and his fear
that those of his
mother are fading. His mother walking away is a key motif throughout the film
and gave us a
visual foothold on other aspects of the film."
The exterior scene following the bombing-as emergency responders rush in to
Theo emerges, still shell-shocked, into the pouring rain-was filmed on site on
the front steps of
the museum. Although it is a relatively short scene, it was logistically
challenging, as they had
to shoot very early on a Sunday morning and be done and out before The Met
For the Barbour's spacious home, where Theo first goes, the company initially
number of Park Avenue apartments. However, Deakins allows, "We realized it would
impractical to film in an upper-floor apartment with the amount of rigging we
would have had
to do to make it work."
Instead, Barrett and his team located a house in Rye, New York, which, the
designer says, "had a layout similar to some of the apartments we'd seen. We
made sure to
erase anything that would give away we were in a house and it became the Barbour
Barrett designed the Barbour home in a palette of cool tones, using shades of
which, Crowley points out, "was carried over to Mrs. Barbour's wardrobe in the
first part of the
film. In the second half, it does feel that the place hasn't had any attention
in quite a few years."
The director continues, "Our costume designer, Kasia [Walicka Maimone], did
wonderful job of not just costuming the actors but expressing the personalities
characters through the lived-in patina of their clothes and the subtle balance
of colors that she
played with in designing their individual wardrobes."
Far from Park Avenue is Hobie's antique shop with its basement workshop below
apartment above, nestled in Greenwich Village. Barrett notes, "It's two very
Yorks-the bohemian downtown and the upper-crust uptown."
Ansel Elgort adds, "As a New Yorker myself, I love that we see different
aspects of the
city. When Theo is with the Barbours, they live in a fantastically expensive,
stuffy Upper East
Side apartment. Then he goes down to the Village, and you get that artistic,
But both are New York and that's something that ties it all together."
The cluttered workshop set was constructed in the Yonkers warehouse, while a
restaurant on 7th Avenue was converted into the store itself. Exterior scenes
were shot on site in
While shooting "The Goldfinch" in New York City, the studio and filmmakers
with NYC Film Green, a first-of-its kind environmental sustainability
designation program. Over
the course of the entire production-also encompassing location filming in
Amsterdam-they adhered to the Producers Guild of America's Green Production
protocols with the cooperation and appreciation of cast and crew alike.
Spearheaded by Winkler-Ioffreda, their efforts, overall, significantly
conserved energy and benefitted the communities, and made this one of the
ever accomplished. Just a few of the positive steps included: a 74% landfill
diversion rate in NYC
by recycling, composting and donating materials; eschewing plastic water bottles
in favor of
reusable bottles, avoiding the use of more than 68,000 bottles; donating more
than 4,270 meals
to local foodbanks and shelters; reducing fuel use by renting hybrid vehicles;
materials from prior productions and preserving them for future projects. As a
production earned the NYC Film Green mark of distinction from the Mayor's office
and an EMA
Gold Seal from the Environmental Media Association.
ALBUQUERQUE AS LAS VEGAS
When Theo's dad shows up and takes Theo away, the young boy finds himself
stranded in the exurbs of Las Vegas-2,500 miles, and a world away, from the
metropolis of New York. Barrett attests, "He went from uptown to downtown...and
out of town. It's a shock to the system for a kid who's grown up in the city to
not just go to the
desert but to a tract home in the middle of nowhere. The houses have lots of
space, but they're
bereft of personality or intrinsic value."
They are also bereft of people, leaving Theo, his father and Xandra living at
the end of an
empty dead-end road.
With the Las Vegas scenes, which were actually filmed in the outskirts of
the immediate impression Crowley wanted to give "was of a totally a historical
its absolutely bare, washed-out 'beigeness,'" he remarks. "I had this idea that
should be older than Theo and Boris, and that the look and the feel of it should
'other.' That whole section of the film is almost like a parody of family life
that's been turned on
its head and emotionally unbound, leaving these two feral kids to fend for
To further the disparity between the desert and the city, Deakins says, "Most
of the Las
Vegas scenes were deliberately shot in bright sunlight to get that hot,
bleached-out look. A lot
of the interiors were also quite brightly lit, in contrast to the New York
scenes, which have a
darker, softer ambiance." Apart from the lighting, the cinematographer adds, "We
with slightly wider lenses to make everything feel more open, barren and hostile
One memorable nighttime sequence involved a different approach. Theo and
to their own devices on Thanksgiving night, cap a heartbreakingly revealing
loss and guilt by abruptly jumping in the dark pool. To achieve the underwater
says, "We utilized a HydroFlex system on a crane, which is essentially
underwater housing for
the Alexa camera. I could remotely operate the hydro head on a crane arm, so we
didn't need a
diver. The pool wasn't very deep, about eight feet, but we had to get the camera
set right on
the bottom of the pool to get a wide enough shot."
The scene posed another kind of challenge to Fegley and Wolfhard. Crowley
"Albuquerque at night is freezing cold, and while we warmed up the water a
little bit, we couldn't
warm it up so much that there would be steam coming off of it because it's not
supposed to be
a heated pool. The scene was also difficult for Oakes and Finn because we wanted
particular piece of action, but they couldn't see under the water, so they were
their way through it. We had to do take after take, so we set up a kind of
makeshift Jacuzzi for
them with hot water, so they could get warm between shots."
Amsterdam was the final filming location, and for the filmmakers, there could
substitution. Barrett confirms, "We couldn't shoot Amsterdam anywhere else in
the world. No
other city looks like it and there is a bit of a parallel because New York was
Amsterdam. The story drove us there and we couldn't wait to get there."
Deakins recalls, "At one point, they were discussing building the hotel room
on a stage
and using a Translight backing, but to me, it was key that the backdrop was
real. We ended up
shooting in an apartment that K.K. made look like a hotel room and it had this
of the canals, which just says Amsterdam and that lends so much to the film."
The production also benefitted from the local Dutch crews, who were
instrumental in the
filmmakers accomplishing everything they needed in only five days.
"The whole film opens up there and reaches its denouement there," adds
the place where fine art intersects with criminal activity. And it's The
Goldfinch that leads Theo
from the finery of the New York art and antique world to rather shady dealings,
literally in the
underworld...in an underground car park in Amsterdam.
"...somehow, miracle after miracle, it survives...."
When principal photography wrapped, Crowley completed "The Goldfinch" in
collaboration with editor Kelley Dixon and composer Trevor Gureckis.
The director remarks, "With the score, I think we're lucky to witness the
arrival of a major
new musical voice in Trevor. As an audition piece, he wrote 12 minutes of music
for the film,
fully mindful that he might not get the job. But he won it...and then some."
In composing the score, Gureckis says, "I wanted to create a musical tapestry
electronics blended with modern orchestra that enhances the great work that's
already there in
the scenes. I was trying to capture what's happening inside the characters."
He goes on to say that the central theme of the score was inspired by Theo's
how he is always reaching for something. In the same way, the score is always
reaching for a
resolution-the whole framework of the composition is set up around one chord
that is never
resolved until one climactic moment."
"Trevor created a musical expression of an idea that Roger and I had come up
with as a
means of dealing with Theo's relationship to his memory of his mother in the
expands. "He translated that into a repeated musical phrase that would always
exit on a note
that was not flourishing...that would leave tension in its wake. And then when you
Theo and his mother, and you hear her speak for the first time and see her face
what Trevor was
able to do was to sort of let the music take flight."
The director reflects, "It's an acknowledgement of what Theo's mother had
before that awful day-the terrible event, which cannot be changed...which is
She gave him an appreciation of beauty and of the way in which beautiful objects
their way into your life and can become the thing that actually binds people
together, in a very
direct way, across time. That is something that speaks to an essential humanity
and I think it's
a profoundly important message."
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