Set in 1939 London, the backdrop of a farce about flighty actress Delysia (Amy Adams, left) and her prim assistant (Frances McDormand) combines art deco élan and old-Hollywood glam. Here, the film’s production designer gives a tour of the main stage of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.
1. FINER TOUCHES
Production designer Sarah Greenwood knows her British period pieces (she earned Oscar noms for Atonement and 2005’s Pride & Prejudice). But don’t expect a dark library of dusty books here. ”Pettigrew was a purely decorative event, and English furniture is very brown and dull,” she laughs. To glam it up, her team reupholstered their antique finds in fabulous fabrics, like this chaise gone heavyweight satin.
2. VANITY FARE
The pictures that populate the apartment are specially snapped photos of Amy Adams. ”We had to be very careful because she’s slightly naked in some. Amy did the shoot before Enchanted came out, so we didn’t want them to get into the wrong hands.”
The oversize angels — three of which line the foyer — used to be the posts on an antique bed.
4. IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK
Greenwood loves a good visual metaphor: The cupola embossed with clouds winks at Delysia’s flights of fancy. The wooden panels, based on John Skeaping’s carvings from the Queen Mary liner, illustrate Diana the Huntress aiming at three deer, a stand-in for Delysia and the suitors she juggles.
5. THE FIRST STEP
”The main idea for the set came once we settled on the staircase,” Greenwood explains. The custom-made curving banister plays into the room’s circular motif, inspired by London’s Eltham Palace.
6. GILT-Y PLEASURE
The designer envisioned the interior dripping with decadence to reflect the fairy-tale feel of the story. To that end, her team layered on the gold — including the leafing here — marble, and crystal. ”It was a complete jewel box.”
7. FAUX BEAR
This polar bear rug was a fake: good for animal rights activists, bad for the crew. ”It molted everywhere!” exclaims Greenwood.
ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR
One theme you won’t see is clocks scattered and stacked throughout to telegraph that the plot unfolds over only 24 hours. Says Greenwood, ”They were supposed to show that this day was just ticking away.”