Go’s house is the Production Designer’s favorite Gone Girl set
When you ask an Oscar-winning production designer what his favorite set on his latest film was, you’d expect him to pick the most extravagant and most meticulously designed one.
But Donald Graham Burt, who won said trophy for his work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, prefers something a little more, well, boring. “My favorite set was Go’s house,” he told OSS in a phone interview about Gone Girl. “It was mundane yet special. It was boring and yet special. The shape of it really worked for a lot of the scenes we had to block for.”
That mundane set he’s referring to, of course, belongs to Margo (Carrie Coon), Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) sister who provides him refuge after his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) disappeared into thin, Midwestern air.
“The mundane is very important to me,” Don says of his design style. “There’s something very special about it. When you look at a Joel Sternfeld photograph, he takes a lot of photos and you look at them and think, oh that’s pretty boring. But then you go, oh wait a second, this is extremely interesting. You have to put yourself in a certain mindset to understand them.”
Below, Don helps us get into the mindset of misplaced New Yorkers, Nick and Amy, by giving us a behind the scenes tour of their picturesque Missouri rental home.
(P.S. Like Desi’s extreme lake house? You can read all about it here!)
Don and his team re-did an old storefront to make it look like The Bar
ON SCREEN STYLE: YOU WENT LOCATION HUNTING IN CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI WHAT MADE THAT TOWN SO RIGHT AS A STAND IN FOR THE FICTIONAL TOWN OF CARTHAGE?
It’s right near St. Louis. It represented everything we were looking for. I grew up in eastern Kansas, this territory was sort of homebase for me. I’d driven through Cape Girardeau many times as a child. It had its own river, which was important to the story. And it was the perfect size of city. We were lucky there was a location we could use for The Bar. We found an empty store front and we re-furbished it, redressed it and repainted it, made it into our corner bar. It was located right across from the courthouse where we staged the vigil scene. Everything sort of worked out. You go there and you think, wow this all feels very comfortable.
This “mcmansion” on Keystone Drive in Cape Girardeau, MO was used as the exterior of Amy & Nick’s rented house
HOW DID YOU FIND NICK AND AMY’S HOUSE? WHY WAS THAT ONE PERFECT?
It’s hard to explain without being insulting (laughs). Those neighborhoods, with that style of housing— and without finding any other better way of describing it, sort of that “mcmansion” — they aren’t very attractive. You go, oh geeze do we have to really film this, you know? We found this simple one, and it had all the attributes of that type of house without being too obscene. It felt like it could be traditional, but it was a modern take on traditional. Just the fact that it was on the corner, it gave us good angles for a lot of the scenes with the driving and the staging of the news vans.
DID YOU SHOOT THE INTERIOR SHOTS AT THAT HOUSE, TOO?
We built the entire interior on a stage in Los Angeles. We took the floor plan of the house that we shot on location, and we started adjusting it for our own story and our own camera angles. It was important for me, especially, not to do something where you’d look at the exterior and then you go inside and you’re like wait a second, how could this interior even fit with that exterior? I didn’t want to do that. David [Fincher, the director] and I had long conversations about it. We cheated a few things, we stretched the interior.
Amy and Nick’s kitchen is an example of the modern-yet-classical “perfect home” Nick was trying to give Amy (Photo credit: Merrick Morton)
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE INTERIOR YOU CREATED FOR NICK AND AMY’S MISSOURI HOUSE?
You know those homes are they’re done with traditional elements but in a modern style? They have the built-in cabinets and they have the wooden molding, but there’s something askew about it. The way the moldings are done, they are made out of mdf instead of real wood. It’s that modern construction where they use traditional, classical elements— they put medallions on the ceilings and they have recessed lighting in drywall ceilings instead of real plaster. The spiral staircase isn’t really spiral. It’s curved, and it looks elegant but when you stand there and take it in, you realize there’s something skewed about it.
Don said a muted color palette gave the Dunne house a “faux elegance” (Photo credit: Merrick Morton)
WHY WAS THAT PERFECT FOR THIS STORY?
It works in the sense that Nick is trying to give Amy the perfect home in the perfect place. It’s sort of like, why wouldn’t you like this? Why wouldn’t you feel comfortable in this large house? There’s remnants of the New York feel, but it’s a little bit offbeat from that.
THE COLORS INSIDE THEIR HOUSE WERE WARM BUT AT THE SAME TIME HAD AN ICINESS ABOUT THEM, WAS THAT INTENTIONAL?
Yes, you do that by adding warm grays and cool warms. That’s the way I look at it, it’s finding that balance with color. Creating sort of a beige prison.
I KNOW FROM PAST INTERVIEWS ABOUT HOUSE OF CARDS THAT DAVID FINCHER DOESNT LIKE A LOT OF COLOR AND PATTERN ON HIS ACTORS’ CLOTHES, DO THOSE RULES ALSO APPLY TO HIS SETS?
They do, although, David and I have the same color taste on things. We gravitate toward things that don’t distract, things that in the periphery create a statement. I think the idea in the house was to keep an evenness in tone so that there’s a consistency to the space. The tension was in the relationship and the people. Giving it that faux elegance. Your take between the warm and cold of it was good because that’s kind of what we were after.
The crew didn’t obsess over finding the perfect antique ottoman for the domestic crime scene
IN THE BOOK, THE OTTOMAN IS DESCRIBED AS A HEAVY ANTIQUE, DID YOU USE AN ANTIQUE?
There’s an unconscious thing you do when you’re decorating a set, where you reach that point for what feels right and what belongs there, and that’s what we did. We didn’t obsesses over 25 different ottomans. How about this one? Or this one? Yeah that works great, that fits in the room, that feels right , let’s use that. We strayed from the book on that.
WHERE THERE ANY SPECIFIC PIECES YOU REMEMBER BEING ANTIQUE?
The desk in the office was something that was brought in, Nick’s record collection, there were a few pieces we brought. It wasn’t like they were antiques where you go wow, look at that! It was something that got brought into the house without drawing too much attention to itself. You want things to be grounded, you want them to have a presence but not have a presence. I think that’s the best way to talk about what they brought from New York—it’s there, it has a presence in their life, but it doesn’t have a presence.
Like Nick and Amy’s interior design style? Keep scrolling below to find out how you can get the look, and don’t miss my latest post on Desi’s (Neil Patrick Harris) lake house!
[Special thanks to 20th Century Fox publicity department for hunting down such excellent and raw photos of the sets!]
GET THE LOOK: NICK AND AMY’S FOYER/ENTRY WAY
1.Brass candlestick table lamps
2. Wood frame wall mirror
3.Wooden sideboard/accent table
4. Pale purple/lilac swoop-arm chairs (Photo credit: Merrick Morton)
GET THE LOOK: NICK AND AMY’S KITCHEN
1. Modern industrial pendant lights
2. Black farmhouse dining chairs
3. Wooden modern farmhouse table
4. Glass cake stand
5. Silver bridge kitchen sink faucet (Photo credit: Merrick Morton)
GET THE LOOK: NICK AND AMY’S OFFICE
1. French memo board
2. Stacked ball table lamp
3. White mason jar pencil cup
4. Acrylic Tape Dispenser
5. Resin bird
GET THE LOOK: NICK AND AMY’S LIVING ROOM
1. Neutral print throw pillow
2. Wood frame arm chair
3. Ottoman with cushion
4. Two tier glass side table (Photo credit: Merrick Morton)
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