oscar-winning movie sets we love
when design is the star
Published Jan 15, 2016 5:00 AM
by Lidia Ryan
Awards season is upon us, and you know the actors will get all the glory. We love movie stars, but we love movie sets more. In honor of the five amazing sets nominated for 2016 Academy Awards in production design, we’re sharing some of our favorite sets whose designers have won Oscars–and for good reason.
grand budapest hotel – 2015 winner
Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel is a feast for the eyes as it leads viewers through a grandiose pink hotel. Art director Adam Stockhausen said he was inspired by the Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic.
the great gatsby
– 2014 winner
Baz Luhrmann brought to life the world of excess and luxury that F. Scott Fitzgerald imagined in The Great Gatsby, from towering mansions on Long Island to Manhattan speakeasies. Here, Fitzgerald’s vision of Daisy’s parlor is realized: “A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up towards the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-coloured rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.”
memoirs of a geisha – 2006 winner
Drawing inspiration from photos of the city of Kyoto, set designers recreated pre-WWII Japan, complete with beautiful flowering cherry blossoms, in suburban California.
the aviator – 2005 winner
Hollywood’s golden age comes to life in Martin Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Viewers are brought inside the Moroccan-themed nightclub Cocoanut Grove and Hughes’ California home.
“Hughes was one of the richest men in America. We couldn’t decorate his house and office with props, so I worked for three months in Los Angeles rounding up the very best objects, furniture, painting, fabrics and antiques,” set decorator Francesca LoSchiavo told Architectural Digest.
chicago – 2003 winner
Chicago juxtaposes images of a somewhat bleak-looking prohibition-era Chicago with ostentatious stage scenes rife with lights, glitter, and feathers.
moulin rouge – 2002 winner
Baz Luhrmann has become known for creating incredibly visual films, and Moulin Rouge is certainly no exception. From Bollywood performances to Satine’s ornate Parisian boudoir, the sets are fantasies come to life.
titanic – 1998 winner
When the Titanic plunged into the deep, an architectural gem was lost as well. Director James Cameron and his set design team recreated early 20th century luxury with the lavish interior of the movie’s RMS Titanic.
out of africa – 1986 winner
Twentieth-century colonial Africa is the backdrop for this Meryl Streep, Robert Redford film. The movie sets elicit such a vivid picture, that it’s still relevant today. Out of Africa is one of the inspirations for Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” music video.
cabaret – 1973 winner
A musical set in Nazi Germany may seem counterintuitive at first, but the movie sets manage to evoke all the glitz and glam of a cabaret show while maintaining the darkness of the subject matter.
hello dolly – 1970 winner
Turn-of-the-century opulence oozes from the sets of Hello Dolly, which takes place in Yonkers and Manhattan, New York.
doctor zhivago – 1966 winner
Recreating Moscow while filming in Spain is a feat in itself, but an ice palace made of frozen beeswax that somehow manages to look beautiful deserves the praise it got.
my fair lady – 1965 winner
You can’t turn a street urchin into a duchess without the proper setting–even if that street urchin is the elegant Audrey Hepburn. My Fair Lady’s sets depict the wealth of London in the early 1900s with lavish furniture and décor.
pan’s labyrinth–winner 2006
A dark, haunting take on the fairy tale, Pan’s Labyrinth’s ability to turn whimsical sets into frightening scenes too was nothing short of captivating.
cleopatra – 1964 winner
The ultimate queen, Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra spends time in gilded chambers with her maids. Cleopatra is one of the most expensive films ever made, and that fact is apparent in the ornate sets that depict the life of Egyptian royalty. According to Architectural Digest, the 70+ sets that John DeCuir designed earned him the nickname “Hollywood’s DaVinci.”
lawrence of arabia – 1963 winner
Seville’s Hotel Alfonso XIII (pictured here) was one of the filming locations in Lawrence of Arabia, and the cast even stayed at there for a few months. The hotel has gone through a restoration in recent years, but it still emanates a magical element unique to old-world Arabic design.
gigi – 1959 winner
Parisian high society had style at the turn of the century, and Gigi showcases it with lush, colorful, and ornate interiors.
the king and i – 1957 winner
The King and I created a world fit for the King of Siam, including this whimsical hot pink room.
And now a look at this year’s nominees…
the revenant – 2016 nominee Since the story takes place in the woods, the production team for The Revenant had to harness the wilderness to create beautiful and terrifying cinematic landscapes.
the martian – 2016 nominee
Ridley Scott’s The Martian imagines what life would be like on Mars–both the hardship and the breathtaking scenery.
mad max: fury road – 2016 nominee
If you’ve ever wanted to know what apocalyptic Australia would look like, the production design team of Mad Max: Fury Road paints a pretty good picture.
the danish girl – 2016 nominee
1926 Copenhagen is brought to life with ornate and colorful sets in The Danish Girl.
bridge of spies – 2016 nominee
Bridge of Spies recreates the Cold War-era streets of New York filled with cars of the time and artful building facades with an result that’s transporting.