In tandem with Morgan, there’s this underground bunker in the film and I wanted to know—first of all, this is kind of a dumb question—There wasn’t a real underground bunker was there? Or, how did you set this up? It’s very realistic.
No, it’s a great question and I will happily tell our amazing production designer (Diane Millett) that you asked that because that will make her very happy. It was a build. Early on, I was discussing with the writer Matthew (Kennedy) about the idea of a backstory for this bunker because when I conceived it with the production designer, in order to give it some narrative veracity, my idea is that Old Man Monroe, Archer Monroe (Patrick Warburton)’s father in the cold war, sometime in the early ’60s, he was terrified of nuclear fall-out, and he built this rich-guy bunker in his backyard. That became our model for it so we looked at some old blueprints of these underground bunkers that people built when the paranoia around the Cold War was at its height. We decided that we wanted to keep the mystery of it, so we didn’t reference it. So, that featured very strongly in the set dressing and the production design, the way we built it on the stage. What was also so important to us and to Michael Merriman, the cinematographer, as well, is a sense of duality. The Yin and Yang to the movie. This dank, dark, subterranean bunker that’s very claustrophobic and contained. It’s almost theatrical in nature. These two people trying to win at the conversation. Then upstairs with this big, open, colorful world of forests and mansions and courtrooms; Manhattan. We really wanted to play with those two things and let Lauren really feel the transitions, the tectonic shift that’s happened in her life when she goes downstairs and discovers Morgan in the bunker. How everything has changed for her.
Speaking of Manhattan, did you guys shoot just exteriors in New York or did you shoot everything there?
We were very lucky. We shot exteriors and some of Lauren’s journey, some of the connective tissue to the movie, we shot for two or three days in Manhattan, but most of the shooting was done in Alabama, which was an amazing place to shoot. Lovely people, lovely crew. We shot in Birmingham and what we discovered quite early on was that in order to connect New York to the movie, we needed to be very careful in terms of our production design, in terms of our use of visual effects and I’m delighted in the way they were able to execute that and they did brilliantly. What was so important in the story for Lauren is there’s this connection to the old money of Northfork or the Hamptons, that side of New York and then there’s the grit and graveness of Manhattan, the courtrooms and the skyscrapers and that feel that only Manhattan has. It was tricky, we did our best, we got as much as we could in New York and we tried to bleed the two together.
“The atmosphere on set was bizarrely lovely because they are just brilliant people…”
It was pretty seamless and that’s why I was curious. Also, that house, Monroe Manor, was incredible. Do you want to talk about how you guys found it?
It’s gorgeous, a stunning, stunning house. We had the idea when we originally conceived the design we were thinking it’d be a very antiquated, sort of turn-of-the-century, old-money, red-brick house but we came away from that idea because we wanted this family, the Monroes, to be, even though you get the feeling they’re an old-money New York east coast family, we wanted them to feel modern. The work that Lily (Collins), Connie (Neilsen), and Chace (Crawford) did in order for it to feel real. What was amazing about the house is that it was designed along classic proportions but the architect had taken a lot of the walls out so it was very open-plan. If you actually look at the architectural drawings of the house, it was very traditional. The kitchen into the living room, the drawing room, the office, the architect stripped that all away. It was beautifully done and it was very important that the mansion was the aesthetic opposite of the bunker. Whereas the bunker is dark and claustrophobic, the mansion is light and airy. Where there are walls and edges and you feel compressed in the bunker, the mansion is the opposite. That played a big part in the way, it was a real “Eureka!” moment when we walked into that location because you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs on location scouting, so we were delighted when we found it.
I just have one more question, there’s a scene towards the end with Connie Neilsen and Lily Collins and Simon Pegg in the bunker. That was such an intense scene, and I wanted to know what the atmosphere was like on set for that and how you guys put that together.
It was amazing. The atmosphere on set was bizarrely lovely because they are just brilliant people, all of them. Between takes, we were all laughing a lot, but the authenticity and the real chilling horror-driven atmosphere of intensity that they brought to it was amazing. You could feel the tension. Because the guys were word-perfect we were running the whole thing. Like seven, eight minutes of dialogue, two cameras in the room. Watching Morgan prowl between these two women. The way that we were able to do the stunts and the way that we were able to achieve the crescendo. I’m forever grateful to those guys and to the camera operators and everyone for how they managed to achieve it because to me it feels great. It feels raw, intense, and visceral. That’s what we wanted.
I thought it was the perfect scene for the ending. Thank you so much for everything. I really hope that a lot of people get to see this movie because it’s great. Simon Pegg, especially, is just phenomenal and you did a wonderful job on the film, so thank you for taking the time.
Thank you much for that. I’m really glad you enjoyed it, thank you.