Director Guillermo del Toro is known for creating movies filled with fantasy and horror, and the setting for his latest movie, “Crimson Peak,” is filled with a whole lot of both.
A Gothic run-down mansion in the English hills is the setting for most of the movie. Young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is brought there after marrying Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) who also lives with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
However, after Edith gets to the Sharpe home, which is slowly sinking into the red clay it sits on, she finds that along with living in a dilapidated home that has a giant hole in the roof and red clay seeping through the walls, there are creepy ghosts walking the halls.
The Sharpe mansion isn’t the ideal place to live in, but for the audience it’s one of the best parts of the movie.
Thomas E. Sanders, who was the production designer on the film, said the inspiration behind the look of the house came from Edward Hopper’s “The House by the Railroad,” which was also Alfred Hitchcock’s muse for the Bates house in “Psycho.”
“After talking to Guillermo I printed out a picture of it immediately and we kept it on the wall,” Sanders told Business Insider.
Sanders said that he and del Toro knew they wouldn’t find a real location that could match their vision, so Sanders was tasked with designing the interior of the house in a sound studio.
“I knew we were going to be on stage for a good six weeks, and that’s a long time for be on one set,” said Sanders. “You’re usually in fifteen to twenty sets during that length of time, so we needed to build a set that could hold up that long.”
To do that Sanders created a 5×5 model of the entire interior of the house, which over eight weeks was tweaked to del Toro’s specifications.
“I would point to a part of the model and say, ‘OK, Guillermo, if we stand here we’ll be able to see this and this,'” Sanders said. “So you could look with a lipstick cam and figure out if a wall would need to be moved so the camera could get in that spot. It’s kind of backwards from most designers, who would draw things out and then maybe make a model, but I like to change the model organically as we’re building it.”
With a three-dimensional blueprint to work from, the set was then built, which included all three levels of the house, tubes build into the walls for when the red clay needed to seep through, and a working elevator that’s used prominently in the film.
According to Sanders, very few computer graphics were used. The one exception is the ceiling of the house and its giant hole, where light shines down onto the foyer.
For Sanders, the experience on “Crimson Peak” is hard to find. The last time he worked on a movie with this many practical effects was with Francis Ford Coppola on “Dracula” in 1992.
He gives all of the credit to del Toro for making it possible.
“It’s because the director, me, and the DP, all of us, were on the same page and were able to push it in that direction,” he said. “It’s rare to have that on a movie, with everyone on the same page.”
“Crimson Peak” is now playing in theatres.
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