Production Designer Marcus Rowland has worked on such Hollywood films such as Attack the Block and Rocketman. But he’s probably best known for his frequent collaborations with writer/director Edgar Wright, previously working with him on Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End, Baby Driver, and now, Wright’s recent psychological period thriller, Last Night In Soho. Due to the nature of Wright’s films, Rowland’s work with him is varied and different each time. His most recent work had him recreating 60’s London in all of its glamour and horror.
We sat down with him to discuss working with Edgar Wright and recreating the feel of 1960’s Soho.
Read the full, transcribed interview below:
Adriano Caporusso: You’ve worked with Edgar Wright in the past and, obviously, this is a very different film than his previous work. Was that a challenge creating a different atmosphere with him or was it more exciting?
Marcus Rowland: More exciting, really. I mean, I think the common sort of thread that follows through all the films is the approach that Edgar takes and it sort of doesn’t really matter what the genre is. So the understanding is just the methodology that we’ve established as a way that we work really. So it was exciting.
AC: I want to know the process of when Edgar approached you for this film and then told you what the film was, and then when the ideas started to come in.
MR: I sort of heard about it, and then eventually, I got sort of early drafts of the script. So that gives you some indication, but really, the process where I sort of become more embedded in the script and get into Edgar’s head in terms of how he wants to make it, it’s really when we start sort of just scouting and looking for locations, and we spend more time together. And in that instance, it was very much about walking around Soho, discussing and looking at the clubs that were there, and the ones that weren’t there. And what we take for granted, and what we were familiar with. And discussing things as they came up, as we saw parts of Soho we hadn’t really noticed for a while and deciding on which bits were more suited to Last Night In Soho. So I think it’s just a slow process, really.
AC: I do have some questions about some of the specific designs in the movie, but the first one I actually want to know about is Eloise’s flat. How did you go about creating that room where we spend a lot of time with her?
MR: When we started, we were designing simultaneously as we were also looking for exterior. We also very much didn’t want to feel that it was too far out of Soho, so we still wanted it to feel Central. So we had to find a street, it wasn’t actually in Soho, it’s in Fitzrovia, which is five minutes away, across the Oxford Street. And we spent quite a lot of time wandering around trying to find the right street that we could control, and we felt was the right presence, that it felt like it was just outside a busy area. And something we could actually use in present day and also make feel period. So along that lines, we’re looking for a location, and that sort of gives you a steer as to the type of architecture that you’re working with. But it was always going to be something in a period building, 1850s, that sort of age, and it was written as a loft room. And in terms of the design process, it’s just trying to get a balance where you’re trying to make it architecturally interesting, practical, and have the tonality that you feel will fit with the rest of the film. Especially in that particular apartment in the loft room, for instance, is obviously used later on as Sandie’s bedroom as well. So it’s trying to have a sense of architecture that you would believe was the right space in terms of practicality, we’re trying to make it slightly bigger and shootable but also a space that we would be able to change and give it a different feel and give it a period feel as well. So we knew we wanted to keep them similar, but also make them feel like different places at different times.
AC: So, in terms of the Café de Paris and the Rialto, how much of those were a recreation and much of those were your own touch?
MR: In terms of the Rialto, it never existed as a club at all. So that’s a complete creation based around reference, obviously, from different clubs at that particular point in time. As far as the Café de Paris, we basically visited the real place, which is still in existence, although I don’t think it’s open at the moment, but has gone through very different incarnations over time, and hence, is sort of very much a pale representation of it’s previous heyday. I looked at reference over a period time, but it was quite difficult to find anything with any detail. I think there is this overall core of the Café de Paris, it’s shape and layout. But we expanded it massively. I’m not going to give a percentage of how much is real. We worked out what were the key bits of the real place, which was mainly the staircases you came in, that curving staircase around the band area, but we really invented everything, while maintaining the general character of the Café de Paris. I don’t think it was ever quite as sumptuous as we made it. So there’s a lot of artistic license, but I’m hoping has the flavor of the place. And that can sort of permeate through the design, we were looking at stuff, you remember these details. But at a certain point, it was just research, research, research. And then I sort of almost abandon that, and develop a design based around what’s visually more stimulating and actually going to be appealing to shoot and visually work when filmed.
AC: One last question, is there any other time period that you would like to explore in the future?
MR: I think any time period is going to be exciting for me in terms of design because it gives you something else to study and dig into. I personally feel that what works most successfully with Last Night In Soho, we don’t slavishly feel that we’re trying to reproduce a time period, as such we’re trying to produce this stylish version of that time period. So, any period where it allows you artist license to take the key pieces you wanted and run with a flavor of it, and enjoy finding out while visually understanding it and then creating your own version of it.