When it comes to film, perhaps Hollywood’s greatest magic trick is convincing audiences they are watching a story take place somewhere that doesn’t even exist. As the 90th Academy Awards, set to take place on March 4 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, approach, we took a look at the nine movies nominated in the Best Picture category to deduce what the strangest things are about the set design for each one. And the nominees are . . .
1. The Post
For this political thriller about the Washington Post‘s attempts to publish the Pentagon Papers, it was important to director Steven Spielberg to have real Linotype machines on set to replicate the feel of the newsroom in 1971. The problem: Linotype machines, which are hot metal typesetting systems, used from the late 19th century to the early ’80s and eventually phased out by computers, aren’t exactly easy to come by. However, two of the remaining Linotype machines still in service are at Woodside Press in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, just down the block from one of the filming locations. What are the odds?
2. Darkest Hour
Even though it’s not particularly difficult to source items from the 1940s, a number of props were specially custom-made for this British war drama that follows Winston Churchill’s early days as prime minister. Tens of thousands of tourists have visited Churchill‘s War Rooms and laid eyes on the originals, and, therefore, impersonations can’t be easily subbed in. The team also built a replica of the wooden chair Churchill sat in during meetings in the Cabinet Room. To emulate the scratch marks on the armrests of the real version, close-up shots in the film depict Churchill’s character digging his fingernails and signet ring into the chair. While the chair is on display for tourists to view, very few can say they’ve had the privilege of actually sitting in it. However, actor Gary Oldman received the go-ahead to do so, a right that is normally only granted to presidents and prime ministers.
This film that focuses on the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II is often slotted into the same category as Darkest Hour despite visually being quite different. However, there is oneconnection, beyond a prime minister, that these two films share: They used some of the same boats. “There’s a little boats association in the U.K., and they literally have the boats from Dunkirk,” said Sarah Greenwood, the production designer for *Darkest Hour” in an interview with Mental Floss. “They’re still there and they’re kept historically correct, so yes, of course if you’re doing a Dunkirk movie, you go to these guys and they provide these wonderful historic boats. Dunkirk used them for months on end, and we had them for a day.”
4. Call Me By Your Name
Villa Albergoni, the beautiful yet run-down 17th-century Italian estate that sets the stage for Call Me By Your Name, a coming-of-age love story between an Italian 17-year-old and his father’s American 27-year-old male assistant, isn’t actually in Liguria on the Mediterranean Sea, but in Lombardy. That didn’t stop landscape designer Gaia Chaillet Giusti from making the already gorgeous grounds look like the house was set there, however. Real, ripe peaches were “stuck” to the trees that were already there, and more peach and apricot trees were brought in, as the fruit is not native to Lombardy.
5. Get Out
Budget cuts may have been the best thing that ever happened to director (and comedian) Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, a horror film with a satirical premise that examines the current racism climate. Peele had originally planned to film in Los Angeles, but when he discovered the money wasn’t there just about a month before filming began, he headed to Fairhope and Mobile, Alabama. This is how Get Out achieved it’s overall final look, which included filming at Barton Academy, a Greek Revival building that was the first public school building in Alabama, operated as a school until the 1960s, and has been on Alabama’s list of “Places in Peril,” due to the fact it lacks funding to restore it. It’s currently on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places.
6. Lady Bird
It’s easy to imagine what actor-turned-director Greta Gerwig’s childhood home might have looked like thanks to the production team of Lady Bird, the comedic drama about a high school senior and her turbulent relationship with her mother. For “Lady Bird”‘s house, a real home in Los Angeles was used. “It had a similar floor plan as Greta’s childhood home, and it was well-loved, which was the big thing we were searching for,” production designer Chris Jones said in an interview with Vanity Fair. Gerwig gave them a lot to work with: she handed over her personal yearbooks, teenage photos, and journals, and also gave the team a tour of Sacramento and a walk-through of her actual childhood home.
7. Phantom Thread
Filming in an authentic Georgian townhouse in London seemed like a good idea to Daniel Day-Lewis—until he actually did it. “It was awful,” Day-Lewis, who stars as a couture dressmaker in the 1950s historical film, said. “We had hoped to find that way of working again where we would be self-contained, beholden to no one, and uninterrupted. We built a world we could create and just stay in and no one could get into it. But in this townhouse, which was very beautiful, it was a nightmare.” The romanticized idea he had imagined just wasn’t there. “You work in a room then you have to move all that shit into another room, and that space becomes a storage space. That entire house was like a termite nest.” In fact, not that viewers are able to tell, but this setting forced director Paul Thomas Anderson to film some of the scenes out of sequence, as the cast was unable to repeatedly carry the equipment up and down the stairs.
8. The Shape of Water
There are 75 pairs of vintage shoes that were hand-collected by set decorator Shane Vieaufor Sally Hawkins’s character’s apartment in The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy drama about a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who befriends a captured creature in 1962 Baltimore. But what we really want to know is: Who got to keep all those shoes? Maybe Octavia Spencer: Spencer said she “would have walked the Earth” to work with director del Toro, and was so taken with the set and the many props that she asked del Toro how many she was allowed to keep.
9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Four carpenters and two lifts were needed every night and every morning on the set of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—a crime drama about a mother who rents billboard to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder—to cover and uncover the boards due to the upset community in Sylva, North Carolina. “Pretty much the day after we put up the billboards, our location manager started getting complaints from people around that area,” said production designer Inbal Weinberg in an interview with Deadline. “It’s pretty much the South, and people are quite conservative, so especially the “Raped While Dying” board was extremely upsetting to people who were driving around with their kids.” Weinberg said she had become “desensitized” having seen the billboards every day, but it became a big issue within the community. “Quite frankly, I think we were happy when they finally got burned, because at least one was completely dark and couldn’t bother anybody anymore.”