“He talks like a radical, but he lives like a rich man.” Such is the sentiment repeatedly expressed about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the new film “Trumbo." For production designer Mark Ricker, presenting that contrast was integral to understanding him. As he explains during our recent webcam chat (watch below), “Trumbo himself, in a way, sort of straddles that world and that was one of the things that we tried to do.”
He notes, “there’s a party that he goes to in the beginning where it’s made clear he’s very much apart of this world. He was a wealthy man, and he liked spending his money, but he also had political ideas, he was very supportive of workers rights and was called before this committee like everybody else who had political views that weren’t in line with the Motion Picture Alliance. And so creating the world of the studio system and the glamour of Hollywood up against this very stark desk he has to sit at and bare his soul, and the prison where he’s stripped of everything literally and figuratively, is something that we tried to do to just show the many hurdles and environments he had to overcome.”
One of his biggest challenges was that the film was shot in New Orleans. “Doing a film that lived and breathed in Los Angeles in a very particular time and place, and going to another city in a different time and place, it’s the job, it’s what we always have to do, but in this particular case, I was a little nervous."
He had to recreate landmark studios, restaurants, and hot spots of the time. “One of the first conversations I had to have with Jay (Roach) was, ‘Alright, how important is this,’ because I’d already decided in my head it’s just going to be beyond us to create what these places specifically are, but we can find places that have the spirit.” Ultimately, “it was really just towing the line as much as I could about what was going to be the right choices and locations, and really being a hardliner about trying to find the right places that people who know Los Angeles would believe.”
Ricker was nominated for an Emmy for the TV movie “You Don’t Know Jack” (2010). Check out our full interview below to learn more about his extensive work on “Trumbo."
Photo: "Trumbo." Credit: Bleecker Street