“I was absolutely flabbergasted to see my name pop up at 2 a.m. as I must admit I was awake,” production designer Ra Vincent admits about his second career Oscar nomination for his work on “Jojo Rabbit,” which he shares with set decorator Nora Sopková. “It was a spectacular surprise because I didn’t think, in such illustrious company that we would be making it in for production design,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview with Vincent above.
In writer/director Taika Waititi‘s satirical “Jojo Rabbit,” Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) during WW2 Germany discovers that his single mother (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a Jewish girl, Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the attic of their home. Jojo befriends Elsa and confronts his own prejudices while also interacting with his imaginary friend, a neurotic and moronic Adolf Hitler (Waititi), who follows him throughout his journey of self-discovery. The film has been a hit on the awards circuit over the last few months, nabbing six Oscar nominations including for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (Johansson).
Vincent was previously nominated in 2012 for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” alongside previous production design winner Dan Hennah and set decorator Simon Bright, but lost that year to Best Picture nominee “Lincoln.” This year he’s back, this time in a Best Picture nominee, for work that could not be further from the Middle Earth designs of his last nominated work for the epic fantasy trilogy.
Vincent was instrumental in building entire sets of the home that Jojo and Rose inhabit, as well as the numerous exteriors that evoke a different take on Europe during the Second World War. After settling on the Czech Republic as the primary location for the film, Vincent was particularly committed to evoking wartime Europe as authentically as possible. He says it helped that the locals were really invested in telling their own stories to inspire what eventually comes out on the screen.
“Most of the people you talk to have a couple of generational stories that they would tell when swastikas would be flying on those flag poles and now they’re back again,” he explains. “It’s actually not as taboo a subject as you might think in Germany or the Czech Republic. It is part of something that people just refuse to forget about. It’s not something to be covered up, it’s something to be remembered and made sure that the next generation of young people understand the sheer enormity of what went on in the Second World War,” Vincent says. “The opportunity for dialogue was great for the aesthetics, but it also gave us legitimacy with what we were doing.”
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