Judy Becker (‘Amsterdam’ production designer): ‘It was really fun’ constructing early 20th century New York and Amsterdam [Exclusive Video Interview]

“He belongs to that small group of very imaginative and distinctive filmmakers who is an auteur and also is really dedicated to making good films,” says production designer Judy Becker about her director, David O. Russell, in “Amsterdam.” The pair has worked together frequently in films like “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Joy,” with Becker earning an Oscar nomination for their collaboration on “American Hustle” in 2014. Watch our exclusive video interview above. 

“Amsterdam” stars Christian Bale, John David Washington and Margot Robbie as three friends who witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history. The large ensemble includes Robert De Niro, Taylor Swift, Chris Rock, Anya Taylor-JoyRami Malek and many more.

SEE dozens of interviews with 2022/2023 awards contenders

In addition to the shooting location, Becker’s top priority was securing the proper artwork for the film. “Valerie (Robbie) was always an artist in the script from when we first started talking about it,” she explains. “That was one of the things David was really interested in. I felt that it would be important to not only get the art right for the period, but also get the input of some professional artist who could help generate the artwork and help advise on the artwork. Often, sadly in movies, when a character is an artist, art is left to the last minute and stuff is churned out and it’s not that believable. I wanted to make sure the artwork in this movie was believable for the character and for the time period.”

Although the film is set in New York and Amsterdam, it was shot at the Paramount lot in Los Angeles. “At first I was scared, nervous and disappointed,” she admits. “Backlots can really look like backlots. But what was ultimately really great about it was we had a lot of time and a lot of freedom to do whatever to the streets. And not only for one iteration of the streets, but because the street space was not that enormous, we changed it over to different streets. It was really fun. I did a lot of street signage and dressing to an extent I’ve never been able to do before.”

For inside shots, Becker explains, “I like wallpaper because it was used a lot in that period. You can make a home look older or newer depending on what type of wallpaper you choose. For Burt’s office, even though he was in the office in the 30s, we picked earlier wallpaper for some of the rooms so it would seem like he had been there a long time. In Valerie’s Amsterdam apartment I got some really great constructivist wallpaper that was only available in very small quantities from Europe. It doesn’t obviously tell a story but I always feel like touches like that give added reality to the sets and added depth to it. I don’t want the audience to be aware, but hopefully it’s making it all feel real and right for the story.”

“Amsterdam” was released in the United States on October 7 by 20th Century Studios and is currently available to stream on demand. Watch our full chat with Becker above.

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