How ‘Hawkeye’ production designer Maya Shimoguchi recreated 30 Rock and stuck Jeremy Renner inside a tree [Exclusive Video Interview]

Hawkeye” is a Christmas show and not just any Christmas show but one set in New York City, which became an additional character on the Disney+ series. “It actually was really fun to delve into the idea of Christmas, which connotates that feeling of wanting to go home, and the whole show being set in New York, it really kind of became a love letter to New York City,” production designer Maya Shimoguchi tells Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video interview above).

While production was mostly in Atlanta, “Hawkeye” filmed exteriors in New York City in December 2020 to capture the authenticity of Christmastime in the Big Apple. That was also vital for the finale’s massive action sequence that takes place on the Rockefeller Center ice rink. The sequence starts with Clint (Jeremy Renner) falling into the famous ginormous Christmas tree before the tree is shot down by Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) onto the ice, where they battle the Tracksuit Mafia. Using footage from the trip, Shimoguchi and her team built a digital model of the entire rink and the 30 Rock plaza before constructing a replica.

“By working on that model, we were able to not necessarily build the whole area. We built two-thirds of the ice rink,” she explains. “We built another half of the plaza. It was a really important tool to be able to figure out the parts that they could put in digitally and the parts that we needed to build. The VFX team was amazing. It’s just really seamless. I can’t see the transition points.”

SEE How ‘Hawkeye’ cinematographer James Whitaker pulled off that sick car chase

The ice was not real but rather plastic, but the tree was very much real. Shimoguchi also left no stone unturned when it came to the tree details. “We had a large tree that we specifically ordered cut down and we put, I think, about 50,000 lights on it and then we replicated the ball that goes on the top of the tree, which is a really specific ornament that the city of New York commissioned a while ago,” she says. However, Renner, as you might imagine, was not actually suspended inside the full tree. “The closeup of Jeremy in the tree is a separate set piece, so in the end there was a real large tree but there were also mockups for specific parts. We cut a chunk of a big tree and then positioned him inside of it so he wasn’t 60 feet in the air.”

Shimoguchi had a different challenge when it came to recreating another hallmark of New York: a Broadway show. The “Save the City” musical number from “Rogers: The Musical” was filmed inside Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, an old theater with limited space and access points on stage.

“We knew we wanted to have some kind of bridge similar to the overpass that’s near Grand Central and the basis of the bridge could only be in very specific areas on the far ends of the stage and there was no way to put support in between there. So we ended up having to build this 40-foot long bridge that had to then be disassembled into pieces that could then fit through a door,” Shimoguchi describes. “The load-in onto that stage is just very small. So everything — all the set pieces in the background — had to be built into these small modules that we could take apart and put through a door. We had three days to put together the whole piece before rehearsals started so the timeframe was very tight. … It was a puzzle, but it was really fun and it was amazing to see how the choreographer put together the whole number.”

“Rogers: The Musical,” sadly, isn’t yet a real Broadway show, but those set pieces are ready to be dusted off (no pun intended) should that happen. “They’re probably in the Marvel warehouse somewhere,” Shimoguchi says.

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