‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’ production designer Stefan Dechant on realizing Joel Coen’s vision

“It’s humbling, to tell you the truth,” exclaims production designer Stefan Dechant about receiving his first career Oscar nomination for his work on “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” This adaptation the classic Shakespeare drama, written and directed by Oscar winner Joel Coen, stars Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand as the murderous title couple. Along with Dechant’s nomination, the film also contends for Actor (Washington) and Cinematography. Check out our exclusive video interview with Dechant above.

Dechant says his designs for the film were driven by Coen’s desire to create a “Macbeth” that was both theatrical and cinematic. “He wanted to abstract it, but he didn’t want to be filming a theatrical event,” he explains. “He very much wanted it to be cinematic. So the question was how do we abstract it. How do we lean into the theatrical but still be cinematic?”

Ultimately, Dechant, Coen and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel found inspiration in imagery from early 20th century films such as Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s “The Passion of Joan of Arc” and Charles Laughton‘s “The Night of the Hunter.” Dechant explains how those films used abstract imagery to support their stories, something that Coen wanted as part of this film. “What we wanted to do was figure out how to lean into this imagery and start having a dialogue with the text,” he says. “The text itself has a certain rhythm and Joel wanted to create a rhythm that visual and could reflect where the text was going.”

When asked about the recent decision by the academy to present certain categories– including Dechant’s– prior to the main ceremony, Dechant is direct with his feelings. “I’m disappointed with it, but I have to compartmentalize it,” he says. “I’m just trying to keep it from bleeding into this other aspect where I was nominated by my peers. I was nominated for work that I did in collaboration with [set decorator] Nancy Haigh, who I’ve known for ages. So Joel and Bruno and Fran invited me into something really special and they trusted me and I was able to be in dialogue with them and contribute to them in a way that my peers thought was worth acknowledging.”

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