Arthur Max interview: ‘The Last Duel’ production designer

Production designer Arthur Max has his work cut out for him creating the world of “The Last Duel.” The medieval drama takes place in 14th century France, centering on the real-life duel that took place between Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris, after the former’s wife accused the latter of raping her. Transforming modern-day France into medieval times required an extensive location scout, with Max traveling through the country with location manager Jérôme Boussier. “He and I jumped in the car and on trains and in minivans and toured most of France,” says Max in an exclusive video interview for Gold Derby. “It was an extraordinary scout.” Watch the full webchat above.

Through their tour, Max discovered that much of Normandy, where much of the action originally took place, had been too modern to use for the film. They ultimately wound up in Dordogne, France, where “we ended up doing a big chunk of work,” using castles like the Château de Beynac and the Château de Fénelon. Inside the castle walls, it was important to capture a muted look to counteract the luminous candlelights and fireplaces. “The color palette was important because when you’re using flame, everything tends to go very warm and orangey,” explains Max. “So to counteract that, we stayed away from warm colors and tried to be very cold in terms of tonalities, so that when the firelight was used, it wouldn’t look too rich and vivid.”

A number of interior scenes were shot on soundstages at Ardmore Studios, including the crucial bedroom scene, which they modeled after the bedroom of Richard the Lionheart. “It was quite small,” reveals Max, “but we copied it and enlarged it and made it into a set.” As Max explains, “We wanted all those textures, apart from the architectural detail, and we emulated as much as possible every aspect of that room.” Another set-piece shot on a soundstage was Count Pierre d’Alençon‘s Great Hall, while the centerpiece duel set was built close to the studio.

For Max, who has now collaborated 14 times with director Ridley Scott, he continues to learn something new with each project. “He’s a genre-buster,” the production designer raves. “He always tries to do something fresh with each genre, whether it’s past, present or future subject matter, to use shape language, almost as an element of character.”

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UPLOADED Jan 7, 2022 2:00 pm