Florencia Martin interview: ‘Licorice Pizza’ production designer
“Licorice Pizza” production designer Florencia Martin had to transform Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley into 1973 and while she dove into research, she also had a personal tour guide who grew up in the area in Paul Thomas Anderson, who wrote the film partly based on his childhood memories.
“Day 1 of meeting, we went down to tour all the places that he visited as a kid or remembered. A lot of the look of the film was built off of anecdotes from Paul and other people of the period who had really amazing stories of Tail o’ the Cock and other restaurants … and about waterbeds and pinballs and what it felt like to live in the house with your older siblings under one roof,” Martin tells Gold Derby (watch above). “Paul definitely has an amazing grasp of the Valley. It’s his backyard. We went on a lot of scouting adventures down amazing neighborhoods that only a local would know.”
Nothing was done via green screen — not even the dramatic backwards truck sequence mid-film — which made location scouting even more important. One pivotal location is Tail o’ the Cock, a real-life watering hole that Martin recreated with the dilapidated Billingsley’s restaurant at the Van Nuys Golf Course.
“We were going to shoot at a working restaurant, but then Paul hat shot at Billingsley’s in his film ‘Magnolia,’ and we went to take a look and it was completely defunct, almost like a teardown,” Martin describes. “So it was a big, ambitious project to take on in our budget. We have a lot of sets in this film that also had large scope, but it is such an important location because it is a space that everyone keeps coming back to and it’s also where Gary (Cooper Hoffman) and Alana (Alana Haim) first meet [for dinner], and it’s romantic and intimate.”
Martin and her team turned the entire space into a faux restaurant, constructing a walk-up bar on an upper level, 20 booths, 20 tabletops and a piano bar. And they really did leave no stone unturned. Or should we say window? “Billingsley’s has huge windows that look out to the golf course, which didn’t serve our purpose of creating this dark and intimate interior that Paul described to me as a place you’d go to as a kid and not know what time of day it was inside and everyone ends up falling asleep in the booth at the end of a meal. I just knew that immediately we would have to create something,” she says. “A lot of restaurants in that time period produced beautiful postcards of what the interiors looked like and every one had stained glass features, American colonial-style lighting, so all of those elements we brought in and created a construction of reducing the side of the windows and created 24 custom stained glass windows. It was a full 360 experience.”