Gae Buckley interview: ‘I’m Your Woman’ production designer
For Gae Buckley, “I’m Your Woman” provided a full-circle moment. Inspired by Michael Mann’s “Thief” (1981), the Amazon film flips the script on the classic crime drama by focusing instead on the usual Long-Suffering Wife.
“There’s this scene in [‘Thief’] where [James Caan] gives Tuesday Weld and the baby a chunk of money and says, ‘You gotta go!’ So [director] Julia Hart saw that and thought, ‘What’s her story? Let’s follow her,’” Buckley explains during Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Film Production Design panel (watch above). “’Thief’ had been production designed by my mentor Mel Bourne. I worked with him in the early ’90s, so for me it was a little bit of an homage to Mel, and for Julia, it was a little bit of an homage to Michael Mann.”
Set in the 1970s, “I’m Your Woman” stars Rachel Brosnahan, who also produced the movie, as Jean, a housewife who goes on the run with her infant son after her husband falls in hot water with his criminal associates. Filmed primarily on location in Pittsburgh, Buckley had a bevy of sets to not only design but turn back the clock to the ’70s. She relied on her own memory for certain things, like the disco club that “was kind of based on dance clubs when I was in college,” and did research via the Library of Congress and magazines.
“A lot of what I’ve seen sometimes of the ’70s [in films] is almost an exaggerated version of it to sell it as the ’70s. We were trying to keep it a little more low-key than that,” she says. “Of course, we did an awful lot of wallpaper, but that was because both Julia and I love wallpaper. She taught me to really love it, so we’ve been using it in several movies I’ve done with her.”
How hard did they go on wallpaper? “My art department coordinator, who’s wonderful, Maggie Adams, would keep this spreadsheet of all the wallpapers from all the locations. … Some we bought. In Jean’s house, in our backstory, we decided that her husband Eddie had hired her an interior decorator. We actually found one vintage wallpaper in her bedroom, but the rest we made,” Buckely shares. “I went to the line producer very early on and I said, ‘I’m just warning you. We’re gonna be making a lot of wallpaper.’ He came to me halfway through and was like, ‘Wait, you weren’t kidding about the wallpaper, were you?’”