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The Look Of The Film

Nicholas Nickleby was filmed over twelve weeks on location in London and Yorkshire during spring 2002.

Production designer Eve Stewart spoke to McGrath early on in the project and asked that the film's narrative be moved from the 1830s when it was originally set to the 1850s, feeling the film's look and feel would benefit from such a change. "I wanted to explore more of the Industrial Revolution," she says, "and to show the real difference between the idyllic, rural Devon and the Babylonian Mecca that was London at that time." McGrath agreed to this suggestion, and felt it also helped to develop the narrative thread, as the Nicklebys would need to make sense of this new world and find their way through it.

In giving the film its rich, textured visuals, the production also benefited from designer Stewart's close working relationship with director of photography Dick Pope; the two have collaborated on four films. "I understand the things he likes to see and the types of color he uses," Stewart says.

Of the director, Stewart says, "Working with Doug is fantastic. We share a lot of the same humor, the same sense of the macabre. As I'm British, I've grown up with rather macabre fairy tales and things that have a dark side. As an American, I think he's been fascinated to explore that."

To this end the production packed the London street scenes with ghastly period details. The undertaker has a coffin with dead infants on display. "That was a true detail," says Stewart. "I found the babies in an advertisement for an undertakers. A set of quads had died, and in return for the babies the family was given a free funeral. It's all really horrifying, but I was intrigued to explore that side of London at that time. People didn't care about life so much. It was very transitory; you died young and were dispensable, especially if you were poor. But I also wanted to show the humor and wit of Dickens, and have taken quite a lot from Murphy's cartoons of the time."

Dick Pope's use of lighting was another very important aspect of the film's look. "Doug and I talked endlessly about that," says Pope. "He had this vision of luminosity, faces standing out in dark frame. Everything would fade away around the face, and it would stand out, perfectly lit. We've explored that quality. I also really like making period lighting authentic. Believable period lighting is a real challenge, and I love exploring this with lanterns, candles and source lighting."

Ruth Meyers, the film's costume designer, has worked on three films with McGrath. "When you get a script from Doug," she says, "it's pretty clear the sort of things he's looking for. He is very descriptive in his dialogue and in what he writes about the film. Since it's quite a gray film, it was interesting to lighten it wherever possible, like with the theatricals and the wedding. These moments are like little champagne bubbles within the story.

"We've deliberately gone for mid-Victorian looks and everything that means," Meyers continues. "The clothing is less frivolous than the earlier period, and has a structured English establishment look. This becomes very important to the film, since so much of the story hinges on morality."

The location manager, Ben Rimmer, scouted the Yorkshire moors looking for a Victorian building with an evil qua


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