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KINSEY

Kinsey's Decade-Spanning Design
One of Bill Condon's biggest challenges in KINSEY was to come up with a visually dynamic way to capture an epic life, within the confines of a $10 million budget. Condon wanted the film's style to merge both the scientific and the awakening sensual sides of Kinsey, as well as to capture one of the most dramatic periods of change in American culture, spanning the early part of the 20th century into the mid- 1950s. It seemed a tall order, but in the very beginning, Condon was inspired by a photograph he found in the Kinsey archives.

"There was an amazing picture, kind of funny but also touching, of a naked man standing against a background of graph paper – an exposed human being who's become a scientific subject. To me it summed up what Kinsey was trying to do,” recalls Condon. When Condon showed the picture to Richard Sherman, the production designer, Sherman suggested that it might provide a visual motif for the film. So as Kinsey's project gathers momentum, the graph paper grid works its way into the design, sometimes dominating an entire set (as in the interviewing "lab” room), at other points reflected in background objects like lamps and room dividers. "When the project starts to unravel, the grid also begins to disappear,” Condon explains, "until Kinsey at his lowest point collapses in a vast circular library.”

Condon and Sherman also decided to take a unique approach to recreating the past. "The earlier sections of the film are heavy with period detail, but as we move into the years of Kinsey's sexual research (the 1940s and 1950s) we backed off a bit,” explains Sherman. "I think an overemphasis on period can sometimes create a sort of veil over a movie,” adds Condon. "Since the issues Kinsey was exploring are still so relevant, we tried to achieve an almost timeless quality in the later parts of the film – to convey the idea that in some ways things haven't changed at all.” For the same reason, Condon decided not to use title cards or superimposed dates. "There is the occasional marker -- a man in uniform during the '40s, or the McCarthy-era Congressional hearings of the '50s – but mostly we tried to maintain a feeling of immediacy.”

An early decision was made to shoot the film in New York and New Jersey, rather than Indiana where most of the story takes place. The primary reason was to have access to the extraordinary pool of New York actors – especially the dozens of local actors who played Kinsey's myriad research subjects. "We only had 34 days to shoot what is actually an epic story,” explains the director. "During the 1940s Kinsey and his team took the sexual temperature of America by visiting every region of the country, often several times. Lacking the time and money to recreate those trips, we relied on actors' faces to suggest the scope and diversity of the research.”

Condon's parade of overly qualified "day players” included many theatrical luminaries, among them John McMartin ("Into the Woods,” "Follies”), Kathleen Chalfant ("Wit,” "Angels in America”), Jefferson Mays (recent Tony® winner for "I Am My Own Wife”), John Epperson (a/k/a Lypsinka), Reno, Katharine Houghton, Kate Reinders ("Gypsy”), David Harbour (the upcoming Broadway revival of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), and Laura Linney's father, renowned playwright Romulus Linney, who plays Rep. B. Carroll Reece.

Key locations in New York included three university campuses: Fordham was chosen for an architectural style that resembles Indiana University; Bronx Community College was used for the classic marble rotunda mentioned above; and Columbia University's historic Havemeyer lecture hall became the setting for Kinsey's "marriage course.” Other primary locations included a 19th century Plainfield, New Jersey house that stood in for the Kinsey family home; and a building at Letchworth Village in Stony Point, which was transfor

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