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About The Production
Across the board, Taymor attracted an exceptional team of collaborators for Across The Universe. In the key role of cinematographer, she chose Frenchman Bruno Delbonnel, who although he has just begun shooting films in the US, is already a two-time Academy Award® nominee.

Taymor recalls: "Bruno, in our first interview said, ‘I hate musicals.' I thought, ‘Now what do I think about that? That's interesting.' And I thought, he's done Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, these incredibly theatrical movies. He has an incredible sense of light and photography. I knew that tough, European sense with him: he would want it to be a serious movie, not fluff; that the darkness would be there when I wanted it to be there, but it would also have that whimsy and theatricality that was very important.”

Mark Friedberg (Far From Heaven, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Producers) served as production designer. For Friedberg, it was a special opportunity to work with Taymor, a director who happens to be one of the most creative theater designers of our time. He notes, "Julie Taymor has dreams that are better than anything I could ever design.” Taymor came in one morning and described to him the image of Vietnamese women dancing on the water as part of the montage for the song "Across the Universe,” which she had dreamt the night before. "That is not fair,” he laughs. "I want to be able to do that.”

Friedberg says that Taymor's greatest strengths are that "she is brave and she is committed to following her ideas to their fullest. She is not afraid that they might fail.” In fact, he says, her only fear is not going far enough. "She is afraid that our ideas might not be interesting, or that we are not trying hard enough, or we are not challenging ourselves enough. It's an amazing and inspiring way to work.”

As a result, Friedberg says, his greatest challenge on Across the Universe was not the technical process of realizing Taymor's vision, but living up to her expectations of creating a wholly new and original work. "She let me go and get way out there and see if I would find anything she would like, and usually the stuff that was farther out was the stuff she was curious about. I wanted to interpret the 60s in a way that was relevant and interesting. I didn't want to re-create it – I wanted to reinvent it.”

So while Friedberg's art department began with a tremendous amount of historic research, he also had a bit of artistic freedom to reinterpret the 60s, and pull in other influences. Friedberg and Taymor looked at a lot of graffiti art from the 80s until present day for inspiration for Jude's art and a lot of the downtown East Village neighborhood. An example of how the production design would sometimes "reinvent” the 60s was Dr. Robert's "magic bus.” As Dr. Robert is inspired by Neal Cassady, the real-life figure who drove Ken Kesey's famous bus Furthur, that bus became the starting point for the design; however, Taymor thought it looked somehow old. She loved Friedberg's "Basquiat-inspired,” cool, contemporary version. Graffiti art is not true to the period, but Taymor preferred its slightly rougher, street edge to the sweeter and more flowery, more stereotypical 60s look, and it became a useful design element.

"As a designer herself, she has a very keen visual sense,” Friedberg continues. "She has a very powerful aesthetic. She's operatic. She's also a collaborator. She asks ‘What do you think?' and she is always open to the best idea in the room. We had an easy vocabulary. Julie would say, ‘For the circus, I want to use a Matisse palette,' and I knew exactly what she was talking about.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Friedberg was most anxious about one part of the production: the film's large-scale puppetry. He went to an expert puppet designer, Paul Rice, a top puppet maker from the the


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