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Filming The World Of Dewey Cox
Creating the life of Dewey Cox over the years spanning the 1940s to the present turned out to be a monumental task, but the filmmakers were up for the challenge. All the clothes and sets were manufactured to precise period detail, which affected the designs from both production designer Jefferson D. Sage as well as wardrobe designer Debra McGuire, both of whom had worked with either Judd Apatow or Jake Kasdan over the years.

Dewey Cox's wardrobe became almost as important for the character as his music, recalls Reilly. "Because I'm playing a character who ages from 14 to 66,” he says, "the costumes became almost as important a road map for me as the music. The process of going through the clothes and getting the costumes together is a critical part of preparing a character for me. It was a joyride, as I have over 100 costumes in the film. Basically, every time you see me I am in a different wardrobe. I had a great collaborative experience with Debra McGuire. I must have tried on over 800 costumes to find the right ones.”

To avoid confusion and stay above the fray, wardrobe designer Debra McGuire (an Emmy Award nominee for "Friends” who also worked on such films as Superbad, Knocked Up, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin) created a chart system to work by. "All the charts were broken up into every single scene of the movie,” says McGuire. "In the 1950s, we had three charts for Dewey. Each chart had every scene, and we had each costume depicted in a snapshot that we could move around on Velcro. That way we could easily move it all around if we needed to. It also allowed us to not only stay ahead, but to collaborate with the make-up and hair departments as well. I also could Xerox it all and give it to Jefferson Sage, the production designer, who could then sync up his color palette with what we were planning.”

Sage, who recently worked in the same capacity with Jake Kasdan on The TV Set and Judd Apatow on Knocked Up, faced the uphill battle of not only deciding which sets could be built in a short amount of time, but also coordinating the sets with real locations that had to be dressed and constructed.

"The production became a huge game of chess,” says Sage, regarding finding filming locations throughout Southern California. "We would get lucky, like when we found Pomona, California could stand in for downtown Memphis in the 1950s. On the other hand, we had to design and build a whole jazz nightclub – not to mention two recording studios – in two weeks. My favorite set was the 1970s TV show; we modeled it a lot after the stuff we saw on ‘The Sonny and Cher Show' and others from that era. They did a lot of really whacked-out stuff!”

Overseeing it all was producer Clayton Townsend, a veteran of many sizable productions, including such period films as JFK and The Doors. "I don't think that either Jake or Judd realized when they wrote this film what a production they were in store for,” he says. "It was like getting a giant jigsaw puzzle to fit together, using input from the director of photography, the production designer, and everyone else involved. Just dressing the sets and the people was a huge task. Certainly more scenery was built than either Judd or Jake had ever been involved with. There were over one hundred sets in all.”

Locations were chosen for the film's musical numbers, using existing theatres whenever possible. Los Angeles' vast Variety Arts Theatre and Shrine Auditorium as well as San Pedro's famed Warner Theatre stepped up. Topanga Canyon would double as Dewey's ‘Berkeley retreat,' while Agoura ranches would stand in for rural Alabama farms. In the instances in which the filmmakers could find no suitable locations – including for the scenes set in Dewey's 1970s television variety show, a 1950s-era jazz club, and the interiors for Dewey's many mansions as well as his humble boyhood home – they built the sets on sound


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