Even though Cruel Intentions is a modern-day piece, production designer Jon Gary Steele created an overall look for the film which paid homage to the original novel
Even though Cruel Intentions is a modern-day
piece, production designer Jon Gary Steele created an overall
look for the film which paid homage to the original novel. The
interior sets of the Valmont townhouse, for example, which were
built and shot in L.A., were given a French twist. "Most
of the story takes place in modern-day New York, but when you
walked into the Valmont townhouse, I wanted you to feel like you
were walking into a Parisian ballroom," says Steele.
In order to create the dichotomy, Steele gave the walls, paintings
and art a period feel and gave the furniture a more contemporary
feel. "The furniture in the living room was very Louis XIV,"
he said. "We stripped the wood and reupholstered it in a
much more modern fabric so the room didn't feel totally period.
Then we added bronze chairs and a bronze table. I didn't want
it to feel like only one piece of the film was period and everything
else was modern-contemporary. I wanted the audience to feel like
it was a period piece, but once they examined the room and noticed
the detail, they would realize the contemporary additions.
"Because these people have blue-blood money and are very
much world travelers, I put in a little bit of everything,"
he adds. "There are a lot of French buildings in New York.
It's not uncommon to find people like this now living in places
like this." When Steele and his crew set out to find what
would become the exterior of the Valmont townhouse, they found
a huge French chateau on 79th Street and 5th Avenue, which is
now the Ukranian Institute of America. The chateau was built in
1898 and designed in limestone in the French Gothic style. Steele
was surprised to find that the interior of the chateau was similar
to the Valmont interior set he created in Los Angeles, right down
to the similar moldings and comparable room dimensions.
His next step was to plan the bedrooms for Sebastian and Kathryn,
which were more modern in design. "I designed Kathryn's room
with a very French flair, complete with a built-in French bed.
I felt like she was this cold 'ice princess,' and so we painted
the room in very cold colors of silver and blue and used crystals
so everything feels cold around her. I always saw her as a very
cold, calculating character, and I wanted to take that and make
it hip and young."
For Sebastian's room, Steele kept the colors in dark and rust
tones, complementing Sebastian's dark personality. "We shaded
the colors on his walls from the bottom up, from the darkest to
the lightest tones. It's a very theatrical thing to do. I thought
this whole family was very theater-like, and that's why I made
Kathryn's bed the way it is and why Sebastian's room is like the
theater. I felt like they were actors acting out a play in their
Steele deliberately used dark colors throughout the entire film.
"I see the movie as very much a tragedy. Since we were using
a young cast, I didn't want it to feel like a young, bright teen
film, because it's not. It's very tragic; everyone basically loses.
It's all about manipulation and trying to get what they want out
of life by using and abusing other people, and I found it very
dark. So all of the colors that we could control and most of the
locations that we could paint were painted darker colors."
In the Caldwell apartment, Steele's use of art created a visual
joke when played against a very serious scene. "
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