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NINE

Designing NINE
To allow movie audiences to experience NINE in a distinctly cinematic way, Rob Marshall wanted to invite them to inhabit an Italian movie, moving back and forth between the sleek, Mod streets of 60s Rome through which Guido zooms in his pale blue Fiat Alfa Spyder; and the dreamlike fantasies that erupt from Guido's imagination, evoking his lust and love, his imagination and frustration, his nostalgia and his yearning to find a path to his future. 

To do this, Marshall and his long-time partner, choreographer and producer John DeLuca, gathered around them many of the exceptional artists who helped them to create the kinetic beauty of CHICAGO and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. They put together a team that includes two-time Academy Award® winning production designer John Myhre, two-time Academy Award® winning costume designer Colleen Atwood and Oscar® winning director of photography Dion Beebe.

The trio was excited to reunite—especially on a movie that's so in love with the emotional power and visceral beauty of the movies. Says Dion Beebe: "If the stage was our playground in CHICAGO, then moviemaking was our playground in NINE. We all wanted to exploit cinematic ideas to transform the Cinecitta soundstage into the stuff of a man's imagination.” 

Adds John Myhre: "Perhaps the only thing that could have been more exciting to us than a movie about moviemaking was the idea of a Rob Marshall musical about moviemaking. All Rob had to tell us was, ‘there has to be a transformation, the audience has to see Guido's world transform,' and immediately big ideas were being put about.”

The team split the design elements into three distinct realms: Guido's complicated real life in Rome, and the luxe hotel spa that he hopes in vain will be his hideaway; the memory of Guido's youth, and his very active fantasy life. The latter all takes place on a half-built set on a Cinecitta soundstage—the source of Guido's creative anxiety—that morphs into different visual worlds. 

Myhre explains: "We decided that when we first see the soundstage it had to be a real set—so we used H Stage at Shepperton Studios in England, which was an excellent match for Fellini's historic Stage 5 at Cinecitta in Rome. Rob always wanted us to emphasize that this stage is the core of Guido's life, where he makes it or breaks it. The set was designed as you would design a theatre set; all the lighting had to be figured out and the space needed for the dancers. But the biggest challenge was that the stage had to transform ten different times, sometimes overnight, into many different imaginative worlds—it becomes the Folies Bergere, it becomes a stylized beach, a 1960s fashion runway, a piazza in Rome, and more—and the challenge of creating each of those worlds was fantastic.”

All of this pushed the design team's inventiveness to the very edge. "Each of the facades was designed so it could work for a specific number but could also be adapted for others,” Myrhe explains. 

Some of the dance sequences also required extensive rigging. "For the number with Penélope Cruz as Carla, Rob wanted her to slide down a huge, 80-foot long, pink draper,” the designer recalls. "Technically, it was very challenging to do this so that it would be safe for her to perform over and over again. Ultimately, we used a conveyor belt that becomes part of the pink drape and allows her to fall out onto an eight-foot mirror in the middle of the dance.” 

When it came to the film's lush, sensual cinematography, Dion Beebe took his initial inspiration from the deeply personal tone and vibrant aesthetic of Italian cinema—especially its heyday in the 1960s when Italy produced a chain of history-making auteurs, from Fellini to Antonioni to Pasolini and Bertolucci—but crafted the film's own individual style from there. "Italian cinema has always p

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