About The Locations
Principal photography on GREAT EXPECTATIONS began on July 8, 1996 in Sarasota, Florida
Principal photography on GREAT EXPECTATIONS began on July 8, 1996
in Sarasota, Florida. The primary set was a Venetian Gothic mansion,
Ca d' Zan, on Sarasota Bay which served as the crumbling residence
and estate of Ms. Dinsmoor. The imposing structure, once owned
by circus magnate John Mable Ringling and his wife, was originally
intended to combine architectural features drawn from two of Mrs.
Ringling's favorite buildings the facade of the Doge's
Palace in Venice and the tower of the old Madison Square Garden
in New York City, where the Ringling circus regularly appeared.
The structure impressed the filmmakers, especially Cuaron, who
scouted the entire southeastern seaboard in search of a mansion
and an authentic fishing village before choosing to film in Sarasota.
"Ca d' Zan had a magical, largerthan life quality,
because it was built by a circus family," he notes.
For production designer Tony Burrough, the biggest challenge was
to transform Ca d' Zan and its perfectly manicured gardens into
Ms. Dinsmoor's dilapidated residence, Paradiso Perduto (Paradise
Lost). "It is the land that time forgot," explains Burrough,
referring to what remains of a wedding party that never took place,
and which launched the character's descent into madness. Inside
the arched gateway were enormous party tents, ripped and tattered,
a grand piano leaning precariously against a decaying bandstand,
remnants of a wedding cake, overturned banquet tables and broken
crystal an elegant dinner for five hundred guests buried
in twenty years of rot. The lawn covered with dead palm fronds
and overgrown brush added to the forlorn feeling.
The intricate design was very convincing. "You've really
let this place go," griped a local tourist to one of the
crew, unaware that a movie was being made.
If Paridiso Perduto represents the world of the very rich, then
Cortez Island, a vintage fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico
where young Finn is reared, speaks for the working class. "What's
so beautiful about Cortez is that it still preserves an old style
of living, though it's on the verge of changing," notes Cuaron,
referring to Florida's recent ban of net fishing.
After five weeks of filming in Florida, production moved to New
York City, where Finn becomes ensconced in the trendy and sophisticated
art world and is eventually given a debut at the fictitious Thrall
"New York was an ideal contrast to Florida because it has
the best and the worst. It's the perfect picture of capitalism,
of a society that starts to dehumanize. And more than that, it
is the capital of perceptions," says Cuaron, himself a Soho
Eventually Finn moves from his cramped room at the Carter Hotel
to a huge loft on Astor Place, one of the film's key locations.
"The loft represents Finn's ascent into the new class that
he's enjoying," Cuaron explains, adding, "We tried to
film primarily in huge spaces, not an easy thing to come by in
Cuaron, along with director of photography Lubezki, Burrough and
Makovsky, chose a style for the film that Cuaron describes as
"believable, but with its own set of rules." One rule
surprised even this experienced filmmaking team: everything is
green. "There's no logical explanation. It's just a color
that I love and have used in all my previous films," explains
Cuaron. Following their director's lead, the cast and crew made
a point of regularly wearing the color. Even famed designer Donna
Karan, the so
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