How Italian locations created a romantic palette for movies – The Hollywood Reporter
By Joe Wright Cyrano – from a screenplay by Erica Schmidt based on her 2018 stage musical, an adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac – was filmed in romantic locations in Noto, on the island of Sicily . The city itself, rebuilt in baroque style after the 1963 earthquake, became the primary inspiration for the film’s look and warm color palette, explains production designer Sarah Greenwood, whose six Oscar nominations including her work on Wright Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina and Darkest hour.
While the original story of Cyrano (played by Peter Dinklage, who was married to Schmidt) and Roxanne (Haley Bennett) actually begins in France in 1640, Greenwood and Wright’s goal for the film was to engrave depicts a more fanciful European city, loosely established in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. “The color palette was out of our place. [in Noto]”, she said, recalling “this beautiful stone changes with the light. “
Cyrano first appeared in a scene set at a theater built outdoors in a local courtyard. “Joe wanted it to be like an Elizabethan theater, a lot more grand. [He also] want this feeling [that] Greenwood explained. The filmmakers also chose to build the setting outdoors because of COVID-19, because it’s safer outside with the cast, crew, and others.
“Joe wanted it to be like a playground, that you could really climb all over,” Greenwood said of the theater. “Because the theater doesn’t have such walls, you can see everything around. It just gives it more depth. ” She added, “The design definitely came from the space we were in. It was very steep – [we worked] with [terrain, and added as] as many layers and levels into it as possible. In addition, the space that we have is quite narrow. If you look at the baroque references, the phases – the forward floors – are higher than they are wider. That really lends space to reality.”
For the memorable scene in which Roxanne stands on the balcony as she listens to Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), who echoes Cyrano’s words, Greenwood says they deliberately chose a delicate balcony and built the interior in Roxanne’s house in that position. “She had no money,” Greenwood explained, adding that Noto had “the most amazing balconies, but that was not what we wanted. It must be absolutely lowered. “
She added that the location where Christian and Cyrano are located is not directly under the balcony, “but one layer back from the balcony”, behind a wall, as they say. “It’s a perfect solution for a very long scene, because if you’re under the balcony you’re constantly looking up and hiding.”
Then Cyrano and Christian go to war – scenes shot on the Etna volcano. “We wanted a strong contrast to the world we’ve had up to this point in the film. We were in this warm, beautiful environment, and six months later, they were in the middle of a fight,” Greenwood said.
“Etna is black, so it’s an amazing contrast between the two worlds,” she added, even though it snowed early that year. “We went down the mountain and underneath the snow and rebuilt the set.” However, it was not the last snowfall. “It was like we were being chased by this blizzard,” she recalls.
“Then we left Etna and it exploded,” Greenwood said of the conclusion of this part of the shot. “We had a seismologist with us. It was all done the right way, but, you know, the seismologist said, ‘She always talks like this’ … and then lo and behold, she blew up. But we know that Etna doesn’t erupt like Krakatoa [in Indonesia] or anything similar. It erupts very slowly. … [Etna] certainly served us really well in terms of the look and feel of the movie and the look we wanted, but it’s still as raw as it seems. ”
This story first appeared in the January issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.