Carpet design

Guy Hendrix Dyas on ‘Spencer’ Production Design – Production Value – Deadline

As production designer for Pablo Larraín on SpencerGuy Hendrix Dyas relished the chance to set aside standard biopic storytelling, tapping deep into the psychology of an iconic royal.

“What he showcased, and what I knew to be one of his brilliant talents, was exploring someone’s personality and seeing the world from their perspective,” Dyas said in the Today’s episode of Production Value. “He’s extremely smart at really showing what someone is going through.”

Neon and Topic Studios’ impressionist drama finds Diana, Princess of Wales (Kristen Stewart) struggling to endure the Christmas holidays with the Royal Family at their Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, watching her decide to end the her ten-year marriage to Prince Charles (Jack Farthing), struggling with mental health issues.

Dyas came to the project after collaborating with Larraín on Lisey’s story, an “expansive” Apple series based on the 2006 Stephen King novel of the same name, which gave the couple the opportunity to “find incredible synergy.”

With its Sandringham sets for Spencer, the creator sought to do “a very delicate thing” – evoking the meaning of “an elegant prison” by infusing a world of “opulence … and luxury” with “an underlying discomfort and ugliness” . Indeed, the film’s visuals would closely reflect Diana’s emotional experience, highlighting how this “wonderful human being” raised in the “idyllic” countryside of Norfolk was prepared for a world at odds with his nature, this which limited his ability to express himself. .

Concretely, the estate was “a real puzzle” to create, with 90% of the film shot in Germany. A key location serving as an exterior was a university called Nordkirchen Castle – “a large, austere, symmetrical building set in a moat”, which he said embodied “that very specific English architecture” he sought. Another key real-world site, serving as the base for the interior scenes, was the adjacent Kronberg Hotel in Frankfurt, which “under the layers and layers of over-decoration and dusty old hotel carpets” had ” all the good details of wood and soil “that would make you think you were in the UK.

Much of the detail work he would bring to his recreation of Sandringham was inspired by elements found in Steven Knight’s screenplay, including the “rather eccentric … machine,” with which members of the Royal Family weigh themselves. before and after Christmas dinner, according to tradition. . Other nuances of royal life illuminating his designs, he had to discover them for himself. “The way the tables are set, the seating arrangement, the order of who is supposed to eat first, second, and third, and all of these very, very important traditions… it all came together,” says Dyas. “We kept huge records… which were there for us to review and reference every time we designed a set, so we could get all of those details right. And while I wouldn’t say our sets are even meant to be a complete facsimile of Sandringham, the essence, if you will, of those sets is certainly correct.

While stretching the arts department’s budget and filming during Covid were two main challenges for Dyas on Spencertaking care of the food was another. He was supported to organize “extraordinary” dinner scenes, calling for a necklace of edible pearls and nettle soup in the perfectly revolting shade of green, by “two wonderful food stylists” and “an experimentation lab. permanent scientist ”launched during pre-production.

“Outside of all of our decors, at one point there was literally a portable kitchen full of people stirring soup and creating fresh croutons,” reveals the production designer. “It all happened behind the scenes, just behind the walls of the set or in the halls of the premises.”

Another huge and unusual challenge was a “climax scene” involving the shooting of pheasants. Although no birds were injured during the filming, the production is expected to set up their own “breeding farm” for the 600 or so released in a German forest, as the filming took place outside the hunting season. for which they are generally high. “We often make jokes about it,” explains Dyas, “and realize that we have created a whole community of pheasants in this forest where there have never been pheasants before. “

A two-time Oscar nominee, Dyas is someone whose career has found him. He grew up on a farm and was first drawn to the magic of design by filmmakers, including Ray Harryhausen, who sparked his imagination with his assortment of “clay monsters.” After attending the Chelsea School of Art in London, he moved on to the Royal College of Art, where he embarked on “all forms of creativity”.

After graduating in the early 90s, he had his choice of jobs and chose to work for Sony, designing products for the company including Walkmans and Discmans. “At the time, I guess you could argue, [that] would have been the equivalent of being offered a job by Apple in their design department. So I jumped at the chance and spent three years in Tokyo, immersing myself in this extraordinary city, ”he recalls. “I had a motorbike and traveled across the country, looking at the beautiful countryside, the use of bamboo. It was incredibly influential, and for someone who really never thought he was going to leave the farm in South Devon, to end up in the Far East, riding a motorbike in Hokkaido and all over the place. these amazing places, that was something. “

While spending his days at Sony, Dyas spent his evenings and weekends pursuing “free-form creation” – “that kind of fantasy art and weird model-building, which [he] really didn’t have a name for. He had been offered a job at ILM after a curator stumbled upon his work at an exhibition in Tokyo, and the three years he spent at that legendary company would become his film school. “The ILM was amazing. I loved every second of it, ”he says. “I was artistic director of visual effects – it was my daily job on films like Tornado–And I was even able to hang out a few of the model shoots, hold cameras and smoke machines, and do a bit of everything. “

From there, he will experience several major ruptures by establishing himself as a production designer. It was sure Tornado, which marked his first feature film as VFX Art Director, which he first got to explore “the influence” he could have on making a movie. Later as Concept Designer and Assistant Art Director under the guidance of Production Designer Tom Foden on genre-bender The cell, he was “free to create a bizarre world”, continuing to develop the knowledge base that now informs his process.

Then there was Dyas’ first production design work on X2: X-Men United. “It was an incredible opportunity, and quite unusual at the time, to be able to design such a large studio pole out of nowhere, really,” he notes. “I mean, I had a handful of art director credits, but I was mainly known in town for illustration and concept design at the time.”

What Dyas loves about his work is that no two production experiences are the same and there is never a shortage of great projects to work on. “I’ve desperately tried to be varied, and I find the experiences of all of these movies playing into each other, which is lovely,” he says. “You can bring things that you have learned from X-Men 2 in Creation, Where Elizabeth: the golden age. You know, it really doesn’t matter. They all feed off of each other. So, I like the variation of the job and the challenges.

Spencer premiered at the 2021 Venice Film Festival and hit US theaters in November. Check out our full conversation with Dyas above.