Carpet design

Recapture 1970s LA in the 2020s

This story about the design of “Licorice Pizza” production first appeared in the Problem under the line from TheWrap Awards magazine.

For “Licorice Pizza” production designer Florencia Martin, the COVID-19 pandemic has made her job easier and just as complicated. Easier because Paul Thomas Anderson’s film was one of the few productions to shoot when they shot it during lockdown in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, which meant locations were available that would otherwise have reserved and that agencies and companies were willing to cooperate. More complicated because people have also taken advantage of the hiatus to redevelop and update their homes and businesses – and when you have a movie set in 1973 that wants to use actual locations, that creates a problem.

“We were watching the valley evolve before our eyes,” Martin said. “When COVID started happening, people started reshaping. We thought, ‘Wait, wait, wait! Don’t do it yet! We actually lost a few pitches that we had planned as we came back and they had freshly painted walls and carpets.

Freshly painted and modern didn’t work for “Licorice Pizza”, a quiet tour of the valley circa the early 70s. Most of the streets in the area have long since been reworked and covered in modern signs and graphics, and even the streetlights were converted to LED lighting, which gave a totally wrong look to what Anderson wanted.

“We worked with the city to bring in all the vintage cobra heads (lights), as they’re called,” Martin said. “The color of light is really important, and we were watching movies to study the color of mercury vapor lamps from the 1970s.”

“Fat Bernie’s Pinball Palace”, recreated in the town of Chatsworth (MGM), Southern California

Location scouting, she said, involved “just getting in the car and driving,” looking for old parts in a mass of new ones. “It was about finding those pockets that are still preserved, where people haven’t torn down their ranch homes to build white modern monstrosities,” she said. “We were looking for parking lots, alleys, gas stations, sidewalks, empty fields, dead ends. There are no lies in this film – everything was shot where it took place.

They found an untouched stretch of businesses in Chatsworth, which became the block where main character Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) opens a waterbed shop, then a pinball machine palace (which required finding dozens of machines in working order before 1975). For the mansion owned by producer Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper), they got a famous actor who remains unnamed to let them use a house he was remodeling; they rebuilt a few rooms, shot the scenes, and then pulled their work, as the actor wasn’t particularly interested in the brown carpeting and gold damask wallpaper.

Interior, Tail o’ the Cock (MGM)

They also transformed an abandoned restaurant adjoining the Van Nuys golf course into the legendary valley institution Tail o’ the Cock, keeping the red leather booths but bringing in faux walls and real stained glass. Keys to recreating the look, she said, included anecdotes from people who were there at the time, photos of events from the Los Angeles Times archives and “fabulous restaurant postcards from the era. “.

Incidentally, the movie is named after the Licorice Pizza record store chain, a popular place to buy music with locations all over Southern California in the 70s. of Licorice Pizza in “Licorice Pizza”, a film whose name was chosen after the end of filming. “We had a record store for a while, but it didn’t have a name yet,” she laughed. “We very well could have had one if we had continued on this path.”

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