“It was one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen in my life,” declares “Don’t Worry Darling” production designer Katie Byron about some of the scenes brought to life by the creative team behind the film led by director Olivia Wilde. For our recent webchat she adds that Wilde “is so hands on, she cares about every detail, she’s obsessive and collaborative and she’s one of the most amazing people to work with, because she does have vision, but she’s so interested in hearing other people’s ideas and creating the world together,” Byron says. “When she has something very specific in her mind like this, you bend over backwards to make it happen.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
In “Don’t Worry Darling,” Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live in Victory, home to the mysterious “Victory Project” community in the remote California desert in the 1950s. Victory is an experimental company retreat, occupied by residents living a technicolor small-town existence where the men work on a top-secret project and their Stepford-like wives enjoy the luxury of their all-too-picture-perfect paradise. But Alice experiences sudden cracks in her idyllic life, exposing flashes of something awry beneath the surface that leads her to suspect a sinister secret being kept from its residents by the man who controls the town. The psychological thriller is directed by Wilde and written by Katie Silberman, based on a non-commissioned speculative screenplay by Silberman, Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke, and it co-stars director Wilde, Gemma Chan, KiKi Layne, Nick Kroll and Chris Pine as a vaguely nefarious figure that might be pulling strings behind the scenes.
The film employs a nostalgic 1950s domestic-bliss aesthetic for its look and feel, particularly when the characters are living it up in Victory. For the film’s interiors, Byron employed muted tones and textures to contrast and counterpoint the saturated color palette utilized by director of photography Matthew Libatique and costume designer Arianne Phillips. Together, the film’s visual elements immerse the audience in this idealized company town that is perhaps too perfect on the surface. Byron’s main set — that of the main household — is also dominated by glass and mirrors, suggesting that Alice is exposed or being monitored in some way. As for the film’s vibrant exteriors, the film was shot in Palm Springs for its uniquely utopic look, an ideal setting for the remote community with its crystal clear blue skies, pastel-colored houses and endless symmetrical rows of towering palm trees, surrounded by oppressive mountains dominating the horizon. Byron says the location was a no-brainer because it aligned with the film’s overall tone. “The people in that community are in a place where the outside landscape is a bit hospitable, so there’s the danger of escaping,” she explains. “We also loved Palm Springs because of what it stood for, that it was a progressive playground for designers. Desert modernism was at the forefront of the most playful designs, because there was this limitless direction that people could go,” she says, adding “it was this space where people could just really experiment and play and we loved that.”
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