Entertainment Magazine

Million Dollar Baby


Director Clint Eastwood envisioned a very specific look that he wanted to achieve for Million Dollar Baby. “I was trying to get a period look with this film,” he reveals.

“Even though the picture is set in the present, I was trying to capture the feeling that this story is taking place in another time in history. It could have been the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s – I wanted it to have a timeless quality.”

The director was aided in this effort by cinematographer Tom Stern, who began his long association with Eastwood on the 1982 film Bird and served as director of photography on Blood Work and Mystic River, and production designer Henry Bumstead. Million Dollar Baby marks the twelfth collaboration between Clint Eastwood and Academy Award-winning Bumstead, winner of two Academy Awards for his work on The Sting and To Kill A Mockingbird.

“Henry Bumstead is certainly one of the best there is,” the director believes, “and today at 89 he’s still as good as it gets.”

“I just love working with Clint,” says Bumstead. “He’s a great director – there’s no one like him. I’m 89 now, and I wouldn’t work for anybody else at this age. It’s been a wonderful relationship. He likes what I do and he trusts me. I show him a few photos of locations I intend to use as sets and plans of sets I intend to build and then it’s full speed ahead to meet the schedule.”

The film’s most pivotal set, Frankie’s gym The Hit Pit, was constructed in an empty warehouse in downtown Los Angeles. “This picture is about people who are on the edge of society,” says Eastwood.

“This small beat-up old gym in downtown L.A. houses a lot of people who are oddballs, people who just drift in and out. It’s where Frankie and Scrap live their lives.”

“We looked and looked,” recalls Bumstead, “and when I saw pictures of this warehouse, I knew it would make a great Hit Pit. So I showed Clint the pictures of the warehouse, and he went down and looked at it and agreed with me. Then I showed him a plan of what I was going to do, putting his office on a platform looking down on two boxing rings and all the other requirements of the script. Clint looked at it and said, ‘Perfect.’”

Bumstead paid particular attention to achieving the proper time-worn look for the Hit Pit. “I’m a stickler for aging,” says the designer. “It’s glazing the walls and ceiling to give them a patina. Also the light fixtures and all the furniture are aged to look like they have been there a very long time. My assistant, art director Jack Taylor; set decorator, Richard Goddard; paint foreman, Rick Paronelli and my construction foreman, Mike Muscarella make me look good. As I have always said, I’m only as good as my crew, and they are fantastic.”

Million Dollar Baby was shot in various locations in and around Los Angeles, including the Venice Boardwalk, Eagle Rock and Hollywood Boulevard. The fight sequences were staged at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, the site of many current professional boxing matches, and in a number of other locations around the city.

“We found a perfect house for Frankie’s bungalow with dark woodwork and a perfect floor plan,” says Bumstead.

“We found the restaurants where Maggie works on the Venice Boardwalk and on Hollywood Boulevard, and for a sequence that takes place in Missouri, we did some driving in wooded areas near Los Angeles and used a service station on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. We also filmed in a pro boxing equipment store on Lake Avenue.”

All images Copyright © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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2005 Entertainment Magazine / EMOL.org