"Mr. Brooks" movie
THE TWO WORLDS OF MR. BROOKS: ABOUT THE FILM’S DESIGN
To take audiences into Mr. Brooks’ two worlds of bright surfaces and dark motives, director Bruce Evans early on developed a distinctive visual design for the film.
He forged extensive, scene-by-scene storyboards and recruited a team of highly creative craftsmen including director of photography John Lindley, who previously worked with Kevin Costner on “Field of Dreams” and photographed the influential cult thriller “The Stepfather,” Academy Award® nominated production designer Jeffrey Beecroft who has demonstrated his originality on such films as “Dances With Wolves,” Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys” and the intricate thriller “The Game,” and three-time Oscar®-nominated costume designer Judianna Makovsky, whose work has taken her from “Seabiscuit” to Harry Potter to the X-Men.
Evan’s biggest visual inspiration came from the entrancing work of contemporary figurative artist Eric Fischl, who is renown for his psychologically intense human portraits and unsettling images of dysfunctional family life and American marriages. Fischl’s paintings mix and match suburban reality with a dream-like sense of other-worldliness an incendiary combination Evans felt was just right for MR. BROOKS.
“When I went to see an Eric Fischl gallery showing, I said immediately ‘this is what MR. BROOKS looks like,’” Evans recalls. “It’s that sense of a very vivid suburban world where the blacks are very black and the reds are very red, and the entire feeling is very provocative and striking.”
When production designer Jeffrey Beecroft came on board, Evans relied on the highly regarded designer’s skills to bring this look to fruition. Beecroft carefully mapped out each of Mr. Brooks’ haunts from the pristine “pottery studio” where he carefully destroys evidence of his vicious crimes to his panoramic office at the box factory where he rules over his world, to his intricately laid-out murder scenes -- adding to character through layer upon layer of subtle detail.
“Jeff has a great eye and a real sense of the dramatic. Without him, the film wouldn’t be nearly as layered,” says Evans. “We spent a lot of time together looking through books and choosing the looks for each of the locations to really suit the characters and story.”
One particular location was especially vital and took a considerable quest to find: Mr. Brooks’ home sweet home which Evans had always envisioned as a sprawling, contemporary house shimmering with glass, steel and multi-angled views. “The house is itself a kind of character in the film,” explains Evans.
“We always imagined Mr. Brooks living in a glass house and we loved the idea that you think you can see Mr. Brooks, but no matter which way you come at him, you don’t really see him. We also like the idea that Mr. Brooks literally makes boxes as a living, and his whole life is a series of boxes, so we wanted the structure of his house to also be filled with little boxes.”
The problem came in finding such a home in Shreveport, Louisiana, where most the film’s interiors were shot, but a city definitely not known as a showcase for Modernism. It was Jim Wilson who undertook a tireless search across Louisiana, hunting amid the Gothic for contemporary homes. To everyone’s surprise and great relief, Wilson unearthed a house that was so unique it had once graced the pages of Architectural Digest. “The house had to be a visual metaphor and Jim Wilson found it,” says Evans.
Once the house was found, it was up to Beecroft and cinematographer John Lindley to meld it into a character. “They are both so talented and their work blended so beautifully together,” says Jim Wilson.
Some of the biggest photographic challenges for Lindley arose out the nature of the character Marshall. The fact that he doesn’t really exist, except in Mr. Brooks’ mind, made the filmmakers have to carefully consider every shot involving William Hurt from every conceivable angle.
Each sequence featuring Hurt as Marshall had to be shot a minimum of twice once with William Hurt in the frame and once without him so that it would be clear to the audience that he isn’t really there and that other characters, such as Dane Cook’s Mr. Smith, can’t see him at all.
“Making sure William remains a figment of Mr. Brooks’ imagination and never violates that rule added a whole other layer to the shoot,” says Evans.
But no matter what the logistical challenges -- from imaginary characters to shooting Shreveport for Portland to choreographing chase sequences -- the main focus for cast and crew was always on probing the terrifying world inside Mr. Brooks’ head.
As producer Jim Wilson summarizes: “For a person to go from Man of the Year to the depths that Mr. Brooks goes has got to be one wild journey and that’s what we take audiences on.”
Film Entertainment Magazine