How 'Feud's' Production Designer Resurrected an L.A. Landmark

9:30 AM 8/17/2017

by Carolyn Giardina

Judy Becker reveals dining booths were "custom-made" to re-create former Hollywood dining hotspot Perino's as design pros from 'Stranger Things,' 'The Crown' and more Emmy-nominated series also share how they made the past come alive.

Courtesy of Suzanne Tenner/FX

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Feud

    FX

    Alfred Molina, as Robert Aldrich, and Judy Davis, as Hedda Hopper, on 'Feud's' Perino's set.
    Alfred Molina, as Robert Aldrich, and Judy Davis, as Hedda Hopper, on 'Feud's' Perino's set.
    Courtesy of FX

    The Hollywood-based series' key restaurant set is modeled after former L.A. landmark Perino's, as it looked when first designed by architect Paul Williams. Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) — Feud's two battling heroines — were regulars, and 1981's Mommie Dearest, starring Faye Dunaway as Crawford, also shot in the restaurant. Built on Fox's Stage 16, the Perino's re-creation features the original color scheme and rounded design with peach-colored booths. "We custom-made the booths," says production designer Judy Becker. "The fabric was a little challenging, getting it to look luscious and also photograph well. The original restaurant had these mirrors all around, but for photography, mirrors can present a lot of issues. We put them on gimbals so they could be angled for the cinematography."

  • Masters of Sex

    Showtime

    Courtesy of Showtime

    Built on Sony's Stage 12, this set for the basement apartment of feminist Anita (Alysia Reiner) helps to transition the series into the '70s. "We started by doing research on Gloria Steinem and her office space where she would write," says production designer Elizabeth H. Gray. "We loved the feeling of eclectic clutter — books, art pieces. And they are in the Midwest, so it's not quite as progressive, so we also used some more traditional '50s and '60s chairs, but with patterns and textures for a more eclectic feel. We had to keep it grounded but push it with '70s vibes." In the basement, Anita leads a women's meeting but also needs a space for a more private conversation. "I didn't want to close off a room," says Gray. "We created the partition without blocking out the meeting area."

  • The Crown

    Netflix

    Matt Smith (center) and Claire Foy (right) in front of a physical replica of Princess Elizabeth's Kenyan getaway.
    Matt Smith (center) and Claire Foy (right) in front of a physical replica of Princess Elizabeth's Kenyan getaway.
    Courtesy of Netflix

    Treetops was, quite literally, a house in the trees where Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and Prince Philip (Matt Smith) stayed during visits to Kenya in the '50s. But since the original burned down decades ago, production designer Martin Childs built a replica in South Africa. "I'm used to all kinds of cheating in order to create something technically challenging, but in the case of Treetops, the best solution was to build it for real, 60 feet in the air, in existing trees. That presented all kinds of problems, chiefly structural, and it proved to be a major architectural project. The result involved a rather labor-intensive climb to reach the top. Taking cameras, dollies and a track up there was out of the question. The answer was to build a second replica, just a few feet in the air. The first gave a great view of the house itself, the second a great view from its windows."

  • Stranger Things

    Netflix

    Courtesy of Curtis Baker/Netflix

    "For me, this set is the boys," says production designer Chris Trujillo of the basement of the Wheelers' house in the '80s-set Stranger Things. "This set was the warm heart of season one. We were particularly precious in giving it a warmth of tone and texture. We pored over endless amounts of media from the time period, everything from video game magazines to the indispensable Sears catalog and every conceivable movie and documentary that bore any relevance. I was a child in the suburbs in the '80s — so to a large degree, I was creating a dream hangout for my younger self. The Wheelers are a comfortably middle-class, aspirational family. The basement is where the furniture of years gone by winds up." He adds that the presence of Mom and Dad is revealed through such areas as the laundry nook. "Without a doubt, though, this is the boys' domain. The life-layer is all about them: toys, games, Will's drawings, movie posters and, of course, the heart of the heart: the [Dungeons & Dragons] table."

  • The Man in the High Castle

    Amazon

    Courtesy of Amazon

    In the alternative history of The Man in the High Castle, in which Germany and Japan have won World War II, the apartment belonging to antiques dealer Robert Childan (played by Brennan Brown) is a derelict space that suffered some damage during the conflict. Building it on a Vancouver stage, "we wanted a faded grandeur interior where he would put his precious antiques," explains production designer Drew Boughton. "We wanted to go with an early 1900s color palette and a lot of water damage, age and dust. I looked at a lot of images for faded grandeur, particularly in Cuba, where society is frozen in time. In this story, America is frozen in time since the war, and Childan is holding on to the past. The couch is a Victorian piece — a beautiful piece of furniture that could have been his mother's. The guitar, music and records are banned, so they figure into the story."

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