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This story first appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Batman’s dark fictional urban city is interpreted anew on the new Fox show Gotham. The series puts a twist on the story of the Caped Crusader by spotlighting Commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as a young detective, Bruce Wayne as a child (David Mazouz) and Batman’s fabled foes before they became famous.
For the highly stylized settings, veteran film production designer Doug Kraner (Sleeping With the Enemy) looked to the Batman films, particularly Christopher Nolan‘s work. While the series is set in contemporary times, Kraner says, “It was important to [executive producer/director] Danny Cannon that this be highly theatrical and not adhere to any particular time period. It’s a legend in our collective imagination.” Another influence was 1995’s Seven. “The film was very dark but also fluid as far as the period it’s set in,” he adds.
See more Exclusive Photos of ‘Gotham’s’ Set
On the Fox show (premiering Sept. 22), the city is filled with shadowy wet streets and decayed buildings that contrast starkly with modern penthouses and the familiar stately surroundings of Wayne Manor. “There is always darkness, the skies are never blue and [there’s] always a pall over the city,” says Kraner. The production is shot on the streets of Manhattan and at Brooklyn’s Steiner Studios, where the standout sets include the nightclub Fish Mooney’s (owned by the colorful gang boss of the same name, played by Jada Pinkett Smith) and Gotham Police Department. For the latter, Kraner was inspired by London’s famed St. Pancras rail station, crumbling old cathedrals and prisons. “James Gordon is the last good cop in Gotham, and the set needed to reflect the city’s corruption, chaos and sinister forces,” says Kraner.
The wood-paneled library of the neo-Jacobean Wayne Manor (a 1914 mansion in Glen Cove, Long Island, serves as the exterior) gives the audience clues of the life once led by Bruce Wayne’s parents, a vibrant, young, well-to-do couple. It’s now inhabited by a butler (Sean Pertwee) and the couple’s troubled young boy.
See more Meet the Characters of ‘Gotham’
For Fish Mooney’s dramatic interiors, the designers created a sexy and elegant set with bold black, gold and red colors and lots of flash, much like Pinkett Smith’s character. “Hundreds of lightbulbs, chandeliers and sconces were used to create a set that glows,” explains set decorator Andrew Baseman.
Gordon’s girlfriend, Barbara (Erin Richards), lives in an art deco-inspired penthouse with one large wall of glass that looks out over the city. “It is designed to be an escape from Gotham, where Gordon can find escape from the horrors of the city far below.”
As with all iconic settings, Gotham plays a role as important as any character. “Gotham is a down-and-dirty metropolis, a very tight world and a microcosm of evil and corruption,” notes Baseman. “It’s the main character.”
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