Joel Schiller, Craftsman on 'The Graduate' and 'The Muppet Movie,' Dies at 86

Joel Schiller 2 - 2016 Art Directors Guild's Gallery 800 Show - Getty - H 2017
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A painter, art director and production designer, he also brought his fine-arts sensibility to 'Rosemary's Baby,' 'Nuts' and 'The Man in the Glass Booth.'

Joel Schiller, the respected production designer and art director known for his work on such films as Rosemary's Baby, Murphy's Romance and The Muppet Movie, has died. He was 86.

Schiller died Jan. 17 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his friend of 40 years, Al Heintzelman, told The Hollywood Reporter. His death had not been previously reported.

A skilled painter who studied with John Groth and William de Kooning, Schiller served as assistant production designer under the legendary Richard Sylbert on The Graduate (1967), where he created the conceptual fish-bowl environment for Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock.

Schiller then worked again alongside Sylbert on Rosemary's Baby (1968), designing the interior of Rosemary and Guy's (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes) apartment in the Dakota, and on The Illustrated Man (1969), for which he came up with the body tattoos for Rod Steiger's character in the Ray Bradbury science-fiction film.

Earlier, costume designer-art director Cecil Beaton commissioned Schiller to draw the production sketches for him to use on My Fair Lady (1964). Beaton won two Oscars for his work on the famed musical, winner of best picture.

On his own as production designer, Schiller also teamed with Martin Ritt on Murphy's Romance (1985), Nuts (1987) and Stanley & Iris (1990) and with James Frawley on Kid Blue (1973), The Big Bus (1976) and The Muppet Movie (1979).

Adept in a wide variety of genres, Schiller also worked on Mark Rydell's The Reivers (1969), Bob Fosse's Lenny (1974), Arthur Hiller's The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), Donald Wrye's Ice Castles (1978), Hal Needham's Megaforce (1982), Jerry Schatzberg's Misunderstood (1984), Peter Hyams' Narrow Margin (1990) and Tom Holland's The Temp (1993).

In the 1970s, Schiller was the art director on features including The Sporting Club (1971), A Reflection of Fear (1972) and Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975).

A native New Yorker, Schiller attended the Art Students League in Manhattan and then studied at Cal. His work was found in the collections of actress Cybill Shepherd and the late Jim Henson, and in August 2016, he appeared at an exhibit in a North Hollywood gallery that showcased his artwork.