Production design doesn’t get any better than Sarah Greenwood’s interpretation of London for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes. She gave us a lived-in, layered London full of texture and grit with a perfect marriage of style and realism. And her work with Joe Wright on period movies such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice is visually amazing. Recently she’s taken Sherlock Holmes to the next level with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and has been scouting in Russia for Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina…
AS: You just got back from Switzerland for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Russia for Anna Karenina. Do you ever find locations yourself or does the location department always provide you a selection to pick from?
SG: It depends on the show. I work very closely with a location manager called Adam Richards. I’ve worked with him on Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Sherlock, and we work really well together. When you’re looking for something that’s off the beaten track that you can’t find in books I very much like to go out early days and just get a sense of it. Then Adam will carry on with his scouts and look further.
On Atonement the big house that we shot in for six weeks we found by going through the archives of Country Life with my set decorator. We were looking at old photos of 1930’s houses -the things that you won’t find in books. We found this article about this house, and then we went to have a look at it. We ended up using it and it was fantastic.
AS: There was a stark contrast in Atonement between the country house and wartime Dunkirk. You went from a colorful to a desaturated palette and then there was red associated with Cecilia and green in the house. Is color-design a big part of your work on a film?
SG: It is, actually. And you use it many different ways. Interestingly, green is a color I tend to stay clear of, and to use the amount of green we used in the house in Atonement was not what I would normally do. But it’s a decision that we made. Like the green of the corridor and that kind of arsenic green of the servants’ area. We referenced a fantastic house called Tyntesfield where the walls were painted that arsenic green. It’s like you wouldn’t have dared to use it had you not seen it with your own eyes. So yes, that green was a very specific color in the house and in that whole first part, the garden and the lake and Keira’s dress. Joe wanted a dress that was what he called “paddy green”. It was a very vibrant kind of Irish green. The dress was incredible. Very bold and very much a statement on Joe’s and Jacqueline Durran’s part as well.