Eve Stewart has been nominated for three Oscars including for last year’s tremendous historic epic Les Misérables. She’s perfected a distinct British realism for Mike Leigh’s films and an enhanced historic realism of Tom Hooper’s. Lately she’s been extremely busy designing the worlds of the Muppets and Frankenstein’s monster.
AS: Your movie Muppets Most Wanted is about to be released. How was the transition from the more serious Les Misérables?
ES: After Les Mis I thought I would do the polar opposite and so I designed the Muppets Most Wanted film. A bit of light relief after the harrowing scenes of Fantine dying!
AS: Did you shoot that in America?
ES: The majority was in the UK but we shot a little bit in America.
AS: How was working with James Bobin on the Muppets different from the Tom Hooper and Mike Leigh films?
ES: Really interesting because I thought it would be very different but it was actually just as rigorous! James Bobin was really clever and really fast and really thorough. It was actually quite a similar experience!
AS: You’ve done many films with Tom Hooper -is he a really visual director?
ES: He is a visual director but more than that he’s a very good conductor of visuals. I’ll always overdo it and just get loads of stuff together because I’m really enthusiastic. He’s very good at filtering and kind of conducting it like a piece of music.
AS: Was everything built on stage for Les Misérables?
ES: Almost everything was a set on a stage, yes. With the exception of the outside where we did the funeral and the big elephant scene.
AS: Was the elephant based on something that actually existed?
ES: Yes, it was in the original novel. So I read the novel thoroughly and I found out that this elephant had been constructed by Napoleon to celebrate his successes in Egypt. It was made out of plaster and began to rot when he ran out of money. And in the novel Gavroche and all the other little urchins of Paris live in it.
AS: Was it a huge construction?
ES: It was a massive construction! It was 48 feet high and you could climb up inside it. We had one big enormous studio in Pinewood. It must have been about 250 feet by 130 feet and by the end with all our sets we only had about ten foot left and all the monitors and stuff had to be snuck in around the back one of the sheds.