Magazine article Variety

Production Designer Was Frears' Go-To

Magazine article Variety

Production Designer Was Frears' Go-To

Article excerpt

THE LATE PRODUCTION designer Alan MacDonald, who died on Aug. 30, worked with Stephen Frears on several films, including "Florence Foster Jenkins," "Philomena" and "The Queen," for which he received an Art Directors Guild and a BIFA nom. MacDonald's last project was Frears' "Victoria & Abdul," the British-American drama about the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria (played by Judi Dench) and her Indian servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). The film bowed at Venice and plays at Toronto. MacDonald spoke to Variety in August about the film. IAIN BLAIR

After so many films together, you and Stephen Frears must have a shorthand way of working?

We do. There's mutual respect and it's very liberating working with him. I'll show him a location or room that's completely undressed and he'll study it and then say, "I can shoot here," and then off he goes.

This doesn't look like your usual Victorian period piece. How did you approach this visually?

Right. We wanted it to feel period but shoot it in quite a modern way, to get away from heavy Victoriana, and the Osborne House location we used - which was her holiday home on the Isle of Wight - allowed me to lighten up everything. We're so familiar with Victoria living in a Gothic monstrosity that it was nice to bring some lightness into the film, and what's so interesting about the progression of the film is that it starts dark and gets lighter in tone and color as it goes on - while the story starts lighter and gets darker as it goes along. …

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