The Production Design of ‘Priscilla’

Pricilla Production Designer Tamara Deverell shares some behind-the-scenes glimpses into how she and the Art Department designed this dreamy film.

Going to the movies this weekend? DGC Ontario production Priscilla has been making waves on the festival circuit all year, and it finally hits theatres in wide release today! 

Production Designer Tamara Deverell shared some behind-the-scenes set photos with Wider Lens, along with insights into how she and the rest of the Art Department pulled off this incredibly faithful and dreamy recreation of Elvis and Priscilla’s infamous home, Graceland and the bright lights and big dreams of a1960s Vegas casino. 

Congratulations to all the DGC Ontario Members who helped pull off this stunning film!

Influences: “Sofia Coppola provided a visual bible of specific Elvis and Priscilla images, sprinkled with a number of period photographs, particularly those of Americana legend William Eggleston. The rest of the house was inspired by photos of details of Graceland: a tiger statue, a standing Jesus statue, the pinstriped piano in the music room, and a pink poodle wallpaper that Sofia loved. We took little Easter eggs from different Graceland images. We didn’t want to be bogged down with reality. We’re making a movie about a person who is still alive, and this really was more about evoking Priscilla’s memory of the space.”

Creating Interior Graceland: “We found there were few photographs that existed of Graceland from the early time that Priscilla lived there (1963 to 1966). We sourced 1960s Graceland floor plans, original interior design sketches, and a couple of snapshots that we were drawn from the early Priscilla days. Most of the Graceland interiors, constructed on a soundstage, grew from that research. Working with our Set Decorator, Patricia Cuccia, we replicated many of the distinct furniture pieces found in Graceland. We followed the back story that Elvis outfitted the home for his beloved mother, so a feminine touch on the main floor was essential. We created a colour palette of creams, blues and golds. Sofia wanted the whole thing to look like a wedding cake, soft, buttery, and creamy…inviting.”

Creating Exterior Graceland: “I had shot at a Southern-style mansion on a period series, Anne Rice’s Feast of All Saints, many years ago, and remembered a house near Coburg that we had used as a Southern plantation home. It was similar enough to Graceland that we were able to add shutters, the distinct front steps with lions and the front door entry to form it into our version of Graceland, with visual effects helping with the roof and upper floors. The Gates and many of the scenes on the grounds were done at another location outside of Toronto.”

Creating Las Vegas: “We chose the beautiful Elgin Theatre for its rich reds and golds and dressed the lobby area and theatre lobby as a 1960s Vegas Casino. We imported about 24 period-appropriate slot machines and custom-built blackjack tables and roulette wheels. A quick solution for a “Vegas” look was the addition of many gold-sprayed palm trees with lights. We named it “The Palmetto” and created a neon palm for the outside in keeping with a definite Vegas vibe.”

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