Backstage Interview | 85th Academy Awards

Production Design

CATEGORY: Production Design
INTERVIEW WITH: Rick Carter (Production Design) and Jim Erickson (Set Decoration)


Q.This was a personal journey for you, and if you could talk a little bit about that and what it meant to design LINCOLN. A.First, let me just acknowledge that obviously Jim Erickson should be here and sharing this honor. He's the set decorator. And so much of what is in LINCOLN, visually, that is seen, that creates the intimacy of the sets and the setting is Jim's work. And we're the same age and we're like brothers who have shared a common history to get to this time now. I was called on by Steven to begin work on LINCOLN all the way back in 2001, even before 9/11, and it's been literally a journey to be in the pursuit of trying to find a way to honor his legacy. At first, it was a broad canvas and it was narrowed over time to be reflective of the last three months of Lincoln's life. And it was also, as Bill knows, because we've spoken before about this, it's in very much the culmination of a series of movies that Steven has done and I've been involved with that have dealt with the nature of war. And if you think of WAR OF THE WORLDS and MUNICH and WAR HORSE and this movie, they form a group of movies that I think is in response to our times. And so for me to work with somebody such as Daniel Day Lewis who came in and personified Lincoln so completely, it was an opportunity not to do a broad canvas such as AVATAR, with new technology that you can actually go back and create a portrait that was very much from the soul, I think, is as close as we can get to that, if that does justice to what I should be talking about. Q.Hi, Rick. You've done some of the most high tech movies recently and you've done period pieces. And I'm wondering, for you, what is enjoyable about each and what is enjoyable about working with both tangible and physical sets and with things that are digital? A.Well, one of the things that's interesting for me in my career is that I started in what you would call the analog world, and my mentor was Richard Sylbert who had done CHINATOWN and a number of other movies at that time. And he noticed in the early '90s that he thought I'd be going into the digital realm of design, and that's very much where I've been led to go, but it's also because I don't have a special skill in architecture or set decoration or even drawing. I've more had to rely on a sense of creativity in the process, so every time I've gotten myself involved with a new project, even if it's involved new technology such as POLAR EXPRESS or AVATAR, it's been a process of trying to uncover the most basic truth from which I could then operate from the inside out and then, of course, LINCOLN and even WAR HORSE, but particularly LINCOLN being a portrait, I think is one of those opportunities to just go back, for me, to the basics and work in the way that I was first taught. And in some ways that's very much a full circle. Each time it's different. We never know what we're doing and that's what makes it great. Q.You listed AVATAR and WAR HORSE and you started working on LINCOLN in 2001, you said. What were some of the challenges that you faced to create this to create the production design for LINCOLN? A.Well, it's a very limited production, actually, and so what we did is we, again, in this particular case, finding Richmond, Virginia, which was the heart of the Confederacy, and going there and realizing that so much of Lincoln's legacy is still alive there in all the positive ways, for the most part, so that we could actually use, and they graciously invited us in Richmond, Virginia to use their legislature and shoot wherever we wanted to. And I think that gave it purposefulness so that we actually were shooting on, essentially, hallowed ground because that's where most of the sacrifice of the Civil War occurred between Richmond and Washington. That was really the fight, between those two capitals.


These transcripts may not be reproduced except as brief quotes used in conjunction with news reporting about the 85th Academy Awards®. All content Copyright 2012 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "Oscar®," "Oscars®," "Academy Awards®," "Academy Award®," "A.M.P.A.S.®" and "Oscar Night®" are the trademarks, and the ©Oscar® statuette is the registered design mark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additional information regarding the "Terms & Conditions of Use" and "Legal Regulations for Using Intellectual Properties of the Academy" may be accessed online at

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Communications Department
8949 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211-1972
Phone (310) 247-3090
FAX (310) 271-3395