Stuart Wurtzel designs in paradise
“Give me a break!” That’s how production designer Stuart Wurtzel’s friends back in the States would react when he called to complain about minor annoyances during the filming of “Letters to Juliet” in some of Italy’s most picturesque tourist spots.
“I couldn’t get any sympathy,” joked Wurtzel, who scouted and dressed locations in Verona — site of Romeo and Juliet’s romance — and Tuscany. “The crews there were amazing; the fresco and mural work we did on the interiors was so beautiful, I felt like I was working with Michelangelo.”
Wurtzel joined the movie because helmer Gary Winick insisted on having him onboard. The two had previously collaborated on “Lipstick Jungle” and “Charlotte’s Web.” “Gary told the studio he didn’t want to make this picture without me,” Wurtzel said. “I’m sure there was a little grumbling.”
But Summit’s budget apparently drew the line at Wurtzel; locals were hired for the other jobs in his department. “It was presented to me like, ‘We’re doing this picture in Italy, and you can’t bring anybody,’ ” Wurtzel said.
Fortunately, those working on the pic included supervising art director Stefano Ortolani and set decorator Alessandra Querzola. “They were my key people,” he said. “I had worked with them before on other projects.”
“We were lucky to have Stuart as production designer,” said producer Caroline Kaplan. “He and Gary had a shorthand, which was very helpful because there was a lot of multitasking going on in a relatively short period of time.”
Kaplan is a longtime associate of Winick at indie shingle InDigEnt. They developed “Juliet” along with actress Ellen Barkin, also a producer; Mark Canton also joined the group.
“Juliet,” which shot for seven weeks in Italy and one in New York, was an all-location picture. Nothing was filmed on soundstages and nothing had to be built from scratch. While that approach helped the film achieve visual authenticity and cut costs, “It had its challenges,” said Wurtzel.
The biggest crisis occurred when a villa selected for the final scene unexpectedly became unavailable. “Hammers were poised when all of a sudden we had to do a 180,” said Wurtzel. “We were at a point where if we didn’t start working by a certain date, we wouldn’t be ready for the shooting.”
The production switched to an alternate location, which had a smaller chapel, requiring many of the guests at the final wedding scene to spill outside. “I said to Gary, ‘Let’s leave the doors open and have some people outdoors.’ He came around. What I love about Gary is, if I say to him, ‘We have a problem but I think this solution works,’ he goes along with it. And we got a beautiful ending for the movie.”
Bookings & Signings
Paradigm Bookings: Costume designer Cynthia Summers on Bille Woodruff’s “Honey 2”; production designers Maher Ahmad on Ruben Fleischer’s “30 Minutes or Less,” Keith Brian Burns on John Singleton’s “Abduction,” Franco Carbone on Julie Anne Robinson’s “One for the Money” and Nelson Coates on Ken Kwapis’ “Everybody Loves Whales”; and editors Christopher Cibelli on David Anspaugh’s “Little Red Wagon,” Anne McCabe on Matthew Chapman’s “The Ledge,” Greg Perler on Tim Hill’s “I Hop,” David Rosenbloom on Mikael Hafstrom’s “The Rite” and Chris Willingham on USA Network’s “Covert Affairs.”
Montana Artists has signed d.p.’s Mathias Herndl (“Seven Deadly Sins”) and George Mooradian (“According to Jim”) and costume designer Lizz Wolf (“The Expendables”). Agency has also booked producers Tony Mark on Javier Colinas’ “Ghost in the Ring,” Rob Ortiz as UPM on Craig Gillespie’s “Fright Night 3D,” Mark Baker on HBO’s “In Treatment,” Reid Shane and Cathy Gibson (as UPM) on HBO pilot “Tilda,” Robin Sweet as UPM on Tate Taylor’s “The Help,” JoAnn Perritano as UPM on Marc Webb’s untitled Superman reboot and sports coordinator Mike Fisher on Bennett Miller’s “Moneyball.”