The task of imbuing Rob Marshall’s musical “Nine” with all the glitz and glamor of its Cinecitta-style setting was a particularly difficult one for the film’s Oscar-nominated production designer, John Myhre, and costume designer, Colleen Atwood, considering they were tasked with producing a Fellini-level aesthetic on an Argento-level budget.
Long-delayed pic was finally greenlit for around half its proposed funding, so the film’s below-the-line staff was forced to scramble and improvise, cutting the centerpiece soundstage set to a 180-degree view instead of the planned 360, and building other sets in a rush.
“There was a lot of drawing on the plane over, cocktail-napkin kind of stuff,” recalls Myhre, nominated alongside set decorator Gordon Sim. Yet frenzied design and construction were only the beginning of the challenge.
“We had such a limited amount of prep time for the ‘Follies Bergere’ scene, and one day they just cut me off from buying any more supplies for the set,” Myhre recalls. “They literally said, ‘You can’t support John today.’ So I took a milk float — which is like a cross between a golf cart and a pickup — and drove it over to where Ridley Scott had been shooting ‘Robin Hood,’ and just started stealing lumber, pipe, scaffolding, whatever I could get my hands on, and drove it back to our set. Everything that I pilfered I immediately replaced,” he hastens to add, “but that was our mindset.”
The history of collaboration among production designer, costumer and director also helped. “Marshall made sure that we all had a very similar aesthetic,” Myhre says.