“Timeless believability” is how eloquent production designer Kirk Petruccelli describes the visual style he lends to a film. On projects such as “Blade” and “The Patriot,” his trademark is in how he is able to make the past not seem so old and keep the future close to its roots.
For Paramount’s “Tomb Raider,” Petruccelli puts this method to use to keep the eyes of fans of the top-selling interactive videogame in history not only on star Angelina Jolie, but on the lush locations as well.
“What Simon West, the director, didn’t want to do was the dust, or the classic tombs. We wanted to show a culture that was more enlightened, or at a golden era of their time.”
Petruccelli’s job is to take what’s in the script and establish, along with the director, an overall look, feel and mood to the film.
“I do a lot of research and go on location — which in this case was Iceland or Cambodia — and saturate myself with the real environments and the sociology, then choreograph it with the plot to form the path the story will take.”
He created the adventurous world of jet-setting archaeologist Croft with the help of many art directors and illustrators. Petruccelli created the design of the many elaborate set pieces, including the film’s centerpiece Clock of the Ages, a “compass, clock and astronomical device,” which Croft is seeking at the film’s climax.
Petruccelli designed the “Tomb” sets “with very simple geometries, (using) ancient cultural references such as the pyramids. We applied textures of antiquity, and these cataclysmic super-ancient natural phenomena, but mixed them with the supermodern technologies of today.”
Petruccelli, who loves the “diversity” between doing wild action films (“Anaconda”) and period pieces (“The Patriot”), now is on the far more “understated” set of Rod Lurie’s prison action/drama “The Castle” in Nashville. He describes the film as the “total antithesis” of the “Tomb” world, but “just as much of a character study.”