As a Brit in Los Angeles, production designer Sarah Greenwood found it no small challenge to re-create the milieu of L.A.’s Skid Row for “The Soloist.”
“Everything is an assault on the senses. Everything is new,” Greenwood says.
She was struck by the sheer proximity of such landmarks as the Disney Hall and the L.A. Times with Skid Row, but also by details. “For me, things like palm trees. To have these palm trees growing in these very desolate places and this kind of vegetation, it was just fascinating.”
The film is based on the true story of journalist Steve Lopez and his friendship with Nathaniel Ayers, a musical prodigy whose descent into mental illness left him living on the street. One Greenwood set under a bridge became more “real” than Greenwood planned, when a homeless woman appearing in the film actually moved into the set. So, “The scene where the car is being forklifted and she says, ‘That’s my home,’ it literally was her home. She had been staying there. This is art and reality just completely blurred.”