×

Ferretti: Reaching from Fellini to Scorsese

Production designer leaves mark on biz

As far back as production designer Dante Ferretti can remember, he was transfixed by movies.

“I loved seeing films and I knew I wanted to be part of them,” says Ferretti. “But it was when I learned what a production designer was that I knew what I wanted to do for my whole life.”

That moment came when the two-time Oscar winner (for “The Aviator” and “Sweeney Todd”) was in his early teens. He studied fine arts in Rome and worked uncredited on a couple of films in his late teens. His first credited job was as a set decorator on Lucio Fulcio’s “Gli imbroglioni” in 1963 when he was just 19.

Ferretti cut his teeth as a fully fledged production designer on director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” in 1969 — the first of many films the pair did together.

The designer met Martin Scorsese after working with Federico Fellini on “City of Women” in 1980. Scorsese, a passionate fan of Fellini’s work, visited the Italian director and quickly became a fan of Ferretti’s work, too.

Though Scorsese was impressed by Ferretti and wanted to hire him for his projects, several years passed before the two got together because the timing just didn’t pan out.

“He called me several times and I very much wanted to work with him but I was already working on ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’ so I couldn’t,” says Ferretti.

That was 1988. It wasn’t until 1993 that the pair were able to link up on “The Age of Innocence.”

Ferretti’s work on “Shutter Island” — which is in this year’s awards-season conversation — was his seventh collaboration with Scorsese.

The designer believes that finding an abandoned mental hospital where many key scenes could take place was essential to creating the look and feel for the thriller. The coloring and texture of the place gave the film the look that Scorsese wanted.

“Martin Scorsese is a genius to me … when you work with him you are working with a master director,” says Ferretti. “He brings out the best in everyone that they can bring to a film.”

Currently at work in London on Scorsese’s “Hugo Cabret” and set to work on the helmer’s “Sinatra” biopic, Ferretti is quick to credit his long career to his collaborators.

“I have worked with so many great directors — Fellini, Scorsese — in my life,” says Ferretti. “And really that has been so lucky for me to meet them and for them to like my work and hire me.”

More from Eye on the Oscars: Art Direction, Costumer & Sound
Pics get down to the nitty gritty | Ferretti: Reaching from Fellini to Scorsese | Concept artist creates look of ‘Tron’

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Joaquin Phoenix And More Join #WorldIsInOurHands Campaign

    At the 44th annual Toronto Film Festival last week, in addition to attending red-carpet premieres and promoting films, some stars also joined in the fight to tackle the climate crisis. Antonio Banderas, Susan Sarandon, Joaquin Phoenix, Rainn Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Neve Campbell and Alfre Woodard are among the bold-faced names to join forces with the [...]

  • Hopper Reserve

    Dennis Hopper's Dying Wish: His Own Strain of Marijuana

    Even as celebrity brands are starting to flood the emerging Cannabis market, Hopper Reserve stands out. The brand was launched by Marin Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s daughter from his marriage to Brooke Hayward. Hopper Reserve is a gram of California indoor-grown flower, two packs of rolling papers, a pair of matches and a trading card either [...]

  • Lowell Smokes Cafe Marijuana

    With Cannabis Lounges, On-Site Consumption, Marijuana-Infused Meals Go Legit

    Can this century’s Roaring ’20s repeat history but with pre-rolled joints instead of whiskey flasks and soccer moms as the new flappers? This month, West Hollywood will see the opening of the nation’s first at least quasi-legal cannabis consumption lounge, officially dubbed Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Café, located at 1211 N. La Brea between Fountain [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content