The woman whose work greatly influenced the dream world of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” is art researcher Dominique Arcadio, who had the task of hunting and gathering thousands of images of 20th-century architecture.
Arcadio provided director Nolan with a 25-foot scroll, with images set in chronological order: an architectural timeline of 1900-2000.
“It’s really a catalog of the most striking architecture of that time period,” says Arcadio.
In the past, Arcadio has prepared other scrolls, which allow her to present information in a concise way but also avoid replication. For projects like “X-2” and “Superman Returns,” her scrolls revealed how characters evolved over the years. Arcadio believes in the value of a sequential timeline: “Here’s what has come before, and here’s where we want to go.”
Her job is to find the most exciting images possible in limited pre-production time, a challenge with the endless sources available. Research happens on the Internet or at the library, but can also include collecting drawings, artwork, fabric and old films.
“In three weeks, I can have over 10,000 images,” she says.
Arcadio feels art research is pivotal: It informs production designers, costume designers, set decorators and the director.
“The director is the one who ultimately controls the style of the movie,” Arcadio says. “You try to find images they will like.”
“Inception” was also the eighth film Arcadio has worked on with her husband, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas. They’re now in pre-production for a Steven Spielberg project. A native of France, where Arcadio studied art and history, she’s always been drawn to films with strong imagery. “The visual characteristics appeal to me,” she says.