You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Legion’ Production Design Team Creates Disorienting Dreamscape

Coming off his surprising feat of re-imagining the 1996 Coen brothers’ movie “Fargo” as an anthology TV series, showrunner Noah Hawley has turned to a different kind of story. The FX drama “Legion” shows the world through the eyes of an unreliable narrator.

The lead character, the schizophrenic David Haller (Dan Stevens) from the “X-Men” comics, discovers that his mental illness may actually be a form of mutant superpower that combines telepathy and telekinesis.

Production designer Michael Wylie was tasked with creating the bizarre physical world seen through Haller’s fragmented and emotionally insecure mind. He approached the challenge by invoking jarring visual themes that induce double- takes among viewers.

“Our goals were to make sure the audience didn’t know where we were or what was real,” says Wylie, whose work on “Pushing Daisies” earned him an Emmy in 2009. “The sets couldn’t be too identifiable, so viewers wouldn’t get comfortable or feel like they knew where they were. We tried to make everything weird.”

Hawley and Wylie decided to almost completely eliminate visuals of cars — a device often used as a time stamp. And they exploited examples of Brutalist architecture at the Vancouver shooting locations to create a world that’s Soviet-like in its oppression. Sources of inspiration include “A Clockwork Orange” and “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Some sets were made to look as if they belong in a place in time, but others, such as David’s French-style high-ceiling apartment, were designed to dislocate viewers — simulating the character’s sense of being lost. Other set pieces are intentionally disorienting. A ceiling covered in cubed lampshades floats above an interview room. A giant swath of greenery, including a waterfall, covers one wall of David’s room in a mental institution. A three-story billboard of Moe Howard stands at the end of a street for no logical reason. “If you have a friend who’s a huge liar say to you, ‘Dude, I was walking down the street and there’s this giant billboard of the guy from ‘The Three Stooges,’ you wouldn’t believe him,” Wylie says.

David feels secure when he’s around people who understand him; for these moments, the scenery is bucolic, represented by misty forests or serene fields. When Haller re-enters the outside world, we return to cityscapes of anxiety where he feels the least peaceful.

Is he really in those places, or is it all just a reflection of his mind?

Wylie wouldn’t say.

More Artisans

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

  • Us Movie

    How 'Us' Pulled Off Subtle Differences in Costumes, Design, Music for Parallel Characters

    “Us,” Jordan Peele’s second outing as a director, following his 2017 critical and box office success “Get Out,” revisits similar psychological horror-thriller territory. But this time the stakes are, well, doubled.  In the new film, to be released by Universal on March 21, Adelaide Wilson, played by Lupita Nyong’o, returns to her childhood beachside home [...]

  • Ben Davis Cinematographer Captain Marvel Brie

    Cinematographer Ben Davis Helps Create the Look of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Since 2008’s “Iron Man,” the Marvel cinematic universe has continued expanding, now numbering more than 20 films. Along the way, the company has developed a reputation for solid technology choices with the large-format ARRI Alexa 65 camera and the Codex Vault 65 on-set media management system as cornerstones of its workflow. Earlier in the series, [...]

  • Costume Designer Betty Pecha Madden on

    Betty Pecha Madden Looks Back on Four Decades of Costume Design

    Dressing dolls as a child at her parents’ Wisconsin farm, future costume designer Betty Pecha Madden created stories using clothes. By age 17, her interest in costuming having grown serious via high school plays, she left home upon graduation and went to Chicago to find work in the industry. Madden clothed rock groups and college [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content