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‘Hustlers’ Production Designer Painted a Complex Picture and Avoided Clichés

When Jane Musky signed on as production designer for “Hustlers,” she had the luxury of spending four weeks discussing the film with its director, Lorene Scafaria. The main challenge, she says, was “how do we let everyone know that this is not a story about girls stripping, even though they do strip?” Her goal was not to create a cliched world, one that had been seen in other such films.

Hustlers” stars Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez as strippers working in a Manhattan club frequented by the wealthy men of Wall Street. When the economic crash of 2008 hits, Ramona (Lopez), Destiny (Wu) and the other women in the club take matters into their own hands and empower themselves through their hustle.

It’s a gritty and empowering film about strong women gaining the upper hand. Janet Jackson’s “Control” plays at the beginning of the film, underscoring that point.

The club’s design was a culmination of color, class and fun.

“It was my choice to make it slick and full of texture,” Musky says referring to the club. “When they are stripping, it should look magnificent. It should not be the seedy strip club.”

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Once the women stepped off the stage, it was a different vibe. Musky says the area was like a locker room, cramped and not warm. “It’s work. It’s tough. It’s like the “Black Swan” of stripping.”

A noticeable tonal shift happens in the film when the Great Recession takes place in 2008. “The strip club took its turn and there was less money to be made. It got seedier and their lives started falling apart,” says Musky.

At the height of their earning power, the women are living the ultimate in luxury. Destiny buys a house in the suburbs to live in with her daughter, and drives an expensive SUV. She buys expensive handbags, just because she can. The film’s location manager, with some luck, found the ideal place near Manhattan’s Hudson Yards to serve as Ramona’s penthouse.

“The apartment happened to be a model apartment for a brand new building. So we got the top floor, emptied it out and dressed it,” explains Musky, who wanted to achieve a “crazy, over-the-top” vibe. “That way we knew they had succeeded in scamming these guys. They were heroines in a way. They had been treated so poorly for so long, now was the time to get back at these guys.”

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