Download: 'Nope' Production Designer Ruth De Jong Talks the Practical Magic of Gordy's Scene & How They Pulled Off That Alien Encounter
Awards Daily talks to Nope production designer Ruth De Jong about going back to the ’90s for the fictional sitcom Gordy’s Home and how they pulled off practical effects like that chilling alien encounter.
How’s this for a first day of production? The very first scene Jordan Peele shot in Nope was THAT ill-fated ’90s sitcom sequence with Gordy the chimpanzee. In order to nail the look and feel of the time period, production designer Ruth De Jong had to do a deep dive into ’90s television.
“That was the very first thing we shot in the entire movie, so we all got our feet wet on that,” says De Jong. “Seinfeld, Full House—we basically looked at every three-camera sitcom that existed in the ’90s.”
But when she and Peele went to do their stage walk-through, they realized it needed something else.
“The kitchen was actually added at the very end. It was never part of the original set. When we did a stage walk-through, Jordan said, ‘I feel like we’re missing something.’ And I said, ‘We should do a swing door—just pop out a kitchen.'”
This addition would become important, especially at the end of the scene when the sitcom dad goes running through the kitchen door and meets his demise.
Like most of Nope, this scene required the use of practical effects. Even though Gordy was played by stunt actor Terry Notary, De Jong and her team had to get creative when depicting the chimpanzee as the appropriate size within his surroundings.
“We ended up building custom furniture that was 30 percent bigger so that it made Gordy feel appropriate to scale. We did a lot of movie magic, but practically in camera; instead of Guillaume [production visual effects supervisor] blowing up the furniture in post, we physically did it. A lot of that saved so much in VFX, but then [Gordy] could interact with that furniture. At the end, when he sits down next to that chair behind him and sees Jupe under the table and we decided on that green tablecloth and fist bump. It gives me goosebumps.”
They also had to figure out the practical effects of the iconic shoe that stands up by itself.
“We staged it of course, but that was something that became this thing. What does it mean? It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the intensity of this incident; that’s where it landed after it all.”
If we’re talking disturbing scenes, the other one that trended on Twitter after the film’s release was when the amusement park spectators get sucked up into the alien known as Jean Jacket.
“Initially, we were not going to do that at all. We did that in reshoots well after. I think we vacillated with the necessity, Jordan mostly, of depicting that. What’s scarier? What’s more horrific? But Scott Fisher, our special effects coordinator, helped with that as well. That was all done on stage and it was pretty wild.”
De Jong enlisted art director Cara Brower to build it with Fisher.
“It was basically this rubber tube type of material and then we had the actors on this track and the camera was on a track. It was actually horizontal and you had the actors physically going through it. Scott Fisher made it undulate. It was a really heavy rubber and we were able to put color into it. Conceptually, it ended up working very well.”
Much of De Jong’s builds in Nope end up being destroyed over the course of the film, including Jupiter’s Claim amusement park, the Haywood farmhouse, and of course the Gordy’s Home set, which were all built from scratch. However, to De Jong, that’s all in a day’s work.
“I think that’s the best part. You create this thing to have this evolution with the story. Obviously it’s a new build [like with the farmhouse], but the expertise is to make it look like it’s been here 100 years and the amusement park 5 years. The aging that goes into it, the wear and tear, and doing the whole blood situation, and all of that. Tearing apart the stadium and creating a tornado. I guess we’re not precious, but you have to be smart about planning because once we destroy it, we don’t want to have to reset it.”
Nope is now available on DVD and to stream.