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John DeCuir

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John DeCuir was the head of production design on Ghostbusters.

CareerEdit

John DeCuir was a famous art director and production designer best known for his incredibly detailed, intricate, and elaborate stage sets. DeCuir was nominated for an Oscar 11 times. He won three times for his work on "The King and I" (1956), "Cleopatra" (1963), and "Hello, Dolly!" (1969).

GhostbustersEdit

After Ivan Reitman successfully pitched Ghostbusters to Frank Price and got a budget of $25 million to work with, it was raised to $30 million with input from Richard Edlund and John DeCuir. [1] For some sets, whether he built it from scratch or it, DeCuir would mock up foam core study models. Some examples were the Firehouse and $1 million Temple of Gozer set. This was often done to help plot out how the set would be dressed or built before any expensive construction or renovation was started and it also helped Reitman block action scenes and figuring out which camera angles he would use. [2] [3]

Rather than write off a New York set in favor of a soundstage in Los Angeles, DeCuir would think of a way to benefit the production crew. At Columbia University, DeCuir dressed a lab set for the Paranormal Studies office scenes as a back up. If there were weather delays, the unit could shift to interior filming instead of losing a day in principal photography. [4] To add to the challenge, DeCuir and his team would often have to quickly renovate a set after some initial scenes were filmed such as the Firehouse when it was bought in rough shape vs. the Firehouse after the Ghostbusters went into business and the 55 Central Park West roof vs. the roof after the Temple of Gozer was blown up. DeCuir would also have locations and sets built to aid the effects team, such as including break away walls and awnings at the 55 Central Park West location and Louis Tully's apartment set. The latter was built six feet off the soundstage floor so trained operators could work puppets from underneath. Or he would make sure certain portions of a given set were not obstructed if hidden mechanisms were to be used, such as when Dana Barrett is accosted by Zuul in her apartment. [5] [6] [7] [8]

Even though some location sets were ready-to-film as is, DeCuir would still add things to dress it. One example would be the Los Angeles firehouse and the Tavern on the Green. [9] [10] DeCuir built Louis and Dana's apartment's and the hallway as one set unit rather than piecing them together. While a single unit was more expensive to construct, DeCuir often preferred to ground his sets in as much reality as possible. The film crew did a walkthrough of the apartment set the night before shooting and wanted some things changed. DeCuir's crew worked through the night and had it redressed to specifications by the next morning. [11] Not everything was in sync during production. The articulated Terror Dog puppet wasn't ready until the last days of principal photography. This puppet was to be used in the scene when Zuul takes Dana. So after the scenes when Dana's apartment is blown up, DeCuir's team went back and put the set completely together for one Terror Dog shot. [12] The Temple of Gozer set became known as one of the biggest indoor sets ever built in Hollywood. It was built on Stage 16 at The Burbank Studios. [13] [14]

TriviaEdit

  • John DeCuir's first design for the secret staircase leading to the roof was rejected by Ivan Reitman because it had elements more akin to a Frankenstein movie. DeCuir quickly submitted a replacement that was more in-line with the apartment's architectural style. [15]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 11. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "With studied inputs from Edlund and DeCuir, Ghostbusters' seat-of-the-pants budget estimate was refined and adjusted to just under $30 million."
  2. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 39. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Production designer John DeCuir examines a foam core mockup of the firehall -- an existing structure to which he would be adding the enclosed office area at the rear as well as other modifications and refinements. Such mockups were invariably useful in establishing a three-dimensional feel for the sets -- before costly construction or renovation was initiated -- and often proved useful to Ivan Reitman for blocking action and determining camera angles."
  3. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 107 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Prior to construction of the million-dollar set, DeCuir prepared a small foam core study model."
  4. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 35 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Though the interiors could just as easily have been shot on a soundstage back in Los Angeles, a university building was dressed as a lab set by production designer John DeCuir as a hedge against inclement weather. Thus, if the location film crew -- was unable to shoot outdoors, they could readily proceed with the lab scenes rather than lose a day in the schedule."
  5. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 41 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Joe Medjuck says: "John DeCuir redressed the building, adding awnings to the front and other things that could be broken off later during the earthquake and explosion. In reality, someone like Dana Barrett could never have afforded to live in that apartment complex, but it looks good in the movie."
  6. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 147. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "While the possessed Dana stands transfixed - staring out her window as the wave of ghosts sweeps past - the forces of Gozer blast out an entire wall in her penthouse apartment. To achieve the shot, John DeCuir designed and constructed the set as it was to appear after the explosion. Then Chuck Gaspar and his crew filled it in with balsawood bricks and breakway glass. Inside, fifteen air mortars were mounted and filled with wet sand - which when fired under pressure acted like invisible shotgun pellets to blow out the wall and windows."
  7. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 42. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Blueprints for Dana's and Louis' apartments and the hallway in between. Designed by John DeCuir, the sets were constructed as a single unit at The Burbank Studios. To facilitate effects work -- most especially the Terror Dogs' unwelcomed appearance midway through the film -- the entire structure was built six feet off the soundstage floor so that trained operators could climb underneath and actuate the puppetized party-crashers from below."
  8. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 42. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "DeCuir was careful to specify that no obstructions be placed beneath that portion of the set where hidden mechanisms would be needed to slide Dana's armchair across the floor on concealed tracks."
  9. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 38 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Joe Medjuck says: "The firehouse in Los Angeles is a huge place -- three stories high. And all of the scenes that were supposed to take place in the firehouse were actually filmed in the firehouse. None of that was done at the studio. When the script says 'basement of the firehouse,' we are actually in the basement of that firehouse. Though John DeCuir added lots of things to dress the place, most of the essential elements were already there."
  10. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 123 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Habitues of the Tavern on the Green were no doubt puzzled to see its entryway flanked by two stone statues -- another bit of John DeCuir set dressing designed to enhance the gothic ambience of the city."
  11. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 45 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Michael Gross says: "Louis' apartment is actually behind the door that Louis comes out of, and Dana's apartment is actually on the other side of the door she enters -- which is unusual in filmmaking. Often, it's cheaper to piece things together. But John DeCuir likes to base his sets in reality as much as possible. And it made things much easier for Ivan when it came to shoot. John's entire crew were really incredible. We went into Dana's apartment set the night before shooting and said, 'We want this changed, we want that changed.' The prop people worked all through the night; and the next morning, the entire set was redressed to our specifications."
  12. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 112 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Michael Gross says: "Articulated puppets take a long time to build -- and we knew the articulated Terror Dog wouldn't be ready until our last couple days of shooting. So all of the shots requiring an articulated dog, such as the one in Dana's kitchen, had to wait until the very end. Unfortunately, by that time, Dana's apartment set had been completely trashed for later scenes in the film -- holes knocked in the walls and floors torn up and that sort of thing. So after everything else was done, John DeCuir and his crew had to go in and put that set completely back together -- for one Terror Dog shot."
  13. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 11. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "Among other things, DeCuir would devise and supervise construction of the Gozer temple -- one of the biggest indoor sets ever built in Hollywood."
  14. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 104 annotation. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "John DeCuir's mammoth rooftop set constructed on Stage 16 at The Burbank Studios."
  15. Shay, Don (November 1985). Making Ghostbusters, p. 43. New York Zoetrope, New York NY USA, ISBN 0918432685. Paragraph reads: "DeCuir's first staircase leading to the rooftop temple was rejected by Ivan Reitman who felt it looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie. On short order, it was replaced by a stairwell more appropriate to the architectural style of the building."


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