LIVEBYNIGHT | Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion de­signer Jess Gon­chor on Ben Af­fleck’s adap­ta­tion of Den­nis Le­hane’s 1920s-set crime thriller By JAMES MOTTRAM

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS -

The pro­duc­tion de­signer of Ben Af­fleck’s gang­ster movie dis­cusses the look of the film.

Mak­ing a pe­riod-set gang­ster movie stand out from the crowd is no mean feat. Thank­fully, the pro­duc­tion de­signer on Live By Night, had it rel­a­tively easy.

“I was for­tu­nate to be handed ma­te­rial that did not take place in some­where like Chicago,” ex­plains Jess Gon­chor.

Scripted, star­ring and di­rected by Ben Af­fleck, the film is adapted from Den­nis Le­hane’s ac­claimed novel, set in 1920s Pro­hi­bi­tion Amer­ica. It’s Af­fleck’s sec­ond Le­hane adap­ta­tion, fol­low­ing his 2007 di­rec­to­rial de­but, Gone Baby Gone.

The film con­cerns Joe Cough­lin (Af­fleck), the gang­ster son of a Bos­ton Po­lice Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent, who heads to Florida to es­tab­lish a new power base.

“I’d never seen a gang­ster movie that took place some­where other than New York, Chicago, Bos­ton – those type of big me­trop­o­lises,” says Gon­chor. “Two thirds of this movie is set in a trop­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.”

Gon­chor’s past cred­its in­clude sev­eral movies by the Coen Broth­ers, in­clud­ing the Hol­ly­wood com­edy Hail, Cae­sar!, No Coun­try For Old Men and True Grit.

“Live By Night was prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more his­tor­i­cally cor­rect and Hail Cae­sar! was very the­atri­cal,” he notes, hint­ing at how Af­fleck ap­proached the adap­ta­tion.

For his first Af­fleck film, Gon­chor says that his boss had a strong idea of how the book should trans­late to the screen.

“He re­ally wanted to make it as real as pos­si­ble,” he ex­plains, “for the au­di­ence to be able to un­der­stand that Bos­ton was a tough place to live back in those days, and the Florida scenes – these peo­ple, they were im­mi­grants and they lived a good life, they worked hard and they played hard. So his whole mantra for the whole thing [ was that] he just wanted to make it feel as real pos­si­ble.”

From a de­sign per­spec­tive, Gon­chor re­mem­bers one tran­si­tional mo­ment in par­tic­u­lar, when Af­fleck’s char­ac­ter gets out of jail and heads to Florida by rail: “He’s come from this gang­ster drab Bos­ton – a cool, monochro­matic world – and he gets off the train and it’s bright sun­shine, and ev­ery­thing is colour­ful and he’s just in a dif­fer­ent world.”

With its Florida lo­ca­tion and such glam­orous co-stars as Si­enna Miller and Zoe Sal­dana, Live By Night prom­ises to be more ex­otic than the ur­ban-set Warner Broth­ers pictures of the 1930s, star­ring James Cag­ney and Ed­ward G. Robin­son.

“It was easy to not fall into the same mould as those films,” says Gon­chor. “Guys in cars, lean­ing out of the win­dows shoot­ing Tommy guns…” Those are yes­ter­day’s movie hood­lums.

Live By Night opens on 13 Jan­uary.

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