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How ‘Woman in the Window’ Production Designer Kevin Thompson Created Amy Adams’ Safe House

·3 min read

Production designer Kevin Thompson knew Joe Wright’s film adaptation of “The Woman in the Window” would be a darkly lit movie and noirish. In bringing the A.J. Finn novel to life, he would have to find a color palette that was specific to Amy Adams’ Anna Fox, who suffers from severe agoraphobia and watches the world from inside her home.

Thompson added pops of color in the house, such as a red couch and sheer orange curtains. “We did that to inform the audience that there was life at the windows and that she once had vibrancy in her life.”

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The character’s 19th-century townhouse was built on a stage and broken down into five sets. At the start of the film, which debuts May 14 on Netflix, the camera moves through the home and its spaces. The largest parts of the set were the stoop, the first floor and the stairwell that rises three floors. All are central to the storyline, but the stairwell served as the connective tissue.

“That went through many incarnations,” reveals Thompson, who based his design on New York brownstones. To make Anna feel secure, he chose a continuous design for the staircase’s handrail rather than one that would be stopped by a post on each floor. “We wanted it to feel as though the handrail was one line, so her hand holding it would not be interrupted.”

Ultimately, the stairwell design allowed Wright to shoot looking up and down to give the house — like the protagonist — a sense
of isolation.

Each level in the house was given a character, whether it was a subliminal change in wall texture or a color change. “We did a lot of testing of plaster,” Thompson says. “We painted the plaster of the walls so there was a translucent depth to the colors.”

The study was a deep blue. In contrast, the bedroom featured a shade of pink to give it a less finished look. The idea was that Anna didn’t use that room as much, instead, sleeping on the couch, her office and her husband’s office.

“As the house went up [levels], we wanted it to feel less used and less cared for,” Thompson says. “She would go down to the kitchen, which we positioned in the center of the house and was always present. The other rooms would feel like they were shadows that were unused and uninhabited.”

Anna is living alone when the Russell family moves in across the street, and she befriends their 15-year-old son Ethan, played by Fred Hechinger. We learn about Anna’s family as she tells Ethan she is separated from her husband and their child.

Elements of her husband’s presence are visible in the wall art. “There are large black and white photographs mixed in with Richard Diebenkorn paintings,” Thompson says.

Thompson spent a lot of time working on a backstory, particularly making sure a child’s presence was felt. One detail was the chalkboard behind the couch on the first floor. “One day when Amy’s daughter was visiting the set, we had her add something to the chalkboard because she was about the same age as Anna’s daughter in the movie,” Thompson says.

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