Richard Hoover is an award-winning production designer with a long career in theater, television, and film that includes creating the sets of the original Twin Peaks, Ed Wood, Apt Pupil, and Girl, Interrupted. Pop Axiom stepped onto an imaginary set together as we spoke on the phone about his career in creating the playgrounds where actors get to play.
Designing the Designer
Richard didn’t study production design “I’ve learned it as I’ve done it. I’m still learning.”
As a young man, he chased gigs and one lead to another, starting on the stage “I had been doing work as a production designer in the theatre world …”
Then a little side project happened “I made a little documentary in the late 70s and discovered a film community.”
From stage to set “I worked on a [film] project as a production designer and then the next one was out in LA that involved Rob Reiner.”
And it’s been non-stop ever since, whether it’s theater, television, or film.
About Second Act
Second Act stars Jennifer Lopez as a woman taking charge and reinventing her life. It reminds me of Working Girl, a bit of a favorite of mine and Richard says “It’s definitely a sort of modern-day Working Girl.”
In his words, Second Act is “… about this very smart woman, but she’s made some mistakes throughout her life, so she’s trying to overcome those mistakes.”
Productions might happen at an established location or on a sound-stage with a set built to specs. For Second Act “We had a lot of scenes in a house. But you’re kind of stuck with what you have. So we decided to build a set that allowed us to talk more about camera angles and how to shoot things.”
The Production Process
Making movies takes a long time and requires a lot of people. A lot of it is preparation and a bit of experimentation. When Richard starts a new project “, I try to define the mood and the tone and the key values of how this story is being told.”
Productions are also a bit of a winding road as it moves from concept to creation “You’re thinking conceptually but facing reality.” And those realities “… time, budget, script changes …”
Aaron Sorkin and David Lynch
Richard’s career includes many heavy hitters like working with Tim Burton on Ed Wood to James Mangold on Girl, Interrupted. But two of them stand out: Aaron Sorkin and David Lynch. What are some of Richard’s thoughts on each of them? “Sorkin is a master of dialogue and ideas in dialogue. The locations and the sets become a functional aspect supporting what he does.” Richard worked on Newsroom with Sorkin which melded spectacularly with the show “And news shows now, there’s all this stuff going on, it’s a set, it’s a dance.”
What about David Lynch? “David does a different kind of filmmaking. He uses characters who have an edge of absurdity and mystery. And what’s not revealed is sometimes as important as what is revealed.”
Newsroom was a heralded HBO series but Twin Peaks, in the early 90s, not-so-much “What David was doing at the time too, no one had done on TV really.”
Richard’s father was proud of the designer’s work on Twin Peaks but, like many viewers, he was a little confused “My dad said, congratulations Richard, now what the hell was that?”
Richard keeps busy and recently attended a reading for a new supernatural play “It has a ghost and things floating around.” One joy of production design is problem-solving “I told the director we need a magician.”
Spreading the love “I’ve worked with Dennis Gassner, I admire what he’s done.”
The search for the next gig is part of the fun of the filmmaking industry. Stay tuned for more beautiful production from Richard in 2019!
Thanks to Richard Hoover and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.