You can call me Tucker Paradise. But I’ve used a lot of names in my career. I’m a production designer. And each object has a story. This time around I’ll be discussing the vase that was in the background of some scenes in The Devil Wears Prada.
I wanted to be a production designer as far back as childhood. It was in my family. My grandfather was a production designer for many of Frank Capra’s movies. He revered Capra’s movie making prowess and Frank Capra enjoyed my grandfather’s ability to find an empty glass bottle to put on a desk at a
moment’s notice. “You’re my Johnnie on the spot!” Capra would often yell, often frightening any small children in the vicinity. That my grandfather’s name wasn’t Johnnie seemed to bother neither of them. My father worked for Stephen Spielberg. During the shooting of ET, it was Dad’s idea to stock the fridge with beer for ET to drink humorously. In Spielberg’s original draft, the fridge had only been stocked with V8 juice and eggplants and after the early screenings of the movie, my father became Spielberg’s right hand man.
My own introduction into the business started young. I remember my father would ask me to get him an object and then he would ask himself what movie star would look best standing in front of it. I can still remember his hard earned laughter as he realized that Dustin Hoffman was at his best standing in front of a frying pan.
Like a colt learning its first steps, it took me longer to realize my gift. Michael Keaton standing next to a clipper ship model? Please. Heather Locklear sitting in bed next to a child’s clay ashtray? Of course not. Dear reader, I was young and foolish. But though my steps were slow, I knew I was moving in the right direction.
I remember like that starburst of a moment when it all came together. The movie A Few Good Men was on TV and it was a scene where Jack Nicolson’s character was sitting at a desk and I said out loud “I think there should be not one but two pin grenades on his desk.” My father overheard me. All he said, really all he had to say was “You have your tools. Now use them.”
Now that we’re up to speed, let’s talk about that vase. You don’t just get a vase like that at a moment’s notice. I went to all the normal spots: Damn, That’s a Nice Vase You Got There, How Much? and Hey, A Vase! and Stuff. Most conversations when I’m buying a vase go something like this:
Me: I’d like that vase, please.
Seller: Yes, you can have it.
But sometimes the west wind blows something foul and there’s a crack in the vase or the seller doesn’t want to let the piece go. And before you know it, you’re up shit creek and you realize you left the paddles under the bed, you dummy. Anyway, this wasn’t one of those times. I got the vase by pointing at it and giving money to the guy at the counter so win win all around.
It was a difficult set to be on. Meryl Streep kept giving people birthday punches without asking when their birthday was, the crafts service bagels were generally poppy seed and I never saw Ann Hathaway in person. I think they ended up adding her in post-production. A CGI movie star, huh? Well, that’s
Hollywood for ya.
Dru Kramcsak performs throughout Philly with the improv group, The Sardines as well as the sketch group, It’s The New. Check out his monthly show Monologues the first Friday of every month at Philly Improv Theater.