Guy Ritchie’s Netflix series, The Gentlemen, that follows on from his 2019 film of the same name, goes out on the streamer tonight.

Here, Production Designer, Martyn John, and Costume Designer, Loulou Bontemps, explain how they helped create the aristo/gangster world of the series.

THE GENTLEMEN sees Eddie Horniman (Theo James) unexpectedly inherit his father’s sizeable country estate – only to discover it’s part of a cannabis empire. Moreover, a host of unsavoury characters from Britain’s criminal underworld want a piece of the operation. Determined to extricate his family from their clutches, Eddie tries to play the gangsters at their own game. However, as he gets sucked into the world of criminality, he begins to find a taste for it.

Martyn John (Production Designer)

At what stage did you get involved with the project? Well, I was the supervising art director on the Gentlemen film, working for the Designer Gemma Jackson and I started to design for Guy after we finished that film. So, we knew it was a possibility that there might be the opportunity for a TV series as a spin-off. And when that happened Guy approached me and asked me if I’d design it for him, based on what Gemma had done for the film.

What attracted you to the project? It was the scripts. The first two scripts I read were even better than the film and took it in a different direction and that was very exciting. I just fell in love with it.

Going from the film to the TV what did you want to do in terms of creating the new world for it? We had to find a brand-new country house and brand-new estate within which to set the whole dope farm enterprise.So, I started looking for that, and we went to a lot of big houses around the south of England. Badminton was by far the best, and Guy knew it, and that’s the one he wanted to use.

What did that offer you in terms of challenges or inspiration in terms of the look?  It’s a really beautiful house and what we loved about it was that it’s not a museum piece. It’s still lived in by the family, and it had a bit of a broken feel to it. It was aged, and it went with what we wanted for the characterization of the family estate. They were land rich and money poor, so it worked perfectly.

It was incredibly grand but tired at the same time. So, we thought that was perfect. There are incredibly sumptuous rooms with lovely silk wallpapers, incredible paintings and artifacts, and it was perfect for what we wanted from the show.

One of the challenges was that obviously we couldn’t film at Badminton all the time, and so we used it mainly for exteriors and the entrance hall, and then I had to find locations or build the sets that matched the rooms at Badminton without being in Badminton because it was too far away from London. So, I found a number of locations and we decorated them to match the Badminton aesthetic.

Creating a country house aesthetic, as you can imagine, is incredibly expensive. We’re filming over eight months. And to hire the props, really expensive props, is very costly. So, I started buying a lot of stuff from auction houses and re-upholstering furniture. We hired a lot of pictures. We had some pictures painted. We made drapes, hired lighting. So, it was a combination of a lot of things. We had silk made into wallpaper because it lent itself to the Badminton aesthetic. We had paintings done of Edward Fox, Jolie Richardson as if they were historic members of the family, the aristocrats.

We put in a lot of effort getting those right and sourcing the right frames, because a lot of the time with the big portraits, the frames are as valuable as the portrait itself. So, I had frames carved and scoured auction houses for beautiful frames on that period.

Guy always has a very sort of a particular style to his films and I find it very rewarding to try to build the aesthetic he likes. He’s incredibly specialised in what he accepts on his set. It is a Guy Ritchie stamp, so you know exactly what a Guy Ritchie film looks like.

What is it like working with him? You’ve got to be on your toes as he’s often changing the dialogue to ensure it feels very fresh and so he uses a script as a guideline. And he’s always finessing and changing things. And because of that, you have to be able to react and adapt very, very quickly. It’s an incredibly creative process, but we don’t always know what we’re going to be asked for. For instance, they could be doing a scene in the living room or the drawing room, and Guy would decide that they were in the dining room eating a lunch, let’s say, or they could be in the grounds having a picnic. So, we’ve constantly got to have things on standby or be able to get things quickly. And as you can imagine somewhere like Badminton House, you’re drinking wine out of beautiful crystal glasses, eating off silver. So, all of that stuff all has to be to hand. It’s challenging, but exciting at the same time.

Working the other HODs, how is that process for you working across the board with the other departments? Well, we’ve been working with Ed Wild for about three or four films now, and same with Loulou. So, there’s a shorthand between us, and we’ve just got to make it as beautiful and as interesting as possible.We talk about colour and mood and lighting hugely. I suppose we’re all at the top of our game, as he is, and we reinforce each other’s ideas. It just works. It’s an incredible team and we bounce off each other.  We’re very, very lucky.

How did you create the weed farms? Well, it started when we did the film – Gemma said to me, how are we going to do this?! We went to a prop house called Living Props, who deal in plants and they said, well, we can, we could get dope leaves printed in China on silk. So that’s what we did – we had silk dope leaves printed and then we made the dope plant up. We 3D printed the seed heads and had a team of people making these plants. It’s really quite exciting and they were all made in a warehouse in Brixton. We did also generate real plants – something called a choisea, which has got a similar style of leaf when it’s a young plant. So, we had those imported from Holland. And then there was all the lighting for it, the grow lamps, etc. There’s a lot of detail goes in to creating the world of the weed farm.

In terms of working with the DOP, what was it you wanted to achieve with the look of this world?

It had to feel rich and expensive and sumptuous – it’s like looking at a grandmaster’s painting. If you look at those lovely old paintings of people like a Rembrandt or a Gainsborough, their backgrounds are very sumptuous and rich and people pop out from them. And that’s what I wanted for our characters. In terms of the colours, they pop – all the yellows were very, very yellow. All the reds were incredibly rich.

We used the silk wallpaper on the on the living room walls, which had a sheen to it. So, as you move around the room, the colour changes. I just wanted to be really rich. And I suppose over the top, but appropriate. You still feel you’re in that aristocratic world, which is over the top but real.

Is there any difference in terms of designing for the film or for TV? I don’t think there is. I always design to make it as appropriate and as exciting to look at as possible. And we certainly approached The Gentlemen as if it was a feature film, because that’s the level at which Guy expects and the level at which we all work. It’s a very lavish television production. And you hope audiences will enjoy going into that world for as many episodes as they get to – if they’ve enjoyed the film or they haven’t even seen the film, they can enter that world and submerse themselves in it.

LouLou Bontemps (Costume Designer)

At what stage did you get involved with the project? I had about 12 weeks prep, but having been previously working with Guy Ritchie, we’d been discussing the show for quite some time.

What attracted you to the project? Guy Ritchie. The challenge to do a new version of the film. The challenge to create so many new iconic character looks.

What was your starting point when you were brought on board? My characters’ boards. Discussing with Guy the key characters, their personalities and for cast like Theo (who plays Eddie), their style evolution throughout the show. Once each character board was created, we focused on the more stylised looks, like the ball or the ‘chicken suit’ for example.

How were you briefed, what was the brief? There was no one brief, it was a brief per character. From that their wardrobe was created.

What kind of research did you do? What inspiration did you take? My research comes from fashion, art, textiles and film. Dan (Freddy’s) ‘chicken suit’ for example; I thought the idea of a chicken costume was quite boring and safe so I found a beautiful painting of a colourful cockerel and just imagined Freddy wearing something like that in slow motion riding a quad bike, and the ‘cock couture’ was born. We made the whole costume bespoke. It’s so much fun.

Where did you find inspiration for the look? There are so many! Eddie’s look evolves from the humble gentlemen to the gangster gentlemen we end Season One with – you can see that through the style evolution of his wardrobe. Susie is an aspiring cockney, who dresses very London in style, mixing luxury brands with gorgeous vintage. Freddy has some iconic moments; his fight night costume was inspired by an interesting portrait painting Martyn John sent me of a blond gentleman posing in a suit with a fur coat on. When I saw it, I immediately thought of Dan/Freddy. I had to push Guy Ritchie a bit to get away with that look, it’s Brad Pitt in Fight Club, it’s him playing dress up as a wannabe gangster. We also had a huge amount of fun creating Giancarlo (Uncle Stan’s) look; the billionaire who always has to be dressed a little different to those around him. His burgundy velvet tux and trews for the ball was a fun look to create. His watch game is unreal! And I think my preferred look was inspired by a photo of Clark Gable shopping for watches, Uncle Stan wears it while he prepares his ball invitations. A houndstooth blazer with ribbed knit sweater over his shoulders. I mean the references go on and on.

How much did you refer to the movie? There is a little nod to the movie at the fish market. We follow Susie’s red bottom shoes into the market wearing a tweed co-ord and red birkin – so much fun. This is a reference to a scene with Rosalind Pearson in the film where we follow her red bottoms shoes into the garage.

What was the biggest challenge on the project? Creating key looks between each gang or gangster that didn’t overlap at all with the other. A fun challenge though and I think we nailed it.

What happened during the shoot, were you redesigning/altering things as the shoot progressed?There was no redesigning. Guy liked to play around from time to time with looks, but once that was set, we just had fun with it.

How do you work with the DoP, colourist? Ed and I work really well together. He loves colour, thank goodness! And I’m all about colour and textures. We have a lot of fun together, Ed, Martyn and I. I’m very lucky to work with both these geniuses.

The Gentlemen: Key Credits

  • Creator: Guy Ritchie
  • Writers: Guy Ritchie and Matthew Read, with Haleema Mirza, Billy and Theo Mason Wood, Stuart Carolan and John Jackson
  • Directors: Guy Ritchie, Nima Nourizadeh, Eran Creevy, David Caffrey
  • Executive Producers: Guy Ritchie, Will Gould, Matthew Read, Frith Tiplady, Marc Helwig, Bill Block, Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies
  • Series Producer is Hugh Warren.
  • Costume Designers: LouLou Bontemps, Carly Griffith
  • Hair & Make-up Designer: Niamh Morrison
  • Production Designers: Martyn John, Linda Wilson
  • Supervising location Manager: Iggy (Ian) Ellis
  • Casting Directors: Dan Hubbard, Rory Okey
  • Casting: Theo James, Kaya Scodelario, Daniel Ings, Joely Richardson, Vinnie Jones, Giancarlo Esposito, Chanel Cresswell, Michael Vu, Max Beesley, Jasmine Blackborow, Harry Goodwins, Dar Salim, Pearce Quigley, Ruby Sear, Peter Serafinowicz, Ray Winstone and Guz Khan.
  • A Moonage production for Netflix in association with Miramax Television

Staff Reporter

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