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The production of Oliver Stone’s new ‘Savages’ began filming in Malibu, which doubled for Laguna. Producer Moritz Borman explains the logic: “Oliver likes to stay as chronological as possible so that the actors can grow. It’s a good way of doing it, if you can logistically afford it.”
For about two weeks, the cast and crew decamped to a former baseball player’s 3,500-square-foot house that boasts a breathtaking view of the Pacific. The area that became O, Chon and Ben’s residence features vaulted ceilings, sliding glass doors and an outdoor dining area with a fire pit and a spa. Production designer Tomás Voth lent it a Zen/rock ’n’ roll vibe: Layers of colorful Indian tapestries and small shrines to various Hindu gods were folded into pops of primary color from vibrant, raucous paintings. Of course, he added the requisite paraphernalia a weed grower—and smoker—might need.
Voth also had to create a version of Mexico in California, specifically Elena’s villa. One of her many domiciles, this residence had to reflect her power, wealth and isolation. The production found an extraordinary property called the Hummingbird Nest Ranch in the Santa Susana Mountains. With its Spanish-style architecture and décor, it looks exactly like a grand Mexican hacienda— replete with stables, fountains, a swimming pool, an endless façade of windows and a mammoth, regal bedroom. The Hummingbird Nest Ranch may accommodate up to 5,000 people, yet Elena and her security were the sole guests. It was, in fact, an exquisite jail.
Despite all of her wealth and power, Elena’s alone, and that’s what the team wanted to convey in her villa. “For her to be ‘queen of the Cartel,’ to survive, persevere and succeed says a lot about her ambition,” Voth says. “We wanted her home to reveal that, as well as what she had to give up attaining it. So we designed the villa from the character out. I wanted it to be elegant and massive and also offer a glimpse of what it is like to make it to the top and be completely alone. Fortunately, we found this fantastic place in Simi Valley that looks like Tijuana, and it fulfilled everything we needed.”
Voth’s designs helped Salma Hayek understand her character long before cameras rolled, even if initially they gave the actress’ husband pause. Hayek recalls: “Tomás kindly made me huge boards of every single one of Elena’s properties, that I kept in my bedroom, which helped me understand her. My husband saw them and said, ‘Wait, are we buying another house?’ I said, ‘No, don’t worry, they’re already mine.’”
Image Courtesy of Savages