Pastels galore, gratuitous fashion, naughty banter. The creative team behind the retro comedy 'Down With Love' reveals how they made an era.

By David Browne
Updated March 17, 2020 at 02:36 AM EDT

The Look of Love

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”From fade-in to fade-out, Down With Love looks like a classic…’60s sex comedy. [It] not only takes place in the early ’60s, it looks like it was made in the early ’60s.”

There it was: the retro-cool concept behind Down With Love laid out on the first page of the Eve Ahlert and Dennis Drake screenplay. All that remained for producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks (Oscar winners for American Beauty), anxious to pay homage to a quirky genre, was to find someone who knew what the hell a ’60s sex comedy was. Bring It On director Peyton Reed filled the bill, and he hired production designer Andrew Laws (Tigerland) and costume designer Daniel Orlandi (Phone Booth), both of whom grew up loving the Rock Hudson — Doris Day collaborations, namely Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, that Love aimed to invoke.

Like those films, Love, which opened May 16 starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor, is a showcase of Technicolor sets, hokey false backdrops, and chic wardrobes. The script is also chockablock with sexy double entendres, but no actual sex.

Armed with a relatively low budget of a reported $35 million, the team created the old-style Hollywood artifice over a generous 17 weeks. Laws, whose research generated a 1,000-page design bible, built some 55 sets. Orlandi created every costume from scratch. ”He didn’t just draw them like they might have back then, he constructed them [that] way,” says Zellweger, who adds that she wasn’t fond of long days in open-toe shoes. ”You know how disgusting panty hose can get after 18 hours?”

The biggest question facing the production, though, will be a moviegoing demographic that thinks ”the Kennedy era” is a reference to MTV. ”One of the things we always kept in the back of our minds was not to outsmart the audience,” says Laws. ”We were always just trying to make it fun.”

More fun: Look for a cameo by Tony Randalla Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back staple. But, alas, moviegoers won’t see the original peaches-and-cream actress herself. While the producers tried, they could not lure Day, now 78, out of retirement for an appearance. Que sera, sera….

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The Look of Love

  • Movie