Let’s face it: You can’t set a love story in 1940s Casablanca without a gin joint to walk into.
In Allied (out Nov. 23), Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard play star-crossed spies Max and Marianne, hailing from Canada and France, respectively. Their task is to infiltrate the high society of Nazi-occupied French Morocco and take out a German ambassador — and that means lots of socializing in the city’s ritziest establishments.
“Casablanca was called the North African Riviera,” says director Robert Zemeckis, who studied both real-life archival footage and classic films like Casablanca to capture the city’s elegance. “It was a glamorous place, and the spies were always in the most lavish clubs that had the best wine and the best food. That’s where a lot of shady stuff was going on.”
That lavish club in Allied is called the Rivoli, and it’s where the two spies meet. For purposes of the mission, Max and Marianne pose as husband and wife, but with all that spying and drinking it doesn’t take long for actual sparks to start flying. Production designer Gary Freeman created the concept art below, depicting Max pulling up to the club amid the city’s crisp whites and dusty desert tones (plus a few pops of purple and red from Joanna Johnston’s costumes).
Inside, the Rivoli is all red curtains, crystal glasses, and golden light — elegant, of course, but with danger (and Nazis) lurking around every corner. The club itself is filled with mirrors, a design element that carries throughout the film. “A lot of how our characters see each other is reflected in mirrors,” Zemeckis explains. “It’s a subconscious idea that many things are illusions.”
The opulence and romance of Morocco also serve as a stark contrast for later in the film, when the action moves to wartime London. As Max begins to wonder whether Marianne is really spying on him, the sets and costumes shift to grays and browns, matching the emotional turmoil.
“Marianne is very interesting because she’s very glamorous in Casablanca and very colorful,” Zemeckis says. “[In London] her wardrobe is still stylish, but the fabrics are more coarse and the colors are darker.” Well, at least their little problems amount to more than a hill of beans in this crazy world. Here’s looking at you, Casablanca.