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Luciana Arrighi

Luciana Arrighi

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Australia Profession: production designer, costume designer, set decorator

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Born in Australia and professionally based in the United Kingdom, designer Luciana Arrighi has created beautiful and evocative film landscapes, working frequently with director Gillian Armstrong and the Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team. An art director with stage and opera credits as well as her noted work on the silver screen, Arrighi got her start with the BBC, counting the BBC TV series "Omnibus" (which first teamed her with director Ken Russell on biopics of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Isadora Duncan, among her more memorable work efforts as a set designer. Not long after, Russell offered Arrighi her feature film debut, as set designer of the director's acclaimed 1970 feature "Women in Love". Twenty years later she reteamed with Russell as production designer for "The Rainbow" (1989), another D.H. Lawrence adaptation.In 1971, Arrighi was set decorator of British director John Schlesinger's drama "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", an association that she reprised as production designer of the director's later features "Madame Sousatzka" (1988) and "The Innocent" (1993). Her work in these character-driven films honed her skills for creating symbolic, evocative sets that add to rather than overwhelm a film's...

Born in Australia and professionally based in the United Kingdom, designer Luciana Arrighi has created beautiful and evocative film landscapes, working frequently with director Gillian Armstrong and the Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team. An art director with stage and opera credits as well as her noted work on the silver screen, Arrighi got her start with the BBC, counting the BBC TV series "Omnibus" (which first teamed her with director Ken Russell on biopics of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Isadora Duncan, among her more memorable work efforts as a set designer. Not long after, Russell offered Arrighi her feature film debut, as set designer of the director's acclaimed 1970 feature "Women in Love". Twenty years later she reteamed with Russell as production designer for "The Rainbow" (1989), another D.H. Lawrence adaptation.

In 1971, Arrighi was set decorator of British director John Schlesinger's drama "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", an association that she reprised as production designer of the director's later features "Madame Sousatzka" (1988) and "The Innocent" (1993). Her work in these character-driven films honed her skills for creating symbolic, evocative sets that add to rather than overwhelm a film's focus. 1978 saw Arrighi begin her longstanding artistic partnership with Australian director Gillian Armstrong as production designer of the seminal "My Brilliant Career". The aptly titled feature not only launched the film careers of stars Sam Neill and Judy Davis, but firmly placed Armstrong on the map, and earned Arrighi an Australian Film Institute Award for her first feature outing as a full-fledged production designer. She reteamed with the director in 1982, working on the director's "Starstruck" as a costume designer Two years later she took on both production and costume design duties for the Armstrong's "Mrs. Soffel" and effectively recreated the 1901 Pennsylvania setting and offered an appropriately gloomy backdrop for the decidedly somber drama. More than a decade later, the designer and the director renewed their collaboration on 1997's "Oscar and Lucinda" Lucinda", adapted from Peter Carey's popular novel. Arrighi's design for the film helped to underline and illustrate the two worlds within, employing dark, austere visuals for Oscar's old world English settings and bright, lively locales for the newly bustling Australia that is home to Lucinda. The film also provided an unusual production challenge--the crafting of the pivotal glass cathedral that Oscar builds as a tribute to his love for Lucinda. The production designer and her team rose to the occasion, creating a beautifully carved, full-sized church that was constructed to withstand the stresses of movement and river travel necessary to the production. Her work garnered Arrighi a second Australian Film Institute honor. In 1992, Arrighi was drafted by famed filmmakers Ismail Merchant and James Ivory to assist in their latest historical drama "Howards End". Challenged with the crucial task of creating the titular Edwardian countryside home, Arrighi more than met the challenge, again demonstrating her skills at designing a perfectly natural yet evocative environment with important intertextual clues. The art director's efforts didn't go unnoticed, and she snagged a BAFTA nomination and won an Oscar for her contribution to the widely acclaimed film. She reprised her role as Merchant-Ivory's production designer with the following year's "The Remains of the Day". Here she beautifully contrasted the rolling and free outdoors with the rich but dark and repressive interior scenes, an evocative choice that subtly enhanced the themes of repression and devotion humanized by British butler Stevens (Anthony Hopkins) who opts for a life of servitude despite the promise of love from housekeeper Miss Kensington (Emma Thompson). Again the production team of Arrighi, set designer Ian Whittaker, costumers Jenny Beavan and John Bright, screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory impressed Academy voters, each being nominated in their respective fields. Arrighi worked again with Merchant-Ivory on "Surviving Picasso" (1996), a lushly designed drama that featured not only the various European locales of Picasso's life, but also sought to incorporate the painter's various artistic periods through setting and background. One of Arrighi's larger-scaled productions, "Surviving Picasso" offered the designer the opportunity to recreate the entire two-story Parisian studio that housed Picasso's work, a project of a magnitude rarely attempted in film production design.

While she perhaps is best-known for her associations with Armstrong and Merchant-Ivory, Arrighi has worked extensively with other directors. Among her early credits are the production and costume design for Michael Blakemore's 1982 musical satire "Privates on Parade" and Richard Eyre's "The Ploughman's Lunch" (1983). In 1994, work on Norman Jewison's romance "Only You" took her to varied far-flung locations ranging from Pittsburgh to Italy, where painstaking care was taken to make each scenic attribute perfect, even building a replica of the famed Mouth of Truth from "Roman Holiday" because the real one was under a terrorism watch. The following year, moviemaking returned the art director to England, where she worked on Ang Lee's Jane Austen adaptation "Sense and Sensibility". Along with costumers Beavan and Bright and director of photography Michael Coulter, Arrighi helped to realize Lee's vision of a less stuffy, more vibrant Austen film with her realistic and accurate but accessible settings.

In 1999, she took on Michael Hoffman's fantastical "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream" with an elaborate, ornately crafted design scheme that captured the magic and mysticism of the work and remained the most memorable aspect of the film for many moviegoers. Arrighi's next unmitigated design victory came with that same year's "Anna and the King", for which she transformed the modern Malaysian location into a picture perfect recreation of Victorian age Thailand. She and her crew intricately copied even the smallest detail of the actual palace in Bangkok, carefully researched the changes that had been instated in the 19th Century and amended plans so that the castle they built would be identical to the original. Revisiting this exotic history, Arrighi succeeded in creating on film a world unlike any other, a veritable wonderland of colors and textures that instantly gave "Anna and the King" a sweeping, epic scope. Again, her work was recognized, and she and costumer Jenny Beavan were nominated for Academy Awards in their respective categories.

In addition to her impressive film resume, Arrighi has worked extensively with theatrical productions and the opera, lending her production design efforts to works performed in Europe, Australia and the United States. On stage, she has designed costumes for the National Theatre's production of "The School for Scandal" and Chichester's "Ring Around the Moon". Her opera costuming credits include "Il Trovatore" with Dame Joan Sutherland for Sydney's Australian Opera and "Otello" with Placido Domingo at the Vienna Straatsoper.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

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Born in Australia and raised there and in various international locales, including the French Riviera and the Far East
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Worked as an assistant to a theater designer in Australia
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Studied painting in Italy
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Moved to England and worked odd design-related jobs
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Began her career as a set designer for the BBC; first worked with director Ken Russell on TV biopics for "Omnibus", including profiles of Isadora Duncan and Dante Gabriel Rosetti
1969:
Was the set designer of Russell's "Women in Love"
1971:
Did set decoration for John Schlesinger's drama "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"
1978:
Was production designer of Gillian Armstrong's acclaimed feature "My Brilliant Career"
1982:
Reteamed with Armstrong, designing costumes for "Starstruck"
1982:
Served as costume designer as well as production designer on Michael Blakemore's musical satire "Privates on Parade"
1982:
Was production designer of "The Return of the Soldier"
1983:
Worked as production designer and costume designer for Richard Eyre's "The Ploughman's Lunch"
1984:
Paired again with Armstrong, as production designer and uncredited costume designer for "Mrs. Soffel"
:
Worked extensively as a production designer for operas in Australia, Europe and the USA
1988:
Reteamed with Schlesinger, serving as production designer on "Madame Sousatzka"
1989:
Did first feature with Russell in twenty years, working as production designer and costuming the characters in "The Rainbow"
1991:
Was production designer of "Close My Eyes"; originally aired on British TV and released theatrically in the USA
1992:
Won an Oscar for her production design contributions to the Merchant-Ivory feature "Howards End"
1993:
Again collaborated with John Schlesinger, serving as production designer for his World War II-era drama "The Innocent"
1993:
Reteamed with Merchant-Ivory as production designer for "The Remains of the Day"; received an Academy Award nomination
1994:
Was production designer for the Italy-set romance "Only You"
1995:
Teamed with director Ang Lee as production designer of the Jane Austen adaptation "Sense and Sensibility"
1996:
Worked as production designer on Merchant-Ivory's "Surviving Picasso"
1997:
Created the award-winning production design of Gillian Armstrong's "Oscar and Lucinda"
1997:
Was production designer for the 1913-set Joseph Conrad adaptation "Victory"
1999:
Worked with Michael Hoffman as production designer of the fantastical feature adaptation "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream"
1999:
Was production designer of the remake "Jakob the Liar", set in Nazi-occupied Poland
1999:
Earned acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for her lush designs for the epic "Anna and the King"
:
Worked with film director John Schlesinger on the opera "La Scala" in Milan
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Notes

Luciana Arrighi on "Oscar and Lucinda": "We did not want to create a well-behaved sepia picture, but something that has got great guts to it. 'Oscar and Lucinda' is about passion. We tried to influence and interpret the developing feelings between the characters by using color and design. We also wanted to appeal to the modern eye with a visual power and vigor and freshness." --quoted in the film's press kit, 1997

Arrighi on the best parts of her job: "I love the pre-production and the research. I love getting a new script and attacking a new subject, and I love travelling and exploring a country I know nothing about. For instance in Thailand [for "Anna and the King"], we were up near the Burma border, a place I never would have visited." -- quoted in Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1999

Arrighi on the way that others in her production team helped bring her design plans for "Anna and the King": "Thai sculptors and painters have an artistic sensibility that I have never seen before. They are able to create design accurately and uniquely in such a casual and quick way. It was amazing to watch them work." --quoted in the film's press kit, 1999

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