Despite myriad predictions that the salacious behind-the-scenes goings-on permeating the set of Olivia Wilde’s sophomore directorial offering, “Don’t Worry Darling,” would surely derail its box office standing, the much-ballyhooed dystopian thriller enjoyed a stellar opening weekend, bringing in just over $19 million, about $2 million more than originally anticipated, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Critic response has been mixed (while Russ Simmons of KKFI calls it “an ambiguous, head-scratching exercise in paranoia,” Keith Garlington of Keith at the Movies says, “there’s a lot to like”), but one thing everyone seems to agree upon is that “Don’t Worry Darling” is beautifully filmed, set and costumed, making for some absolutely delicious onscreen eye candy!
Shot against a striking backdrop of midcentury architecture and dusty desert landscapes with cinematography by Matthew Libatique and production design by Katie Byron, the film tells the story of Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice Chambers (Florence Pugh), a handsome 1950s-era married couple who move into Victory, a master-planned company town where the employees of the mysterious Victory Corporation live. A suburban utopia complete with sprawling greenbelts, a clubhouse, a sparkling pool and even an onsite boutique, Victory residents want for nothing and have little reason to ever leave the premises. In fact, they are instructed not to. As fellow denizen Bunny (Wilde) advises Alice in the trailer, “The one thing they ask of us is to stay here, where it’s safe.”
Of the fictional community, production designer Katie Byron told Desert magazine, “I would describe the town of Victory as a hedonistic playground. It’s not a tame and controlled conservative suburban life. Victory is a spectacular place full of opulence. We were depicting a secret society in America, so it doesn’t represent traditional 1950s America or its values.” As such, the production team descended upon Palm Springs, the longtime playground of the Hollywood elite, to create their desert utopia. A land of everpresent sunshine, blue skies and midcentury architecture galore, the area proved the quintessential backdrop for the dark storyline.
A few local spots highlighted include the Kaufmann House, Richard Neutra’s 1946 steel, aluminum, glass, and stone masterpiece, which portrays the offsite residence of slick Victory Corporation founder, Frank (Chris Pine). The historic La Quinta Resort & Club pops up as Victory’s communal clubhouse and pool. And the Palm Springs Visitors Center, a former Enco gas station designed by Albert Frey in 1965, also makes a brief appearance.
For the collection of low-slung tract houses making up the heart of the fictional town, Wilde and her team selected Canyon View Estates, a picturesque assemblage of sleek one-story duplex-style condominiums dotted around quaint cul-de-sacs and lush lawns in South Palm Springs. Commissioned by developer Roy Fey, the complex is the work of William Krisel and Dan Palmer, the iconic architectural duo known for their “contemporary houses with post-and-beam construction, open floor plans in which the living room, dining room and kitchen flow together, lots of glass and clean, simple lines inside and out,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Erected in six stages from 1962 to 1966, Canyon View’s 180 units boast such midcentury hallmarks as natural stone walls, decorative concrete screens and attached carports and are enhanced by common areas comprised of pools, spas and grassy expanses.
At the time of their completion, the duplexes were considered quite revolutionary and Krisel and Palmer were heralded for their innovation. As area realtor Gary Johns told Palm Springs Life, “It was a new kind of architecture — in particular, the creative butterfly rooflines and triangular clerestory windows that have become defining features of midcentury design. They were putting windows where they hadn’t been before that allowed light in and made the most of the views, but also provided lots of privacy.”
A 1965 promo advertising the community promised residents a fabulous lifestyle, espousing Canyon View Estates as “prestige homes for people of prestige, who appreciate the very best.” The piece also noted that the “spacious and fully carpeted” condos were created for “those that enjoy carefree gracious living among gracious friends.” You can almost hear the martini glasses clinking!
Alice and Jack’s exact unit can be found right in the heart of the community at 471 E. Azul Cir. Completed in 1963, the abode boasts two bedrooms and two baths in 1,632 square feet. Amenities include a den, a patio overlooking a handsome greenbelt and gorgeous mountain views from nearly every turn. (Please remember this is a private home. Do not trespass or bother the residents or the property in any way.)
Real estate websites are relatively scant on information regarding the unit’s sales history, but it was last offered on the rental market as a fully-furnished short-term lease back in 2015, with rates running from $1,700 to $3,600 a month depending upon the time of year. If the place were to hit the market today, Zillow estimates its worth at $587,000.
Only the front exterior of the structure appears in “Don’t Worry Darling.” All interior and backyard scenes involving Alice and Jack’s home were filmed on a set. Sadly, the actual inside of 471 E. Azul, which can be seen here, is not nearly as impressive or cinematic as Byron’s soundstage-built version, which is far more open and contains far more glass walls than the real thing.
Byron took the most significant design departures when fashioning the couple’s kitchen. The actual kitchen of 471 E. Azul boasts a decidedly ‘80s aesthetic with white tile counters, white appliances and white cabinetry and nary a globe light in sight! It hardly holds a candle to its onscreen counterpart, which is awash with exposed brick walls, jalousie windows, a cadre of built-ins and teal appliances and accents.
To outfit the Chambers’ home, the production team, which included set decorators Rachael Ferrara and Ashley Bussell, custom-built most of the furniture seen throughout and scoured local Palm Springs antique stores for vintage finds to utilize as the couple’s dreamy décor. All in all, their efforts came together to create a perfectly retro environment with just the slightest hint of malaise. As Byron told Variety, “I kept imagining what it would be like to go crazy in a space like this, with such sharp corners and sharp edges, or being in a dangerous altercation with someone. You have a giant boulder in the bedroom – you don’t want to fall out of bed and hit your head on that. It’s not a house you bring a child to. It’s opulent and beautiful but there’s a danger to it.”
Despite the overabundance of midcentury architecture in the Coachella Valley, the production team had to look elsewhere for a spot to portray Victory’s luxe sales boutique, where the housewives shop on the company’s dime. Cast and crew instead headed to the former headquarters of Stuart Pharmaceuticals located just outside of Pasadena in Sierra Madre. Designed by Edward Durell Stone in 1958, the gorgeous Neo-Formalist property currently serves as an upscale apartment complex known as The Stuart at Sierra Madre Villa, with the vast majority of its striking original architecture intact. No stranger to the screen, the unique site has also been featured in “American Woman,” “Animal Kingdom,” “That Thing You Do!” and “If These Walls Could Talk 2.”