Netflix’s The King (which stars Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson) recruited the famed production designer behind The Favourite, Fiona Crombie, to create its dark and rich-colored look. For this film, she contributed historic and textured scenes—including the battle between England’s King Henry V (Chalamet) and France’s prince (Pattinson)—that were grounded in extensive research.
“[Director] David Michôd was clear from the beginning that he wanted us to understand the period,” Crombie tells Architectural Digest. “He wanted the battle scenes to feel visceral and just devastating, and he wanted to feel the privilege of being in the royal court.”
The film commences in the English court in the 1400s, which was filmed in Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire, England, and Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England. Gold and red shades can be seen in details such as the tiling. “This fantastic tiling can be seen in cathedrals and elsewhere in England,” says Crombie. “This bold, classic patterning was a hook for me.” The furnishings—which are dark wood, carved in shapes like twists—contrast with the whitewashed interiors. “I tend to be quite lean with objects that I put into spaces,” says Crombie. “I’m not afraid to have an emptiness to my work. The King is quite beautiful in how bare it is.”
This is further demonstrated in the chambers for Chalamet’s character before he’s crowned king—which could be considered a 1400s “bachelor pad.” The room is sparse, minus props like food and letters. Remember: Even books were rare items in the 1400s. “One of the most challenging things is how to give character to a space in a time when people didn’t have a lot of stuff,” says Crombie. “How do you give a sense of that person and where he is in his life when there’s nothing to throw on the bed, like an iPhone or keys? There are only so many pottery jugs that you want to put in a corner.” She continues: “It looks like a guy who doesn’t clean up after himself. I’m quite pleased when I look at it because it looks textured.”
The film builds to its battle scenes, which were staged cinematically in Szilvásvárad, Hungary. Here, the tented grounds echo the same themes that enhanced the English court, from the colors to the patterning. “The main thing for me was trying to find a visual continuity that existed between the royal court and the battlefields,” says Crombie. “I wanted for them to feel cohesive. The heraldry, with all the flags and horse blankets, and even the costumes have a really similar language.”
One of Crombie’s secrets when it comes to historic films is to remember that most items would have been new for the time period. “I think the mistake that’s often made is that things look aged and old when it was new at the time,” she says. “We had all our pottery made and all our glassware made and it was genuinely fresh. We had embroidery done that was true to the period. The linens were very fresh.”
The King is based on Shakespeare’s Henry V, so it makes sense that Crombie’s stage experience came in handy. “My design always draws on my theater background,” she says. “I think about the space in terms of what it might tell you about a character or how it might affect the audience’s emotive response. That’s very much my theater training.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest