The Academy Award-winning craftsman has transitioned from The Lord of the Rings to the wilds of Montana.
New Zealand-born production designer Grant Major has helped create the cinematic worlds of Middle Earth — he earned an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) — and Imperial China (2020’s Mulan), post-WWII Japan (2012’s Emperor) and Depression Era New York (2005’s King Kong).
And now he has pivoted to 1925 Montana for The Power of the Dog, director Jane Campion’s acclaimed western drama, which will be vying for Oscars in eleven categories — including Best Production Design — during Sunday's 94th Academy Awards ceremony.
Grant, who last worked with Jane Campion on the award-winning An Angel at my Table (1990), recently spoke with me in the C&I Studio about the unique challenges he faced on The Power of the Dog — which was filmed largely in the Otago region of New Zealand.
The distinctive Burbank house, along with many other structures, were built specifically for the film — and Grant worked tirelessly with his team to get everything down to the paint job just right, with multiple revisions to achieve the perfectly imperfect worn look.
Grant was a good sport while sharing his secrets — and maintaining a straight face when my imperfect memory of the film (and his resume) was apparent on a couple occasions.