May 17, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

‘The Harder They Fall’ Features a Staggering 250 Shades of Paint

2 min read

At the start of The Harder They Fall, the film’s writer, director, and composer Jeymes Samuel tells the viewer, “While the events of this story are fictional… These. People. Existed.” He’s referring to Black cowboys of the late 19th century like Nat Love, Rufus Buck, Cherokee Bill, Stagecoach Mary, and more, fictionalized versions of whom make up this story about dueling gangs. 

Produced by Jeymes Samuel and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, the film is less concerned with telling the story of these people’s lives as it really happened, and more concerned with giving them the blockbuster treatment they’ve been denied over the years. Netflix gave the production a $90 million budget, which is not unheard of, but is large considering it was Samuel’s first feature film. 

This movie features an all-star cast including Idris Elba, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, LaKeith Stanfield, and more. If you think the action is taking place among your stereotypical, barren Western movie set made of raw brown wood for as far as the eye can see, you’re dead wrong. There are three distinct towns in the story, and they were shot entirely on location in New Mexico at four existing Western movie towns, where the local buildings were completely transformed inside and out. San Cristobal Movie Ranch, J.W. Eaves Ranch, Bonanza Creek Ranch, and Tom Ford Ranch all appear—the last of which was owned by the fashion designer and movie director until earlier this year. It is a sprawling 20,662-acre estate that is home to both a striking concrete house designed by award-winning architect Tadao Ando and the Silverado Movie Town, which was built in the 1980s for the film of the same name.

Stagecoach Mary’s private quarters. 


The fictional Douglastown is the least visually striking locale in the story, but even it features some rich spaces, particularly the saloon and apartment of Stagecoach Mary (played by Zazie Beetz). Set decorator Cindy La Jeunesse dressed both in warm tones, copper accents, velvet drapes, and dark wood. “Mary’s apartment was super important because it was really the only individual character’s private place,” production designer Martin Whist tells AD. “She’s a very strong female character so I wanted it to be very independent and unique, but also feminine.”

Redwood City, a prosperous town with an all Black population that was built by the outlaw Rufus Buck (played by Idris Elba), is Whist and company’s crown jewel. Inspired by Victorian architecture (accurate to the time period, if perhaps not the location) every building is painted in rich jewel tones, with crisp signage made by graphic designer Wendy Drapanas Stokes, and tons of fun decorative details. “We wanted to use color in a large degree, in a way that hasn’t been used in a Western before,” Whist says.

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