Making The Vow Movie Real
Principal photography on The Vow began an all-location shoot in August, 2010, in Toronto, Canada. Because the film is set in Chicago, the last four days in October were shot there for verisimilitude, including landmark locations.
Sucsy called on his friend and Grey Gardens production designer Kalina Ivanov to bring her considerable talent and experience to creating the look of every unique set in the film as well as Paige’s artwork.
Ivanov responded to the script immediately: “I loved the opportunity of having to create these people’s lives from scratch and then having to create a whole new world for them of where one of them is comfortable and the other one knows nothing about it. It presented a great opportunity to give Paige’s character a lot of clues about her past life and to give Leo the opportunity to use these clues in trying to rekindle their love. So every environment I created for those characters had to serve a dual purpose: to not just to be their environment, but also to give you the clue of what their life was like before as a couple.”
Kalina and Michael first met at her interview for Grey Gardens and found that they have a very similar approach to art. “We both think very conceptually, and we both feel and think through images, so the first thing I did after I read The Vow was to find an image of a suzannie, which is a multi-colored hand sewn bedspread from Afghanistan, which I felt spoke of the look I wanted to create for this show.”
As for the art, believes Ivanov, “Each of Paige’s sculptures represent a time in her life, and the fact that she was an artist was extremely appealing to me as a designer. And the fact that she forgets how she was an artist, that her art is interrupted and she has to find her core as an artist again, presented itself as a very interesting challenge for me as a designer.”
Tatum gives Ivanov and Sucsy credit for the “incredibly expressive sculptures that are beautiful but have a dark edge to them that show her pain.”
In terms of the locations, Chicago and Toronto do look in many ways alike says Ivanov: “They are both towns from the same era and they’re both on lakes, so the architectural vernacular isn’t that different.”
As for working with director Michael Sucsy, Rachel McAdams smiles. “Michael makes everything fun,” she notes. “He set the tone from the beginning that if nothing else we were just going to have a great time and hopefully, the rest would work out. I love that he’s very much about the process and not the end result, which of course I know is always in the back of his mind, but it’s the journey for him, which is lovely.”
Involved in every aspect of making the film, Sucsy was even there for Rachel’s hair consultations, wardrobe fittings and the art. “Michael is just so much a part of it all! He’s collaborative and totally open to new ideas.” Rachel recounts a moment when Michael told her that he believed in the love story and had a feeling in his solar plexus when he thought about her and Channing together. “I’ve never heard about the solar plexus being an intuitive place on the body, but it is for him, and it was just so sweet. Yeah, he’s just been a lovely support throughout,” says McAdams.
Channing Tatum credits Michael Sucsy with being able to bring the best out in his talent. “I think Michael is a sculptor in a way,” says Tatum. “He has a real sense of how he wants things, and that’s an awesome safety net for an actor. It’s especially impressive when you remember that this is only his second movie!”
The actor continues to sing Sucsy’s praises: “Michael loves the written word and has a real sense of reality and language that I think helps him help us walk the line between over the top schmaltzy and authentic. It’s so helpful to be able to trust that in a director and not be afraid to go too far, not be afraid to undersell it and really just trust that he’s going to go and put all the places in and really ride the wave of a really good rollercoaster of emotion.”
For Kim Carpenter, the movie inspired by their remarkable love story may be the tale of a newly imagined screen couple, but watching it he couldn’t help recognizing the emotional truth of what he’d gone through in real life. In particular, he cites the uncanny acting choice Tatum made when Leo first learns that Paige doesn’t remember him. “He went outside and slid down the side of a [vending] machine,” notes Carpenter. “It’s a really powerful moment in the movie. Well, ironically, once I discovered my wife didn’t recognize me, I went outside the door and slid down the wall and buried my head between my legs. Things like that. The gravity of a lot of the scenes. It actually made me cry! I was really happy with it.”
All in all, Channing Tatum sums up the core of the movie’s message this way: “It’s a big deal to vow yourself for life to somebody and mean it. It really is something.”
For Roger Birnbaum, seeing The Vow to fruition was everything he’d hoped for since he first heard the Carpenters’ story. “With world class director Michael Sucsy and a truly stellar cast, we couldn’t be more happy with The Vow. At the end of the day, we want to make movies that will appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences and make them as well as possible.”
Related Link: View Full Production Notes for The Vow Movie