How the Art of ‘Candyman’ Helped Paint the Film’s Big Picture

·4-min read

Production designer Cara Brower had several themes to keep in mind when building the art-centric world of Nia DaCosta’s “Candyman.”

In the film, now playing in theaters, Yahya Abdul Mateen II plays artist Anthony McCoy, while his girlfriend Brianna Cartwright, played by “WandaVision” actor Teyonah Parris, is a gallery director steeped in Chicago’s art scene. Not only did Brower set out to find local Black artists in Chicago, she also wanted the sets to reflect the story of gentrification while still planting seeds of the original 1992 horror film.

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Brower talked about her research, location scouting in Chicago’s Cabrini Green and delivering DaCosta’s vision.

The film goes back to the Cabrini-Green housing project, where some areas have seen new development after the original towers were torn down. What did it mean to be there?

We knew the film had to be in Chicago, and I wanted to find as much as possible in Cabrini. We also wanted to be truthful to the actual place. Nia felt the same way about gaining that authenticity.

I read about the area and the history of the area before I got to Chicago, it helped inform a lot of ideas about how that area developed.

When I was looking for Anthony and Brianna’s loft, I’d read in this book that a lot of people who had lived in the towers had worked in factories that were around that area. So there were lots of warehouses that had been converted into luxury lofts – and since we’re telling the story of gentrification, we looked for those places.

We ended up finding a place that had apartments for sale, and Anthony’s art studio looked out onto Cabrini, and you felt the connection. I think It helped the actors get into the headspace. They could walk around and see the yoga studios, coffee shops, and then walk a couple of blocks over to the remnants of where the towers were. That helped bring that tension.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and director Nia DaCosta on the set of “Candyman.” - Credit: Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and director Nia DaCosta on the set of “Candyman.” - Credit: Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures

Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures

What about the art that features in the film?

We wanted to fill the film with as many Black artists as possible. We came across so many incredible artists including Cameron Spratley and Sherwin Ovid. We got to showcase their work by decorating all the main characters’ apartments with that art and the artwork we found along the way.

The art gallery features the mirror which is synonymous with the legend of Candyman. What was your vision for that space?

We worked with this incredible art curator named Hamza Walker to help us put together the show. I don’t come from the art world, but Hamza is deeply respected. He was able to bring in incredible artists that we would never have been able to get involved. We went through the story we wanted to tell with the art and sculptures that we wanted characters to hide behind. Nia wanted an interactive video piece, so we were working to not only put a theme and a story together but also the architecture of the scene.

Anthony’s piece needed to be underwhelming and that’s how we can get into the bathroom mirror piece with the artwork behind it. We wanted it to be a stumble for him in terms of his art.

Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright in “Candyman,” directed by Nia DaCosta. - Credit: Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures
Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright in “Candyman,” directed by Nia DaCosta. - Credit: Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures

Parrish Lewis/Universal Pictures

The graffiti in the row houses and church is almost an homage to the original film, how did you thread that through to this story?

We wanted to take the seeds that were specific to the original, but we wanted a different look. We didn’t want to go down that road of the derelict graffiti from the first film too much, but we thought it would be great to have those little seeds of it. We wanted something beautiful in the gallery that was graffiti-related. Hamzah brought in a local Chicago artist named Tubbs. So, that’s his work – the black and white graffiti in the gallery.

In the church, with the big mouth, it’s such an iconic shot in the original, so we did our version of it. [Cameron did the final act mural].

When Anthony was poking around the row houses, we did a little spin on Clive Barker’s original drawing for the Candyman monster in there too.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in “Candyman”  - Credit: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictu
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy in “Candyman” - Credit: Universal Pictures and MGM Pictu

Universal Pictures and MGM Pictu

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