How ‘News of the World’ Used Bonanza Creek to Create 3 Different Texas Towns

Tom Hanks in News of the World

From The Wrap, March 3, 2021

TheWrap awards magazine: Production designer David Crank (“Knives Out”) talks about recreating the Wild West with Tom Hanks and a magnifying glass

A version of this story about “News of the World” appears in the Oscar Nominations Preview issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. In one of production designer David Crank’s first conversations with director Paul Greengrass during preproduction on “News of the World,” Greengrass told Crank that he intended to shoot the whole film in sequence. This was partly in consideration of then-11-year-old Helena Zengel, who co-stars opposite Tom Hanks in the post-Civil War Texas Western. But the director also intended to capture the weather-beaten feeling of a travelogue as the characters move through the landscape. “Paul’s background is in documentaries, and that still applies to his filmmaking today,” said Crank, whose art direction and production designer credits include “Knives Out,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Lincoln.” “He wanted each location to feel like we were discovering a new place. Each town had a purpose, which led to a progression of how things happen in the story.” Next-door New Mexico stood in for Texas during the shoot, and the crew was restricted to a standard-production 30-mile radius outside of Santa Fe. Incredibly, Crank and his team managed to stage three of the real places featured in the film — Wichita Falls, Red River Station and Dallas — all in one spot. “The Bonanza Creek Ranch has been used as a movie ranch since the 1950s and has been built up over many years,” he said. “We planned carefully from the beginning so that when the characters arrived in a town, different parts of our set would stand in for completely different towns.” Thus, there were three different entrances. When Greengrass would wrap on one sequence, Crank and his design team then had five days to transform the ranch into the next Texas town. “I spent the first 10 years of my career in theater,” Crank explained. “So this was like summer stock to me. And though we pre-figured each set, there’s a sort of slapped-together weirdness in the planning of that ranch. That jerry-rigged quality really did exist in these actual towns, so it was wonderful to work with.”

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