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How ‘The Gentlemen’ Production Designer Created Fake Weed Plants and an Aristocratic Manor for Guy Ritchie’s Opulent Series

Production designer Martyn John recalls showing filmmaker Guy Ritchie at least 24 English country houses for the 2019 film “The Gentlemen.” Ritchie eventually chose the stately home of Basildon Park, Berkshire in the U.K. for that film.

When it came to filming the Netflix spinoff series of the same name, Ritchie sought a home that was an exceptional piece of architecture with faded grandeur. Having researched houses and manors for the film, John had six homes in mind. Narrowing it down was easy. “As soon as I got to Badminton House, I knew that was the one,” says John.

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Located in Gloucestershire, two hours away from London, Badminton House was beautiful, grand and faded with lots of cracks in the walls and ceilings. “The Duke had recently died, so there was a new one, and there was all this change going on within the family, and the architecture related to that as well,” says John.

Additionally, the family still lived in the house, which fit the show’s storyline: Theo James stars as Eddie Horniman, the Duke of Halstead who unexpectedly inherits his father’s country estate – which he learns is part of a weed empire.

When he showed the house to Ritchie, John recalls, “Guy absolutely loved it. He knew it because he’d been hunting there.”

While the estate’s exteriors and main entrance hall were used for filming, John had to build locations and sets that matched the home. “I recreated the living room, the office and the hallway in a derelict country house that used to be an old animal testing unit, and we put Badminton in there.”

John studied the décor of Badminton House and noted, “There were a lot of Regency era pieces and a lot of unique furniture pieces. So, I designed those elements into our set.”

Elsewhere country house auctions, eBay and dealers helped him decorate his rooms. “I also used TJ Maxx and Ikea, but I’ve got to be very careful with how I use that stuff,” says John.

John’s biggest challenge was the artwork. With great masters paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, the art needed to be owned by the family for a certain number of years, and he needed clearance from the artists’ estates. John simply did not have the budget.

His solution was to have all the art created, including the portrait of the dead Duke.

John did, however, spend money on the blue and taupe silk wallcoverings. “It’s silk stuck on the walls. It’s not wallpaper, and that’s a big thing for county house estates. I needed to recreate that for my set to match the opulence of Badminton House from 150 years ago,” he says.

It was everything he needed to build the Guy Ritchie aesthetic: aristocratic people, drug dealers and gangsters.

For the weed-farming business contained within the grounds, John says he had an option to legally buy hemp. “But you can’t move it. Every time you move it from the studio to say the back of a lorry, you need a license, so we didn’t do that,” he explains.

Instead, he got cannabis leaves printed on silk in China. “We imported them and made the weed plants in various stages of growth. And I 3D printed seed heads to stick on the weed plants.”

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