Booksmart's Production Designer On Molly's Pink Apartment & The Ultimate Party House

Photo: Courtesy of EPK.
When I first saw the trailer for Booksmart, I instantly knew I had to see it as soon as possible. Why? The clip of Molly (Beanie Feldstein) dancing out of her house to meet her best friend Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) who pulls up in a Volvo station wagon. Amy and Molly continue to dance on the front lawn for longer than is at all necessary while showering one another with praise and compliments. Those few moments made me wonder if I looking into some magical mirror that showed me and my best friend in our final days of high school. Though I did drive a similar, very cool Volvo station wagon (mine was dark blue), the one thing that made it clear this scene wasn't plucked directly out of my past was Molly's bright pink apartment building labeled "Le Capris," in front of which the two best friends showed off their moves. Given how bright its facade is, that difference is hard to ignore.
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The choice to put Molly in that eye-catching apartment was, of course, meticulously thought through by Booksmart's production designer Katie Byron, "Le Capris is a fictional name, and its incorrect phrasing is intentional. We love when this happens in the real world: the apartments with incorrect spelling or phrasing and cursive and gold to aggrandize an apartment building." Byron tells Refinery29 in a recent interview.
Byron reveals that Le Capris is a real place in South Pasadena, CA, that she and her team knew was perfect for the film the moment they found it. "We wanted an apartment that straddled drab and whimsy, and at first, we had a leading location in the valley. But our top choice apartment was off of two main roads and sound concerns had us pick a quieter street. When we found this one, we immediately fell in love. We were worried it felt too sweet, but then we embraced it and focused on bringing loneliness into the interior. "
That loneliness inside Molly's apartment is definitely palpable in the interior glimpses the viewer gets throughout the movie, even if the deeper significance isn't known. "Molly Davidson is a latchkey kid," Byron explains. "She lives with her single mom who is never home. There are notes she has left behind for Molly that we never see. A note on the door that says 'good luck on your last day! love mom,' and one on the fridge that indicates there is a cupcake inside to celebrate. We actually see the cupcake wrapper on Molly's bedside when she wakes up at the end of the film. Amy's, by contrast, is bright, warm, and cheery. Her parents are often home, and they are supportive and involved. Molly stays over often. She has a bed there and drawers labeled with her name on them."
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Photo: Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures.
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum from the tacky faux-grandeur of Molly's apartment is Nick's aunt's house, the location of the house party the two best friend protagonists are trying desperately to get to throughout the first part of the film.
According to Byron, the actual house where these party scenes were shot is located in Encino, CA and is as spectacular in real life as it looks onscreen. Byron says finding this ideal party house was quite the journey. "Our location manager, Mandi Dillin, showed us a variety of amazing homes, but they didn't feel right. This house had to check so many boxes! She then came in my office one day and said, 'Okay, I know the perfect home and I want to show it to you, but I don't think we could ever afford it.' Of course, I fell in love. The color of the green carpet, dark wood, and spiral staircase! Both our producer Jessica Elbaum and our art director Erika Toth were independently and coincidentally friends with the [owners] so it felt too synchronistic to overlook. As a production, we figured out a way to make it happen."
Photo: Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures.
Despite how enviable the inside of this home looks, much of the decor didn't come with the house. It turns out the home, in real life, is owned by a couple of art and furniture collector, and Byron explains that one requirement of shooting there was removing all the existing art and furniture. The production designer creatively embraced this requirement. "This gave us the opportunity to really curate the interests and lifestyle of Nick's Aunt. We wanted it to feel like a gorgeous and sensual place for a fabulous single woman with great taste," she says. "We scouted so many houses for this location. There was one that we visited that was owned by an older mystical single woman, and when Olivia [Wilde] walked in, she said, 'Wow does a goddess live here?' I think that was when the idea really solidified in our subconscious."
The "gorgeous and sensual" home Byron and her team created for Booksmart turned out to be the ultimate location for a last hurrah high school house party. With its dedicated karaoke room and incredible swimming pool, it's a spot I would have been as eager as Molly and Amy were to party at as a high schooler, even if, like in the film, the night ended with vomiting, a cop bust, and a healthy dose of sexual rejection.
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