One of my favorite romantic comedies last year was the Sandra Bullock-Ryan Reynolds movie The Proposal. Not only was it a lot of fun, but it featured a fabulous cedar shingle and natural stone house in (what was supposed to be) Sitka, Alaska.
Most of the movie was actually filmed on location in Massachusetts. The 9-bedroom, 10-bath house is in Manchester, a 40-minute drive north of Boston.
When the camera first pans up from their boat to the house with the mountains in the background, director Anne Fletcher says (in the DVD commentary), “That’s all fake.”
There were actually “other houses and brown, dead trees” surrounding the house. The mountains, lighthouse, and many of the trees were added to make things look more scenic. Fake branches with leaves were literally twist-tied to the trees around the house.
When they were looking for the right house to use, Production Designer Nelson Coates says they wanted one with a rustic feel: “The script said it should feel like something out of Alaskan Architectural Digest. I was laughing when I read that. What is Alaskan Architectural Digest?”
The script also called for something on the water, with a dock. “The family needed to look like they were isolated from town–like they needed a boat to get there,” Coates told the New York Times.
He took photos of the house, then added mountains, leaves, totem poles and stone with Photoshop before sending the photos to the execs at Disney. “They’re going, ‘Oh, my God, we had no idea they had mountains like that in Massachusetts.’ It was hilarious.” And it sold them on the house.
Most of the movie was shot inside the house, although they rebuilt some of of the rooms on a soundstage for the re-shoots later on. More movie magic transformed the interiors. In this photo of Ryan Reynolds on set you can see the stone fireplace behind him:
But the real house is much more traditional in style. They thought it looked “too Colonial.” So Production Designer Nelson Coates built a facade on all of the interior walls of the house to make it looks more Alaskan.
All the beams are fake, as are all the walls. Even the fireplace stones are fake. Here’s how the real fireplace looked before they gave it a rustic makeover (via the NYT):
Unfortunately, this is not a movie that allows the camera to lovingly dwell on the house itself the way, say, a Nancy Meyers film might do. In fact, there are so many people in the living room scenes that we never get as good a look at it as I would have liked. The characters are always center-stage.
From the behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD we see another side of the room, as well as the movie lights installed overhead:
You can see the dining room behind Reynolds and Bullock in this scene as they make up a story about how he proposed:
When Margaret walks through the dining room one morning we get a better–if a little blurry–look at it without all the people blocking the view:
That chandelier looks like the one Sarah Jessica Parker has in her Hamptons house.
They didn’t show the kitchen in the movie (darnit), but luckily we get a glimpse of it from a deleted one in the special features:
We can also see a little of it behind Mary Steenburgen in this scene–but not nearly enough:
The Staircase in the Entry Hall:
Julia Roberts was originally supposed to play Margaret. When she bowed out, Sandra Bullock took the role.
The Guest Bedroom:
More time is spent in this room of the house than any other in the movie.
The house has 3 stories, but the top 2 were off-limits to the film crew. All of the homeowners’ things were moved upstairs, and they stayed in the guest house during filming.
You can read about the Kanebs–the lucky family that really lives in this house–in this interesting NYT article.
The barn really exists on the property behind the house, so they decided to use it, both for a place where they’re confronted by the INS agent (played by Denis O’Hare, who is deliciously evil as the Mississippi King of Vampires on True Blood) and for Margaret and Andrew’s impromptu wedding.
The script originally called for the wedding to happen outside on the lawn.
They filmed an ending that had Margaret’s plane turning around, followed by a happy ending on the tarmac. It also featured a cameo with Niecy Nash as a wacky flight attendant.
They didn’t think that version worked, though, and filmed a new ending in the Colden Books office where Margaret and Andrew worked.
They used an empty, gutted building in Boston for the earlier office scenes, but the entire set, including Margaret’s & Bob’s offices, had to be completely rebuilt and replicated at Disney Studios in Burbank, CA for the rewritten ending.
The family’s puppy Kevin was played by four American Eskimo puppies named Flurry, Sitka, Nanu and Winter.
One thing producers weren’t crazy about: the outdoor pool. They covered it during filming because they didn’t think a house in Alaska was likely to have one. You can see it in this overhead view of the house on Bing Maps (thanks to Kim for finding this!):
You can read how Rockport, Massachusetts, was transformed into the town of Sitka in an article on Zimbio.
I love Sandra Bullock and her romantic comedies. Did you see my post about the New Orleans Victorian home she just moved into with her new baby?
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