Movie Monday: The Perfect World of Stepford, Connecticut

by hookedonhouses on September 12, 2010

The Stepford Wives movie poster

The 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives starred Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick as a couple that moves to the picture-perfect suburbs of Connecticut, only to discover that things may not be as idyllic as they first appear.

The problem with this version is that it’s not sure if it wants to be scary or funny, so it’s not enough of either. The houses that the Stepford families live in are pretty impressive, though, so let’s take a closer look!

Joanna's house-driveway

“What we were after when creating the town of Stepford, Connecticut, was a sense of the modern suburb, the McMansion suburb,” screenwriter Paul Rudnick explains. He says that you could go to Connecticut today and find 80,000 square-foot homes inhabited by a husband, wife, and one child, and there is something “both seductive and obscene about that lifestyle.”

Production Designer Jack DeGovia agrees: “It’s a lifestyle that makes no apologies for being luxurious, and the metaphor for that world is the houses that people live in, which are much too big for their lives. It’s like a library with few books.”

Joanna's house ext

Filming a scene in Joanna’s foyer (from the DVD Special Features):

Joanna's foyer-filming

The interior rooms for Joanna’s house were sets built in a warehouse in Yonkers. Director Frank Oz says, “Whenever you see actors being careful not to open an exterior door too wide, you know they’re probably on a set.”

Joanna's foyer 2

When Joanna, Walter, and their kids first arrive at their new home, it’s empty:

Joanna's house-empty 1

“The look of Stepford is defined as New Money,” Director Frank Oz says. “Everything is spanking new, perfect.”

Joanna's kitchen empty

The next morning when Joanna comes downstairs, the whole place is magically furnished and decorated:

Joanna's kitchen

Joanna decides to give the Stepford way of life a shot by donning an apron and cranking out more cupcakes than you can shake a stick at:

Joanna's kitchen 2

Joanna's house-cupcakes

The original 1975 movie was based on a novel by Ira Levin. Katharine Ross (The Graduate) played the role of Joanna, and the movie itself was a spooky thriller. Here’s how Joanna’s house looked in the original:

original Stepford house

Inside the house in the 1975 version, things weren’t as shiny and new as the one in the remake:

original Stepford house (3)

It’s also interesting to compare the kitchens then and now. We expect a lot more from our kitchens these days. In one scene we see them washing their dishes by hand (gasp!):

original Stepford kitchen

Her friend Bobbie sits at the kitchen table (look how realistically cluttered the countertops and table are–something you just don’t see as much of in movies today):

original Stepford house (6)

Things are equally cluttered in the living room–the house wasn’t magically furnished and decorated overnight in the original version:

original Stepford house (1)

But I digress. Back to the remake, and the perfect house Nicole Kidman lived in:

Joanna's living rm

We get a look inside the study when Joanna starts frantically Googling various Stepford wives to see who they were before moving to Connecticut (surprise–they were judges, attorneys, and other high-powered career women like her!).

Joanna's study

John Cusack was originally cast in the role of Walter Eberhardt. When he dropped out, Matthew Broderick took over. John’s sister Joan was supposed to play the role of Bobbie, but she also pulled out and Bette Midler got the part.

Joanna's staircase

Joanna's balcony

Joanna and Walter’s Bedroom:

Joanna's bedroom

Oz says that the bedroom scenes were filmed in a real house somewhere in Connecticut:

Joanna's bedroom 2

The Stepford Men’s Association:

Stepford Men's Club

The Stepford Men’s Club was also a set. In one scene, Roger–played by Roger Bart, who you probably remember as Creepy George from Desperate Housewives–says, “I love this space. It’s very Ralph Lauren meets Sherlock Holmes. To me it says ‘I have taste and a scrotum.’”

men's club 1

I guess I should mention that if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want anything spoiled, you might want to stop reading now.

men's club 2

In the DVD commentary, Oz mentions that the Rotunda was a set used in the original “Stepford Wives,” too:

men's club 3

Joanna finds a painting of her family in the men’s club, picturing her as a smiling, blond Stepford wife (cue the “Twilight Zone” music!):

painting

In the next scene, Joanna looks like the image in the painting. Frank Oz says he wanted it to look like she was “floating through the grocery store.” I like how they lined the egg cartons up.

Nicole Kidman shopping

Bobbie’s House:

Bobbie's house-ext

Before Bobbie (played by Bette Midler in a shaggy, dishwater blond wig) is turned into a Stepford wife, her house is a wreck:

Bobbie's house before 1

Frank Oz describes Bobbie as “the anti-Stepford wife.” So when Joanna stops by to visit Bobbie a few days later and finds everything looking pristine, she knows something is up:

Bobbie's house after 3

The interiors of Bobbie’s house were created on a soundstage in Queens.

Bobbie's house after 2

I won’t even pretend to understand the movie’s logic. Are the wives stuck with robotic bodies now even though their brains have been restored? How does that work? They clearly wanted to give the wives a happy ending, but it was all a little strange. The original film went out on a much darker note.

Bobbie's house after 1

We get a glimpse of the back staircase when Bobbi’s boys come thundering down them:

Bobbie's house after 4

The various house exteriors that are shown throughout the movie were photographed in the suburbs of Connecticut. I love the back of this house where the women meet for a tea party:

back of house

Glenn Close’s character Claire asks, at the end of the movie, “Where would people never notice a town full of robots? Connecticut!”

Frank Oz has given us some great “house movies” over the years that I’ve featured before, including Death at a Funeral and one of my all-time favorites, Housesitter. And unlike some other filmmakers, he is always good about giving us some lingering shots on the rooms and then talking about the sets in the DVD commentaries. Thanks, Frank!

Go to TV/Movie Houses to see more!

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Amanda @ Serenity Now September 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I’ve never seen the original, so that was very cool to compare both sets. I wasn’t a huge fan of the latest Stepford movie, but the sets are pretty spectacular! I love Joanna’s kitchen. :)

Nita@ModVintageLife.com September 12, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I love your movie set reviews. This one made me want to rent it just to see Bobbie’s house. It was very pretty. I remember not liking the movie much but the sets are fantastic. I look forward to every Movie Monday!

Marcy September 12, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Hi Julia, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion in Connecticut was used for the Stepford Men’s Association. It is an incredible place!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockwood-Mathews_Mansion
http://www.lockwoodmathewsmansion.com

Thanks for doing a terrific job showing all of the movie magic!
.-= Marcy´s last blog ..I’ve changed… =-.

hookedonhouses September 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Thanks, Marcy!! -Julia

Richard Orton February 15, 2011 at 2:45 am

I always wondered about the exterior of the Men’s Club in the first version. It looked to me a lot like Mark Twain’s house in Hartford. Anybody know about that?

Shelia September 12, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Hi Julia! Oh, this was a wonderful post! Can you imagine houses like these? I think I liked Bobbi’s house better of the two. I saw this movie and was so disappointed! I didn’t like the Matthew Broderick character. He seemed stiff to me.
But I do remember the original and liked it. Did you know they even made a sequel to the original?
Well, again, you’ve out done yourself with all the research you must do to show us these houses and then all of the info to go along with it.
Hope you’ve had a great weekend.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)
.-= Shelia´s last blog ..I Hate To Admit It- But =-.

hookedonhouses September 13, 2010 at 7:10 am

There was a sequel in 1980 called “Revenge of the Stepford Wives,” but I couldn’t find out much about it. Looks like it was an a totally different cast from the original. You can read more about it here if you’re interested: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081423/

molly_b September 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I loved the old movie–it was so creepy and smart. The new one, not so much. Like you said, it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. I think it’s interesting that back then, “new money” tried to look like “old money” by buying beautiful old houses and trying to act like they’d lived in them forever; now they buy up beautiful old houses, tear them down, and put up big ugly compounds with no landscaping, so it always looks like they just moved in.

Karena September 12, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Very interesting Julia. It is great to see the differences in the sets/ scenes, and that scene at the grocery store is eerie!!
.-= Karena´s last blog ..The French Basketeer Giveaway ! =-.

Linda Green September 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm

Julia, The Town Hall scene shows our Town Hall here in New Canaan, CT. The building was freshly painted and the Stepford lettering was put up for the filming, then restored to say New Canaan in beautiful gold lettering. Many of the exteriors you see are actually houses here and in Greenwich, and even the beautiful wives and frumpy men extras are locals. Women had to be a minimum of 5’8″ to apply! Linda
.-= Linda Green´s last blog ..MERMAID TABLE =-.

hookedonhouses September 12, 2010 at 10:23 pm

How interesting! Thanks, Linda! -Julia

Kim September 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm

What a great post! I haven’t seen any of the movies and I’m not sure whether I want to or not. The mansions are amazing though. My favorite is Joanna’s. The kitchen, great room, staircase, and more, are to die for. I would love a house like that.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com September 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I love all the great leather couches in the room the men are chatting in.
.-= Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com´s last blog ..Christian Historical Fiction Contest- Pearl in the Sand =-.

Vicki @ In The Sandbox Comic Strip September 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Fun post! Very interesting information. Thank you for all of your hard work!!
.-= Vicki @ In The Sandbox Comic Strip´s last blog ..Walnut Festival Fun Run =-.

Nancy@marcusdesign September 12, 2010 at 11:43 pm

How neat to see the side by side comparison of these two sets!! I love it, and both houses are really beautiful. Believe it or not I haven’t seen either movie, I’ll have to put them on my list!!
Nancy
.-= Nancy@marcusdesign´s last blog ..a trip with a lifetime of memories =-.

Billy September 13, 2010 at 2:13 am

Insert Wm R. Blue remake meme here.

Laura September 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

This was the last movie I watched with my mum at the cinema, before moving to the States… I wouldn’t want to live in any of these houses… I moan about my pokey place, but it always feels nice and cozy… The house in the original movie is much nicer. I guess the big kitchen would be a treat though… Have a great Monday! Lx
.-= Laura´s last blog ..A cup of tea and a recipe for a Mocha Muffin =-.

Jennifer Mastalski September 13, 2010 at 7:34 am

I watched this movie being filmed all over my town, New Canaan, CT. Everyone was so super nice and it was so fun to celebrity-stalk the stars that had rented houses there while they were filming, most notoriously Faith Hill & Tim McGraw. They transformed the whole downtown that summer into Stepford!

hookedonhouses September 13, 2010 at 7:46 am

How fun! I wish some celebrities would come and film in my town. :-)

Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam September 13, 2010 at 7:38 am

Can you believe I have never seen either of those movies? Now, I am intrigued, although I am far from every attaining Stepford Status, nor would I want to. :) Love this peek inside.
.-= Jen@Balancing Beauty and Bedlam´s last blog ..Figuring Out the Best Colors for Your Skin Tone =-.

Gloria September 13, 2010 at 7:51 am

Great post, as usual, Julia! You are the master of HOUSES! Film, celebrity, cottage, every house imaginable! Now on to the Stepford Wives. Yeah, I saw both movies too. I LOVED the first one with Katharine Ross and loved, as you say, the “dark” ending. I really didn’t care for the second one with Nicole Kidman – you’re right: was it trying to be a comedy or scary? And I REALLY didn’t like the upbeat ending half as much as the first Stepford Wives ending! Well, thanks for this post, I thoroughly enjoyed remembering both movies.
Best regards,
Gloria
.-= Gloria´s last blog ..Im Making Room for Thelma and Louise =-.

laney September 13, 2010 at 8:02 am

…loved the original…both film and sets…the second one…not so much…

cailen September 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

personally, i liked the original more. but both movies were entertaining (and eery!). i guess i like the more “traditional” look of the original movie house : )
.-= cailen´s last blog ..rain- rain dont go away =-.

liz @ bon temps beignet September 13, 2010 at 10:33 am

Is it just me or are there a TON of chairs in Joanna and Walter’s Bedroom? And they’re all facing the bed.

Creepy

hookedonhouses September 13, 2010 at 10:37 am

You’re right! Hard to imagine you’d need that much seating in a bedroom…

Kristen September 13, 2010 at 10:48 am

Very interesting read……beautiful houses!
Kristen
.-= Kristen´s last blog ..Decorating must have! =-.

Kristen September 13, 2010 at 10:49 am

Very interesting read….beautiful!
Kristen
.-= Kristen´s last blog ..Decorating must have! =-.

Jen @ Opal NEver Shouts September 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Yeah for another movie house! I love seeing all the fun sets that are always perfectly designed. Thanks!

Becky @ Farmgirl Paints September 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I haven’t seen this movie. All the house shots make me want to. Great post Julia!
.-= Becky @ Farmgirl Paints´s last blog ..Coloring outside the lines =-.

Kate (Little Beach Bum) September 13, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Love these sets! I’ve never seen the movie (except the the five minutes of the END I saw while channel surfing, so now I know what happens in the final scenes, lol) but these sets are gorgeous! I might have to check the movie out now!
.-= Kate (Little Beach Bum)´s last blog ..Quote of the Day =-.

Struggler September 13, 2010 at 3:23 pm

From now on, every time I watch a movie, I’ll be watching to see how far they open the front door!
There wasn’t much about these houses which felt like real life to me… except, of course, Bobbie’s. :)
.-= Struggler´s last blog ..Creative Earthquake Decor =-.

Jo Stan September 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

I’m from a neighboring town from where they filmed this. I think it is so strange that the residents of tis town are all proud to be from “Stepford.” I think the whole premise of robotic inhabitants of obscenely huge houses is totally lost on them. They just see it as a showcase for their beautiful estates. Very funny to me.

Jessica September 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Doesn’t look like a movie I would want to watch, but I love the houses!! :-)
.-= Jessica´s last blog ..Pink Handles-done! - =-.

lucy September 13, 2010 at 7:24 pm

the kitchen in the new version looks like a Martha Stewart set…kind of too freakishly perfect ! hmmm …makes you wonder

Bre September 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm

How do you manage to top every Movie Monday? I LOVED the over the top McMansions in the Stepford Wives. I’ve only seen certain parts of the original film, so I really loved the comparisons. The director definitely got the shot he was looking for with Joanna/Nicole at the grocery store. She looked beautiful, ethereal, and downright creepy all at the same time. Lesson learned: perfection= creepy and unnatural. I’d still love to bake in those kitchens though!
.-= Bre´s last blog ..Spotted- Gossip Girls Take NYFW =-.

Lauren September 13, 2010 at 8:32 pm

i’ve always loved the original… haha i used to love her clothes!!

love the stepford wives.. wish one would visit my house to clean & bake every day ;)
.-= Lauren´s last blog ..Pure Project 16- Spruce Up the Yard =-.

Nita September 14, 2010 at 12:33 am

I much prefer the original house.

E. George September 14, 2010 at 4:00 am

Hi Julia – my claim to fame is my uncle lives in Yonkers… great post I remember watching the original one night all on my own I have to tell you it was creepy. The remake as you say I didn’t know if it was meant to be funny or scary but I loved the houses and gardens Ahhhh to have a perfect home what is that? I’m still trying….. I don’t know if you did get a chance to see Chances Are but if you can have a look and see what you think of the house in movie. You know I like the idea of standing at any window in the house and looking out over a beautiful garden don’t you? Thanks Julia you made my night. Regards Esther from wet and cold Sydney…

Guillaume, a french fan September 14, 2010 at 6:42 am

I love the house in the movie Kiss and Kill, did you project to write an article on Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl amazing house. Thanks !

Josanne September 14, 2010 at 6:57 am

The comment struck me funny about doing the dishes by hand(gasp!)….up until a year and a half ago, I had done the dishes by hand since 1993! My new house has a dishwasher! Woo hoo!
I love the look of these homes-they make me think of the houses on Titusville’s Main Street(PA)–houses that have been standing for 100 years-now that I’ve lived in an older house, I just can’t seem to get enough of the charm I feel for them! =)
.-= Josanne´s last blog ..Dan Shares A Blon Moment =-.

Laurie September 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I bought the DVD just so I could gawk at the houses and the fabulous dresses the wives all wore. I probably need to get a life… : )

Heidi @ The Good Stuff Guide September 17, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thanks for this fun post! The kitchen/sitting room/eating area in Bette Midler’s home is a new all-time favorite.
WOW!
.-= Heidi @ The Good Stuff Guide´s last blog ..Manhattan Living =-.

David95 September 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm

I think the first one’s plot was better, but in my opinion the remake could’ve been amazing. They had almost everything right, the cast, the set, ( looked exactly as I pictured Stepford when I read the book) but they ruined everything by trying to make it a comedy.

Rebecca September 17, 2010 at 11:02 pm

This makes me want to watch the original again. I was pretty little when it was out so I don’t remember anything other than it being scary.

Jodi from New Jersey September 19, 2010 at 6:50 am

Hi Julia . I miss you and your great blog. This house is gorgeous, but they might want to go to one of your top ten sights and find out about de-brassing some of those chandeliers! I don’t know why those look so dated, but they just do . Still a dream house for sure. Thanks!

Ryn September 30, 2010 at 2:05 am

The Lockwood-Matthews Mansion was featured in the original movie, but for the exterior of the Stepford Men’s Association in the remake, they used “Estherwood” in Dobbs Ferry, NY.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Estherwood,_Dobbs_Ferry,_NY.jpg

hookedonhouses September 30, 2010 at 7:28 am

Thanks, Ryn! -Julia

eh May 9, 2012 at 4:53 pm

I have been to the house from the tea party scene… it is in Greenwich, CT

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