With the help of production designer Anton Furst, Kubrick created the city of Da Nang and the bomb rubble of Hue on one square mile at Beckton, in east London, at an old gas works scheduled for demolition. Research showed that the French-style industrial architecture of Hue resembled the buildings at the gas works. With deliberate blasting, the site was transformed into the ruined Vietnamese cities. Forty-eight palm trees brought in from Spain were planted in “skips” and repositioned with a crane to cover up the London skyline. Advertisements from Vietnamese magazines were found in the Library of Congress and enlarged to the size of billboards. The location’s relative isolation permitted flames and smoke to fill the air day and night without violating anitpollution ordinances.
The Parris Island barracks were replicated on an industrial estate with British army paratroops standing in for American marine “grunts.” Hundreds of Vietnamese extras were found in Britain and Continental Europe. The tumult and the shooting lasted five and a half months.
After designing Neil Jordan’s “The Company of Wolves” in 1984, Anton Furst got a call from Stanley Kubrick, who had liked the film’s look. Kubrick appreciated Furst’s references in Gustave Doré, Samuel Palmer, Pieter Bruegel and other artists, and he asked him to do the production design for “Full Metal Jacket.” Furst later recalled his two years of working with Kubrick as being “like being suspended in a black hole of high thought and creativity… When he told me we’d be making Vietnam in England, my reaction was ‘Great, we can do it better!’ because we could blow the bloddy thing up. Go for broke. I don’t think you can fault it in terms of looking like Vietnam… We had large amounts of research material.”
Although Furst’s career was a short one, it was marked by award nominations and his work on Tim Burton’s artistically original version of “Batman” (1989), for which he received the Academy Award for best art direction.
Furst was born on May 6, 1944, and died on November 24, 1991.