For veteran indie filmmaker Jefery Levy, working from home has never looked so good. The producer-director-writer-actor’s lavishly-decorated, historic Beverly Hills compound plays a starring role in his two new films, “Me” and “The Key,” which will screen at the debut of the Real Experimental Film Festival, Nov. 21-28, and run until Dec. 5 at the Laemmle Music Hall Theater.
As a frequent director of episodic TV, Levy says he’s learned how to maximize locations. For exteriors, his 5-acre property includes a 1-acre pine forest with an Adirondack cottage, a half-acre rose garden, a swimming pool and a tennis court that he uses as a soundstage. Then there’s the 12,000-square-foot house, which has seven bedroom suites. Oil tycoon Burton Green, one of the early developers of Beverly Hills, built the property’s Georgian revival house in 1937. Since then, it has had a distinguished Hollywood and design pedigree.
“There are scenes shot at the pool in the 1955 Mike Hammer film noir 'Kiss Me Deadly,'” says Levy, shown in the photograph above with Molly Ringwald, center, and Jay McInerney, in a still from “Me,” a twisted take on reality TV shows.
The Burton Green family sold the house to Merv Griffin, Levy adds. “Waldo Fernandez did the interiors for Merv and later, the couple we purchased it from in 2004.” He and his wife, fashion designer Pamela Skaist-Levy (co-founder of Juicy Couture and Pam & Gela) worked with local interior designer Brenda Antin and, more recently, with Peter Dunham.
Dunham created a “French chi-chi” look for a guest boudoir with an 18th century canopy bed, covering walls, curtains, upholstery and bedding in his Four Continents toile fabric in Peacock Blue. The room is featured prominently in “The Key,” Levy’s modern adaptation of the Japanese novel by Nobel Prize Laureate Junichiro Tanizaki and starring David Arquette and Bai Ling.
In the living room, Dunham mixed French and English antiques with his own furniture designs, anchored by two Julien Schnabel paintings and a 19th century Aubusson rug from Mansour. “The vibe we were looking for was Duke and Duchess of Windsor meet Iron Maiden, tongue-in-cheek fancy.”
Levy had a mirrored table built for his dining room, which is also clad with mirrored walls “to turn the room into a jewel box of light,” he says. He also splurged on unique wall coverings. “We also have at least six rooms done in various types of rare, antique De Gournay paper, which we sourced throughout the world over a 10-year period,” adds Levy.
Despite such distinctive decorative features, Levy’s aim was to use lighting, cameras and post-production techniques to make his home unrecognizable from one film to the next. In “Me,” he says, “The house is goofy, cartoony symmetrical with overly saturated colors. In “The Key” the house is dark, lonely, foreboding and forbidding. The entire film was shot and processed to look like a dream that had somehow been captured visually, buried in the forest for a hundred years and just now discovered.”