FILM SET DECORATOR
20-7-1942 - 19-8-2013
Stephenie McMillan, a set decorator who created the look of all eight Harry Potter films and won an Oscar for the 1996 romance The English Patient, has died at her home in England. She was 71.
The cause was cancer, Stuart Craig, who worked with her on the Potter films, wrote in an article in The Guardian newspaper.
McMillan created sets that were opulent and cluttered, such as Hogwarts Academy, or spare, such as the bedroom in the bombed-out monastery where the protagonist of The English Patient lives. Both she and Craig, a production designer, received Oscars for their art direction and set decoration on The English Patient, an adaptation of the Michael Ondaatje novel. The film earned nine Academy Awards altogether, including for best picture.
McMillan thought that even the most elaborate sets should not upstage the actors.
"The production designer has the vision," she told the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in an interview in 2012, "and as set decorator, you have to bring this vision to life. Set decorating should never steal thunder from actors, nor should it ever be so showy that you're looking at the furniture rather than the action."
McMillan also designed sets for the romances Notting Hill (1999) and Chocolat (2000), and for the John Cleese comedies A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and Fierce Creatures (1997). She and Craig were nominated for three BAFTA Awards and four Academy Awards for their work on the Harry Potter films.
Stephenie Lesley Gardner was born on July 20, 1942, in Chigwell, a village near London. After she graduated from the Woodford County High School for Girls, she was a secretary in the London office of the architects Stillman & Eastwick-Field.
She became a stylist with photographer Michael Boys, arranging props for his shoots for interior design magazines, then designed sets for television commercials. Her first movie was the 1984 musical Give My Regards to Broad Street, starring Paul McCartney. Her last was the 2012 remake of Gambit, starring Colin Firth and Cameron Diaz, and written by Joel and Ethan Coen. (Its release is scheduled for October.)
McMillan was married twice, to writer Russell Miller and filmmaker Ian McMillan. Both marriages ended in divorce.
She is survived by her partner, writer Phil Hardy, two daughters from her first marriage, a brother and four grandchildren.