Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp)'s comments about being an art dealer, accomplished fencer, and fair shot with most weapons in his opening voiceover are taken directly from Kyril Bonfiglioli's book jacket author biography.
The movie is based on the charismatic anti-hero Charlie Mortdecai, the professional bon vivant and occasional art dealer perpetually at the end of his financial rope, from Kyril Bonfiglioli's popular trilogy of three comic thriller novels: "Don't Point That Thing at Me" (1972), "Something Nasty in the Woodshed" (1976), and "After You with the Pistol" (1979).
"If the Charlie Mortdecai character didn't have a moustache, he wouldn't be the Mortdecai character." declared Joel Harlow, who added, "The moustache is such a part of the character, and the way Johnny uses it, is comedy gold."
The iconic Goya painting intrinsic to the story-line, was created specifically for the film. "We referenced a lot of real Goyas in order to create our own," said Production Designer James Merifield who added: "An extraordinary (portrait artist) painter, named Sally Dray, was given complete artistic freedom to make it. She painted two, because we needed doubles of everything, in case one was damaged during shooting."
Everywhere Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) goes, he is accompanied by his manservant and right-hand-man Jock Strapp, a faithful but upbeat bruiser who dedicates his life to protecting his boss. English actor Paul Bettany, who plays Jock, was introduced to the project by Johnny Depp, while the two were filming Transcendence (2014). Bettany remembered: "Johnny asked me if I'd ever read the Mortdecai books. I hadn't, and he gave me all of them. Afterwards, Johnny mentioned he was going to make them into a film, and asked if I wanted to play Jock." Depp said that while Bettany is not known as a comedic actor, he is one of the funniest people around. Depp added: "He was the only person who could play Jock in my eyes. That fact that he's a big, tall, seemingly serious Nordic god of a man, only makes it funnier."
The application and maintenance of Charlie Mortdecai's moustache was a very delicate process that started early each morning with Make-up Designer Joel Harlow applying layers of matte spirit gum. Throughout the day, he would reapply the glue to the edges. The production went through one or two moustaches per week.
One of the biggest studio builds, was the set for "Sedgwick's", a Sotheby's-style art auction house. Not only did the production need to accommodate a roomful of extras and background artists, the action plays out from the main auction room into a smaller storage area, and features an epic sword fight.
Johnny Depp had already read and fallen in love with Kyril Bonfiglioli's novels when the script found its way to him. Depp said: "I'd read them years before, and they made me laugh out loud. They are irreverent and insane in a way I thought would translate well to the screen."
Coming between the couple of Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) and Johanna Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow) is Charlie's latest attachment: His new moustache! Paltrow explained: "He's grown this moustache while she's been away. She is appalled by it. She tries to get past the moustache, but she just can't. She finds it physically revolting, and it almost makes her throw up. Filming those scenes was categorically the hardest thing I've ever had to do, to get through it without breaking was so hard!". Paltrow believes the moustache is a metaphor for what's going on in the marriage. She added: "Something on the surface seems off, but really there's much more underneath. However, their relationship is charming, they're cut from the same cloth. They have a lot of fun, and there's a very strong chemistry that has kept them together all these years."
Johnny Depp had some very specific ideas about his character Charlie Mortdecai's moustache. Joel Harlow recalled: "Johnny actually did a little sketch of the style he had in mind on a napkin. I took it to my hair design person (Sallie Jaye), and she tied the moustaches with the hair colors. We made three moustaches in the same style, but different colors. One of those was more of a blond, and that's ultimately what he chose, as it matched the hair color he had decided on."
Johnny Depp liked the idea of having a gap in his teeth, for his character of Charlie Mortdecai, so Joel Harlow ordered up a set of dentures with a split. Harlow said: "David Koepp thought they might be a little too much like a caricature, so we opted to just paint it in."
The script Johnny Depp passed on to David Koepp was written by Eric Aronson, a screenwriter Depp felt clearly understood the rarefied world of Charlie Mortdecai, and shared the actor's affection for the character. Depp explained: "Eric had actually given it to me as a writing sample. It made me laugh out loud all over again. He got that thing, that magical thing that's in the book. I thought, this guy's really good, and we started pursuing it."
Once they had decided on the color and style of the moustache for Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp), Joel Harlow proceeded to have roughly thirty versions of the moustache made with slight variations. Harlow said: "Some are stunt doubles and riding doubles, because a moustache goes through a bit of wear and tear in an action movie. Mortdecai brushes it a lot, which has a tendency to break up the hairs. He gets punched a couple of times, so there's blood in the moustache, and that stains the lace that it's attached to."
Johnny Depp's chameleon-like ability to transform himself into the character of Charlie Mortdecai, had some personnel on-set convinced that he was wearing facial prosthetics, but Joel Harlow said that this was not the case, and clarified that "the addition of that moustache changes his look so much, we really didn't need to do anything else."
David Koepp discussed the Mortdecai trilogy of novels: "I read the books and the character made an indelible impression. He just leapt off the page. I couldn't imagine anyone apart from Johnny playing Charlie from the moment I read it. Johnny is so gifted at playing that kind of louse, the cowardly, but lovable sort of character. He seems to have patented it over the last fifteen or twenty years."
Always present, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany) is an indispensabl, and sometimes seemingly invisible element in Charlie Mortdecai's life. Bettany said: "Charlie Mortdecai is Jock's cross to bear. Charlie is a penniless aristocrat in need of a driver and a butler and, often, an enforcer. Jock has been shot several times in his service, and even been run over by Charlie, but he still is focused on protecting him. Jock possesses this calm equanimity and Buddhist stoicism." Scarred, brutish, and sporting a glass eye from one of Charlie Mortdecai's many near misses, Jock is catnip to the ladies, which is a source of befuddlement for Mortdecai. Bettany added: "Mortdecai is going through a very hard time with his wife. Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) is refusing to sleep with him, because he has grown a ridiculous moustache. Until he shaves it off, she won't allow him to enter the boudoir. It's particularly frustrating for Mortdecai that wherever they go, Jock manages to effortlessly attract an endless stream of women."
Ewan McGregor was drawn to the film's combination of wit and broad physical comedy. He said: "It reminds me a lot of the Pink Panther movies from the 1970s. There's a humor to it that I haven't seen on-screen for a long time. It's very cleverly written. McGregor continued: "Charlie Mortdecai's an eccentric, and he's got a very particular turn of phrase. He is wordy, and he likes language a great deal. He's living in a different age, as if he's stepped out of the past. Johnny plays him hilariously well."
Eric Aronson first discovered the Mortdecai trilogy in a bookstore near London's famous tourist landmark, Trafalgar Square, while he was working for the British government. Aronson recalled: "On the back of the jacket, it was described as a cross between P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler. A light just went on in my head."
Jock Strapp's unique look comes courtesy of Hair and Make-up Designer Sallie Jaye, who outfitted Bettany with a distinctive scar, and an unusual glass eye. Jaye said: "I got Paul's input, and had various Photoshop images created of him. We considered a shot-out eye, but we decided to go for an interesting pupil that was quite arresting, rather than repulsive. It's a comedy after all, and he's supposed to be attractive to the opposite sex. We needed to give him a scar, but since he's supposed to be irresistible to women, we had to make it a sexy scar."
Charlie Mortdecai's insecurities are reinforced by the arrival of Alistair Martland (Ewan McGregor), an old friend from their college days, who is still attracted to Johanna Mortdecai (Gwyneth Paltrow). A highly placed officer in the MI5 Agency of the British Security Service, Martland is a sensitive, softhearted poetry-reading detective, who loses his composure whenever Johanna is around. On the trail of the missing Goya masterpiece, he comes to Charlie for help. McGregor explained: "There's a lot of history between me, Charlie, and Johanna. Martland is in love with her, and has been since they were all at Oxford together. He thought they were going to get together, but Charlie always prevailed. That became the root of Martland's animosity towards Charlie. That rivalry carries on through everything." Alistair is in most ways a much better match for Johanna than Charlie, according to David Koepp who said: "He's smart, he is heroic, and he has a huge career. He's all the things that are traditionally valued, but she doesn't love him. She is, however, not above flipping her hair in a certain way she knows he likes, so that she can get information out of him."
David Koepp's most frequent notes to his actors were "Faster!" and "Remember, it's a caper!", and Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli kept those words in mind, as they worked on the film's music score. Zanelli said: "There's a sense of energy about every note, whether it's simmering tension, explosive action, or just upbeat buffoonery."
Kyril Bonfiglioli's popular book trilogy are upbeat, satirical and utterly British in style and tone, the novels featuring Charlie Mortdecai and his manservant Jock Strapp, have often compared to P.G. Wodehouse's madcap creations, the Jeeves and Wooster stories.
Wrotham Park in the English countryside became Mortdecai Manor, the fictional English country estate that Charlie and Johanna Mortdecai call home. James Merifield noted: "Mortdecai Manor had to be a practical location, rather than a studio build, to get the right feeling on camera, and for the actors. It's crucial that they walk from the Rolls-Royce across the sweeping driveway, up palatial steps, through a huge front door, up an amazing staircase. That way, they are immersed in the character from the moment they walk on set."
Ruth Myers enjoyed costuming several singular characters for the film, including Charlie Mortdecai's manservant Jock Strapp, bombshell Georgina Krampf, and Emil Strago. Myers said: "Jock's the sexy one, so we dressed him in a fun leather jacket and jeans. Georgina is a girl who rides horses, so she'll be rather restrained in her clothes, but there are always shock elements with her. Emil's a revolutionary, and he's gone to a great deal of trouble to dress himself as one. We played around a lot with his look, and found the perfect pair of sunglasses, head gear, and a pair of gloves for the character."
The character of Charlie Mortdecai is a connoisseur of good food, fine libations, beautiful women, and the most elite trappings of wealth. He also frequently finds himself entangled in matters of an ambiguous legal nature. Asked by MI5, the British Security Service, to track down a missing Goya painting, Charlie hopes to discharge his debts to "Queen and country" by retrieving the purloined artwork. "Actually, Charlie gets involved in finding the Goya because he sees an opportunity to sell it," Johnny Depp said. "His aristocratic ways are intact, but his bank book is worn out, and Charlie needs to rectify that."
Johnny Depp took his inspiration for his performance as, and characterization of, Charlie Mortdecai from classic English film comedians such as Peter Sellers, Sidney James, Bernard Cribbins, and especially Terry-Thomas, the irrepressible, gap-toothed star who defined the term "upper class twit" for several generations.
Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp)'s biggest weakness is his beloved wife Johanna, for whom he will do anything, except shave off his magnificent moustache. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Charlie's luscious blonde wife Johanna Mortdecai. Johanna and Charlie have been together since college. She is posh, and very clever, certainly more clever than Charlie. David Koepp noted: "Charlie is not virtuous, or smart, or heroic. He's a rogue, and that's what his wife is drawn to. He makes her laugh, and that goes a long way. They're intensely jealous of each other, and, like any good marriage, it's kept alive with a little bit of spice." Johnny Depp) said: "Gwyneth is perfection as Johanna. This a caper movie, teetering toward farce, and timing was everything. She had that down pat."
The movie marked the reunion of Ewan McGregor and David Koepp, who previously collaborated on Angels & Demons (2009). McGregor said: "I was happy to be working with David again. He shoots very quickly, and knows exactly what he wants. He's a smooth director who isn't afraid of movement, and he's got a wonderful sense of humor."
Georgina Krampf (Olivia Munn) is the daughter of American billionaire Milton Krampf (Jeff Goldblum) and the film's sexy femme fatale. Like Charlie Mortdecai, Georgina has her eye on the missing Goya artwork, and will do whatever it takes to get her hands on it. Munn said: "Georgina's father has a lot of money, but she wants her own. She's a rich girl from California. She's into names, brands, and being fancy. For a girl like Georgina, it doesn't matter how much money she has if she's not famous. The world of (Charlie) Mortdecai is stylized and heightened, but I have actually met a lot of these kinds of very wealthy, very eccentric people in Hollywood."
Working with David Koepp for the first time, made Olivia Munn an instant fan. She said: "He's unlike any director I've worked with before. David knows exactly what he wants, he doesn't overshoot, and I swear he's editing in his head. It's very rare to find a director so well-prepared, and so thorough, who still keeps things fun."
Johnny Depp noted that fans familiar with Olivia Munn from her role on the television drama, The Newsroom (2012), will see her in a completely different light. Depp explained: "I didn't expect her to be this funny. I was really impressed by her handling of the deadpan humor of her character."
Although Charlie Mortdecai and Emil Strago (Jonny Pasvolsky) are adversaries throughout the movie, their mutual moustaches foster an odd fascination between the two. Pasvolsky said: "We have nothing in common, but we both have moustaches. It comes down to manhood, and the moustaches become a kind of obsession between us."
Production Designer James Merifield was drawn to what he saw as a strong retro feeling in the writings of the Mortdecai source novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli. Merrifield recalled: "That was something I wanted to springboard into the design. We should hark back to the style of movies in the 1940s and 1950s. When it became apparent that director David Koepp felt the same way, we designed Mortdecai Manor with quite a few references to that era." Merifield said he approaches his designs through character and found a wealth of inspiration in the Mortdecai books. Merifield added: "The characters leap off the page with great gusto, joy and humor. Charlie Mortdecai is a true English gentleman. He scorns anything that isn't classically correct. He needed the right type of walking stick and the perfect moustache comb because it's all in the detail. That's something I obsessed about."
Technical requirements for some scenes meant that James Merifield needed to build some interiors at Pinewood Studios. Although the production moved from the UK to Los Angeles, California for key exteriors at the Standard Hotel, the interiors of the trendy West Hollywood boutique hotel were actually shot on D Stage at Pinewood Studios. Merrifield said: "The rooms at the Standard are quite small. We created walls that could float and give a bigger working space, so we could shoot the scenes more efficiently."
Mortdecai (2015) and The Matador (2005) feature the Tom Jones song "It's Not Unusual" (1965), the latter in a montage sequence in middle of the movie, and the former used the track particularly with its promotional trailers and television spots. Both movies are comedies, spoofing the espionage-action-adventure-thriller genres, and both pictures were released exactly a decade apart. Moreover, the lead central characters in both films, played by Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan respectively, noticeably sport a moustache in each picture. The Matador (2005) debuted in the 40th Anniversary year of the famous song, while Mortdecai (2015) premiered in the classic track's 50th Anniversary year.
This film was the first time Ruth Myers had worked with Johnny Depp. She said: "I pray it won't be the last time, because I absolutely adore him. Johnny's incredibly responsive, and he gives you an enormous amount to work with. The first time I met with him, I'd found this wonderful old English tweed coat that we both just loved. I'm not sure we even used it in the film, but it was a touchstone for his look." In Myers' imagination, Charlie Mortdecai is not just an eccentric, he is also a fashion plate. She said: "Mortdecai loves his clothes. He's a peacock, fluttering around with his tail feathers in the air. He never looks anything but exquisitely turned out, and right for the occasion. We put Johnny in perfectly tailored clothes and added all these wonderful, colorful details, like cuff-links that match every suit, and silk ties coordinated for every outfit. Even his socks match! We got the shoes from Church's, the iconic English shoe company. He always has a waistcoat and braces, which gives him a slightly old-fashioned look."
Geoff Zanelli said he was very happy with what he and Mark Ronson accomplished together on this picture. Zanelli noted: "The strength of the score allows it to transcend its original reason to exist, and elevates the importance of this music in the film. After we were done, David (Koepp) told me that what he loves about it, is that it is exactly what we said it would be. Scores always evolve over time, and this one is no exception, but he was right. We hadn't deviated from the original idea even as the music evolved."
Johnny Depp asked his friend and colleague David Koepp to take a look at the Mortdecai movie project with an eye toward Koepp directing it. Depp said: "I can't say enough good things about David Koepp. I have loved him since we did a film called Secret Window (2004) years ago. It was not a comedy, but we were able to incorporate a lot of humor into it, which is part and parcel of what David does as a writer and a director. He had a vision for this movie, and he created an atmosphere where the actors could try anything."
The main character of Lord Charlie Mortdecai is motivated by necessity, Eric Aronson pointed out. He said: "Charlie Mortdecai inherited a vast mansion in the countryside, but he's run out of luck and funds. In order to supplement his income, he becomes a shady art dealer, living by his wits, and making his money through backroom deals. In our film, Charlie and his manservant Jock Strapp come to America intending to steal some art." David Koepp put it as: "Charlie is trading in artwork of uncertain provenance. He is an unscrupulous fellow, but he has excellent taste. He is broke, and needs to heat that gigantic house, Mortdecai Manor, so he comes up with a scheme to do that. It happens that his expertise is in fine art. He doesn't really care if that art didn't strictly belong to the person he got it from, or that perhaps it's a fake."
Badly behaved, violently snobbish, and completely self-interested, the character of Charlie Mortdecai was endlessly appealing to Johnny Depp who said: "He is a blatant narcissist who has no relationship with the truth, except as he sees it. What drew me to the character more than anything, was the challenge of making this guy, who is a little bit shady, and most definitely a con man, someone you can sympathize with. The movie is filled with witty, rapid fire dialogue. It was hugely important to nail that down perfectly. On the other hand, there's a great deal of physical comedy, which is such a specialized skill. The combination of very smart, sometimes totally ridiculous dialogue, and the physical comedy is something I really connected with."
Milton Krampf (Jeff Goldblum), an American billionaire described by David Koepp as a "thick-fingered vulgarian", happens to be in the market for both Charlie Mortdecai's vintage Rolls-Royce car, and the elusive Goya masterpiece painting, which brings Charlie to Los Angeles, California. Goldblum said: "It's a really stylish and funny caper, set in the world of the idle rich. Charlie Mortdecai is trying to get his finances together, so he has to sell his Rolls Royce to this rich guy in Los Angeles. They've had dealings in the art world before, but when he shows up to deliver the Rolls, it becomes a little more complicated than he anticipated." Goldblum said he was thrilled with the creative team behind the project: "Eric Aronson wrote a delightful script, that made me excited about becoming part of the film. I have always been a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and this reminded me so much of those stories. I have known and loved David Koepp since he wrote the screenplay for Jurassic Park (1993). He is a masterful and unique artist. Johnny Depp - I'd never met him before, but I've been a fan of his acting for years. His characterization is something you don't often see from a leading man."
Emil Strago is a revolutionary who wants the Goya painting to finance a violent worldwide uprising. Along the way, he meets Georgina Krampf, and takes up with her, hoping to get the cash he sorely needs. Pasvolsky noted: "Georgina and Emil want to put their own personal stamp on the world. She's lived in the shadow of her wealthy father, and he has a crazy fanatical cause. They're just doing something to get noticed, which can also be destructive. I think they are attracted to each other for the purpose of using each other."
The well-coifed facial hair was one of the essential elements of Charlie Mortdecai's eccentric English aristocrat look. It was inspired by "The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery", source novelist Kyril Bonfiglioli's unfinished fourth book in the Mortdecai series of novels, which was completed by satirist writer Craig Brown, and the novel published posthumously. Joel Harlow said: "Mortdecai's moustache is a focal point of the movie. It's a source of contention between him and his wife. Mortdecai is very proud of it, but he comes up against moustache rivalry with other characters."
The movie was Costume Designer Ruth Myers' idea of "a fabulous job." To come up with Charlie Mortdecai's eccentrically aristocratic look, she collaborated with the director, the actor, and the producers. She said: "David Koepp and I were very much in sync. We both wanted to make this look beautiful in a traditional way, going back to the old Hitchcock or Pink Panther films. If you think about the Pink Panther films, people were beautifully dressed. It wasn't done for comedy at all, which was very much the essence of what I've tried to create. David was very encouraging. He's a wonderful director who is incredibly foresighted, helpful and generous with his ideas, which make a huge difference to a job like mine."
One of the most challenging stunt sequences forRowley Irlam and his team was the complicated sword fight between Charlie Mortdecai and Emil Strago. Depp, Irlam, and David Koepp talked about finding the right balance between realistic combat, and Mortdecai's notorious cowardice and physical ineptitude. Irlam said: "Mortdecai is a blagger, so David and Johnny didn't want him to look supremely skilled. It was more about his desire to avoid confrontation and run away." Irlam continued: "We had Johnny Depp and Jonny Pasvolsky in for some rehearsals, for sword fighting and wire work. We showed them how it would play out with a stunt double first, then they'd have a go and put their own twist on it.'"
Because Geoff Zanelli and David Koepp had previously collaborated on the films Ghost Town (2008) and Secret Window (2004), they already had a comfortable working relationship. Zanelli said: "David creates the perfect space for a composer to feel he can take chances. He understands completely when I need to go experimenting and creates a climate where I'm not afraid to play the wrong notes every once in a while. Sometimes the answers come quickly, but other times you really have to sneak-up on them. David is able to listen to something I've got in progress."
Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli began the process of scoring the film, each working solo, and then coming together to see what they had come up with. Zanelli remembered: "We knew quickly that the collaboration was going to work, when we found that quite a lot of what we had written had similar musical language. The Mortdecai theme came about, when we took a melody I had written, and worked it into an arrangement Mark had come up with, It defined the opening of the movie. Once we had that, we were emboldened and we did a ton of work together in the studio, hunched over the same piano. There are only a handful of cues in the film that we didn't both work on." Zanelli continued: "Mark Ronson has real authenticity. Everything from the equipment he uses, to the musicians he chooses, are part of what makes his music special. It's all old soul, new vibe. This was the closest I've come in my professional life to recapturing the feeling I had as a teenager of making music for the sheer joy of creating it."
Because this movie has, as Geoff Zanelli puts it, one foot firmly set in the 1960s, and the other in the present, the pair of film composers for the film, he and Mark Ronson, found ways to reflect that in the score they created. Zanelli said: "Our overall concept was to have the music be the bridge between the two. There's an orchestral element as well as a band with a horn section. Neither overshadows the other. They are of equal importance."
Music Composers Mark Ronson and Geoff Zanelli combined old-fashioned instruments with their modern equivalents, pairing, for example, what Zanelli calls "the crustiest harpsichord in all of London" with a clavinet, a similar-sounding instrument that is electrically amplified, or, in a scene set in Hong Kong, doubling up a traditional Chinese stringed instrument called a pipa with an electric guitar.
The film features beautiful people in beautiful clothes, bantering wittily, and doing outrageous things. David Koepp noted: "You want a plot that's complex enough to support a caper, but not so complicated that it weighs down the beautifully fun comedy."
For Ewan McGregor's Inspector Alistair Martland character, David Koepp and Ruth Myers were keen to create a look that gave the MI5 officer equal standing with Charlie Mortdecai, rather than looking like an ordinary detective. Myers said: "We didn't want to see Johnny, who got the girl, looking absolutely exquisite, while Ewan looks rather a sad character. We went for a traditional English look, using a lot of Burberry and beautifully cut handmade shirts. He looks like a proper English gentleman. He starts off in an old Eton school tie, since they talk about him having been educated there. That seemed the perfect way to identify him as an upper class-boy, who has gone into the Secret Service."
Stunt Coordinator and Second Unit Director Rowley Irlam and David Koepp had a specific strategy for the movie's action. Irlam said: "This movie is very much actor driven. I see it as bit of an homage to Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin. My work was not just about stunts. It was about making the whole piece quirky, interesting, and different."
According to Geoff Zanelli, David Koepp created "a two-headed monster" when he asked Zanelli to partner with Mark Ronson to create the score for this movie. Zanelli said: "David wanted a combination of the sound Mark created on his 'Version' album, and the storytelling through music he knew he could rely on me for. He said 'I need melodies, and I keep hearing Mark Ronson in this. Would you like to meet with him and see what you two can do together?' That was an easy thing to say yes to!".
Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany and Jeff Goldblum have all starred in Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Paltrow played Pepper Potts in the "Iron Man" series. Bettany played Vision in "Avengers: Age of Ultron". Goldblum played the Grandmaster in "Thor: Ragnarok".
With a whole world of styles, from which to choose, from huge handlebars to barely-there pencil moustaches, Johnny Depp and Joel Harlow zeroed in on a look that perfectly fit Depp's character of Charlie Mortdecai. Harlow said: "There's a kind of Hercule Poirot influence, because it is a bit fuller in the middle and has this little flourish on the side. It's very groomed and manicured to complement the character. He's very polished, so I can't really imagine him having any other style of moustache."
Dressing Gwyneth Paltrow was a gift for Ruth Myers who said: "Having worked with Gwyneth before [on Emma (1996), it was easier to have that shorthand. We talked a lot about what English people wear in these rather cold, drafty, old homes." Myers envisioned Paltrow's character of Johanna Mortdecai as a Grace Kelly-esque blonde. Myers said: "How exquisitely elegant she was. We tried to take the character out of the fashion world, and dress her in a classical English look. You won't ask what she's wearing this year. You'll see her as a very easily elegant English woman, although she does have some very high fashion items, including a Stella McCartney dress and suit." Paltrow and Myers talked about the idea of some of Johanna's posh wardrobe having been inherited from her mother, so the designer mixed in a generous amount of vintage couture pieces for a timelessly beautiful style. Myers said: "I'm thrilled with the way she looks. Gwyneth would look good in anything, but her clothes in this film reflect her character's real essence."
One of the biggest studio builds was the set for "Sedgwick's", a Sotheby's-style art auction house. Not only did the production need to accommodate a roomful of extras and background artists, the action plays out from the main auction room into a smaller storage area, and features an epic sword fight between Mortdecai and Emil Strago. "It was one of our biggest action sequences," said James Merifield, who added, "we had swords and Samurai suits being slashed, and boxes falling down on people's heads, so we needed an environment where that could comfortably occur."
Although the movie is a comedy, it is packed with action sequences, as Jock Strapp constantly saves Charlie Mortdecai from outlandish mishaps. Rowley Irlam co-ordinated a motorbike and sidecar careening through Moscow, an unforgettable sword fight, and a massive explosion sequence featuring virtually all of the key cast members. Irlam said: "We also shot a big car chase in East London. There was lots of skidding around, and we ended up crashing into a boulevard. We cannoned the back end for that comedy finale."