2007 Honorary Fellow
Jeannine Oppewall entered the film industry in the late 1970s after a six-year association with the great design innovators, Charles and Ray Eames. She worked as a set designer (Blue Collar, Blow Out, The Rose, Honky Tonk Freeway) before rising to the position of production designer in 1983 with Tender Mercies, the modestly budgeted ‘slice of life’ film, which brought Robert Duvall an Academy Award.
For the next several years, Ms Oppewall designed an impressive variety of motion pictures for a diverse list of directors, many with international credentials. These range from the Russian Andrei Konchalovsky (Maria’s Lovers) and the Brazilian Hector Babenco (Ironweed), to include Costa-Gavras (The Music Box) and Luis Mandoki (White Palace). Other credits include Love Letters, The Big Easy, Rooftops, Wonder Boys and Sibling Rivalry.
Then came The Bridges of Madison County, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep. The romantic hit put Oppewall’s career into high gear. L. A. Confidential, Pleasantville and Snow Falling on Cedars followed.
Other films for which she is known are Seabiscuit (starring Jeff Bridges), Catch Me if You Can (Directed by Stephen Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio), The Sum of All Fears (starring Morgan Freeman), and Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd, released at the end of 2006; and more recently, The Happening, Peacock; and How Do You Know, James L. Brooks’ new romantic comedy set for release this coming holiday season. She also hopes to complete work on Vinod Chopra’s Broken Horses next year.
Ms Oppewall has received 4 Oscar Award nominations for her films and received the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Production Design, 1998 for Pleasantville. She also won the Art Directors’ Guild’s award for Excellence in Production Design for Catch Me If You Can, and was nominated for 5 others of her films for the same. She served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 9 years and is currently the co-chairperson of its Museum Committee.
Ms Oppewall received her Master’s Degree from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania; and has produced radio documentaries about the Calvinist faith she was born into, and written scholarly articles about insects. In the 1980s she lived for a year in Stockholm, working as a stage designer for the Royal Dramatic Theatre. One project was the Sam Shepard play, The Curse of the Starving Class. Ms Oppewall visited the Academy in 2004 as Artist-in-Residence and Production Design consultant. During her time at the Academy Ms Oppewall gave numerous workshops, master-classes and offered a public seminar The Production Designer.