“The Layered Absurdity” of Mrs. Maisel’s Wonderful Magic Wheel Scene


The scene: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season four, episode one

Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had always wanted to stage his Amazon series on the Wonder Wheel, Coney Island’s signature ride.

The perfect moment came in the fourth season premiere episode, “Rumble on the Wonder Wheel”, as a way to approach Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) admitted to his family that his big break, a world comedy tour, had fallen apart.

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When Sherman-Palladino wrote the scene, the pandemic had closed Coney Island, creating a unique opportunity to film in the usually bustling park. “Coney Island was suffering. It wasn’t open,” says Sherman-Palladino Vanity Fair. “It happened to be a quiet time there, and they had just renovated it for their anniversary. It was one of those very lucky things that aligns the stars.

But it wouldn’t be an easy task to create the scene, which sees members of Midge’s family, including her parents, Abe (Tony Shalhoub) and Pink (Marin Hinkle); her ex-husband, Joel (Michael Zegen); and his stepfather and stepmother, Moishe (Kevin Pollack) and Shirley (Caroline Aaron) – all seated in separate cars during the ride as they hear Midge’s shocking secret. To express their frustration and disappointment, they had to shout out loud. And although they used the real Wonder Wheel for some key moments, the Maisel The team also had to recreate it on a soundstage, while recreating the sights and sounds of Coney Island surrounding it.

“They just write what they want to see and don’t think about how we’re going to do it,” says the visual effects supervisor Lesley Robson Foster showrunners and screenwriters Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino. “Because I tell them, ‘I’d rather solve the problem than think something might be too difficult.'”

Robson-Foster began to figure out how they would pull this off by creating a miniature model of the real Wonder Wheel, which made him realize that they would have to use a few tricks to make the scene work, especially with the distance between the cars. . “In reality, you wouldn’t be able to hear or see each other,” she said. “And I thought, Well, let’s take a little artistic license.”

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Also, the real Wonder Wheel has cars that rock and roll back and forth, but the team decided it would be too difficult to spin with these while listening to the dialogue, so they were cut. from the start of the plan. They decided that each character would be in a stationary white car and would only go around once, although the ride would go around twice in real life. They also played around with the colors of the stock wheel a bit, staying true to the series’ signature style. “Mrs Maisel has such a look, and we decided to stick with those pastel colors even though the real Wonder Wheel is a bit more garish with its colors,” says Robson-Foster. “We decided that each trolley would be cream colored…So it has a bit of Maisel stardust on it, which was important to do.

To film the scene, they came up with a plan to replicate cars on a stage in front of a green screen so they could then film each actor in the cage and put them together. Robson-Foster spent hours using his model to figure out all the logistics of who would be in front of whom at all times while the wheel was spinning. “After a moment of Lesley explaining, explaining, explaining, ‘It has to go here and it has to go here, then they have to be here and they have to be here’, it’s like, literally, I just need to whisky,” Sherman-Palladino laughs. “I just needed a drink before I sat down and watched another animatic. It was very technical and very precise.

Precision was key for the cinematographer M David Mullen, who rode the real Wonder Wheel with Robson-Foster as part of his research. “We drove around with my little video camera and I filmed Lesley in the car just to see what the light looked like,” he says. “I kind of knew where the sun tended to rise and set outside, but the light inside the car is pretty flat as it hits you from all sides except overhead. your head.” Mullen wrapped the entire cage in large, soft lights to create the ambient sky effect.

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When it was time to shoot the scene, the entire cast came into position so they could shout their off-camera lines to the actor sitting in the actual car. “It was an entire day of these actors yelling at each other,” says Sherman-Palladino, who also directed the episode. “I was so afraid that they would tire or lose their voice. And no, they enjoyed yelling at each other for 12 hours. And it was really fun.

The stage is full of Maiselsignature elegant chaos. For example, Shalhoub’s character is shocked to see his daughter, who he thought was on tour in Europe. But, in typical Abe fashion, he focuses on discussions about other things, like his wife’s budding career as a matchmaker.

“It was layered nonsense, if you will,” Shalhoub says of filming that day. “It was kind of like, there’s the absurdity of the scene itself, and then there’s the absurdity of all of us pretending you’re going up and down and swinging around in this little thing, and then that you have lines, have the dialogue shoot at you and try to find the person you’re talking to at all times, so there was a lot of cracking up. It was just completely absurd.

While the scene was shot on a stage in March 2021, the crew had to wait two months to film the real Wonder Wheel, until the weather warmed up and they could capture the sunny summer day. they wanted. So it wasn’t until May that the actors went to shoot the scene of the family walking towards the wheel, with Mullen filming some wide shots.

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The Wonder Wheel model came in handy again when the editor Tim Streeto took over, keeping it on his desk throughout his work on the episode. “I took his little model and acted out the scene, and had my assistant make a spreadsheet of the lines. And then I just marked who goes up, who goes down,” he says.

It also brought the ambient sounds of Coney Island, from the bustle of the crowd to the Spook-a-Rama that was next to the wheel. Maiselsound editor and re-recording mixer, Ron Bochar, particularly liked the Spook-a-Rama sounds that became part of the scene. “It popped up during my mix, and I was like, this is heaven – that they actually sat down and created this whole Spook-a-Rama thing that’s going on in the background. Is “Is that real? I have no idea. But he’s constantly running through this whole scene,” says Bochar.

Bochar also brought sounds from the ocean and made sure the sound reflected where a person would be on the ride at all times. “The higher they were in the Wonder Wheel, the more seagulls and ocean we heard, and there was less music and less ambiance down below,” he says.

The end result is a highly entertaining comedy scene filled with Maiselclever dialogue and 1950s aesthetics.

And for at least one cast member, visiting the iconic Wonder Wheel was a first, despite spending a few years of his life in New York. “When I was living in New York and I was single, and before I had kids and all that, it just wasn’t on my radar, I guess,” Shalhoub says. “But it was actually pretty awesome… The scale was much, much bigger than I imagined.”

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