Film set decorator;
Born; July 20, 1942; Died: August 19, 2013.
Stephenie McMillan, who has died aged 71 of ovarian cancer, started her working life as a secretary, got a job setting up backdrops for a commercial photographer and wound up as the set decorator for the entire Harry Potter film series.
She formed a lasting partnership with production designer Stuart Craig after working together on Richard Attenborough's biopic Chaplin (1992). They shared the Academy Award for best art direction and set decoration for The English Patient (1996) and were jointly nominated on four further occasions for the Harry Potter films.
In an interview for Bafta, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, she said: "The production designer has the vision 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."
As well as working closely with the props department and specialist hire companies, McMillan frequented second-hand shops and auction rooms, looking for the old furniture, ornaments, artefacts and books that she felt were just right for a particular room or character.
"You learn through observation," she said. "Look around and see what's in a person's room. I always look to see what books people have sitting behind them in interviews."
She was born Stephanie Lesley Gardner in the Chigwell area, in Essex, in 1942. Her father had a toys wholesale business. She later changed the spelling of her first name and she used her married name in her professional life.
She worked as a secretary with a firm of architects, then as a photographer's assistant, then moved on to setting the scene for commercials, short films and eventually feature films.
Her credits include Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), Santa Clause (1985), the classic comedy A Fish Called Wanda (1988), Patriot Games (1992), The Secret Garden (1993), Shadowlands (1993), The Avengers (1998), Notting Hill (1999), Chocolat (2000) and the remake of Gambit (2012).
She was a quiet-spoken, unassuming figure, but behind the façade was a steely resolve and a perfectionism on which she built her reputation.
She worked on all eight Harry Potter films from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), spending months on the realisation of some of the more demanding, fantastical sets, such as the Great Hall at Hogwarts and the Room of Requirement. But she enjoyed the benefit of a big budget and a highly skilled props department.
She was married and divorced twice. She is survived by her partner Phil Hardy and by two daughters Tamsin and Sasha.
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