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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest production designer, Paul Sylbert, dies at 88

News Agencies | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:37 IST

Paul Sylbert, who shared an Oscar for the production design for Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait and worked on notable films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, is dead. He was 88.

Sylbert passe away on 19 November.

Producer Hawk Koch, who worked with him on five films, said: "Paul was one of a kind. He was as smart and well-read as anyone I have ever come in contact with, and he was respected by all that knew him. Aside from the work, he loved music, literature, opera, and friends."

Sylbert shared a second nomination for the 1991 Barbra Streisand film The Prince of Tides.

He was the identical twin brother of fellow production designer Richard Sylbert, who died in 2002.

Sylbert's career began with a production designer credit on an early TV show Premiere, in 1951; later he worked as a set decorator on the CBS series, Suspense, the following year and stretched through the decades to encompass the Mel Gibson action film, Conspiracy Theory in 1997, David Cunningham's highly regarded feature To End All Wars in 2001 and finally, Daniel Kremer's little seen A Trip to Swadades in 2008.

He was shortly married to costume designer Althea Sylbert.

They collaborated on Arthur Hiller's 1967 contemporary comedy The Tiger Makes Out, starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson; and also on 1971 comedic road movie The Steagle, which he wrote and directed.

Sylbert worked on a wide range of projects as a production designer, but the stories were usually in a contemporary, realistic setting: Buzz Kulik's grim prison drama Riot (1969),The Drowning Pool, Milos Forman's classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Elaine May's intense two-hander Mikey and Nicky (1976), Paul Schrader's 1979 drama Hardcore; Robert Benton's Oscar-winning Manhattan-set divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer.

Born in Brooklyn, Sylbery fought in the Korean War. He and brother Richard attended Temple University's Tyler School of Art in Pennsylvania, the Hans Hoffman School of Art and the Actors Studio.

Many decades later, in 2004, Paul Sylbert returned to Temple, where he joined the faculty at the Film and Media Arts department, teaching courses in film studies. He also taught a course called Film: The Creative Process at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 2014.

He received a lifetime achievement award from the Art Directors Guild in 2009. He is survived by third wife Jenny, who was credited as Sylbert's assistant on a number of films, and two children.



First published: 24 November 2016, 4:35 IST