How One Massachusetts Home Became a Movie Set
“Robert Downey Jr. really was the best houseguest we’ve ever had,” says Boston architect Charles Rose, who recently hosted the actor and an entire crew from Warner Bros. at his Belmont home for the filming of The Judge, a new movie directed by David Dobkin. In the film, Downey Jr. plays a Chicago lawyer who calls Rose’s famous residence, Copper House, his home.
“They approached the office and said they were looking for houses,” says Rose. “I thought they would be looking for something more classically modern. This house has a little bit of a mood—it’s a darker house with a mahogany and copper exterior and it blends in, it doesn’t jump out like a lot of moderns do.”
Rose lives in Copper House with his wife and youngest child. The home was completed in 2004 and built around an existing vinyl-clad structure from 1920. Rose famously wrapped the original house in a cedar box and added glass and copper extensions to create a striking structure.
During the selection process, crews from Warner Bros. visited numerous times to conduct light studies. “They had photographers shooting every hour, on the hour, from different vantage points,” says Rose.
Once Copper House was selected, set designers and production directors prepared to film in the interiors and surrounding gardens of the property. The team brought in different furniture and transformed the library into the set of a young girl’s bedroom.
“Except for a few pieces, they kept all of the art, which is great because it goes with the house so well,” Rose says of his collection that includes pieces by New England painter Michael Mazur and others. In an exciting surprise, they also included the work of artist Michael Rose, Charles’s son. “The set designer loved his paintings and they requisitioned 16 of them for the film,” says Rose.
Filming at Cooper House took seven days. Originally, Warner Bros. offered to send Rose’s family to a hotel, but they didn’t want to miss the excitement. “I got to sit behind the monitors and see how they were capturing the house,” says Rose. “It was really brilliant. I’m a bit of a visual arts snob, but I came away really impressed by these guys. They got the building. They worked with the building.”
When scenes were complete and the autographs were signed, a crew restored the property to perfection. Since then, Rose’s family has anticipated seeing Copper House on screen and has enjoyed reflecting on the process.
“It was extremely disruptive, and we loved every minute of it,” says Rose.