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The secret behind the 'Wizard of Lies' accurate set? FBI evidence

Robert De Niro went to great lengths to portray Bernie Madoff in the new HBO film "The Wizard of Lies," even going so far as to shave his hairline. So it's no surprise that the design team had to step it up as well to make sure everything on set was perfect down to the last pillow.

Oscar-nominated production designer Laurence Bennett spoke with Architectural Digest about the surprising place they looked for inspiration — FBI evidence.

HBO
Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer take on the roles of Bernie and Ruth Madoff in "The Wizard of Lies."

"The FBI photographs of the properties were actually a great source for decor and some specific objects," Bennett told the magazine. "Some of the rooms were still dressed when they photographed them."

Architectural Digest

In some cases, the designer was able to get replicas of specific items he had seen in the photos. "In Bernie's study at the penthouse, there was a stuffed leather bull — sort of a footstool slash piece of decoration," Bennet said. "He seemed to have a fascination with bulls. And we were able to get one exactly like it."

Perhaps it's a reference to the famous Wall Street "Charging Bull" sculpture, which now faces a "Fearless Girl" statue.

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Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer on 'Wizard of Lies,' Bernard Madoff scandal

Play Video - 5:48

Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer on 'Wizard of Lies,' Bernard Madoff scandal

Play Video - 5:48

Given the large scale of Madoff's Ponzi scheme, one might expect that his Manhattan apartment and vacation homes, in the Hamptons and Palm Beach, would be decorated in the most opulent style. Turns out, that wasn't the case.

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The designer added subtle touches to elevate the design of the penthouse.

Bennet added small upgrades throughout the set to give it more character and texture. "Adjusting for the audience's expectations was important," the designer told the magazine. "It was a very mundane, impersonal style. What I tried to do was just give him a minor upgrade."

Architectural Digest
Madoff (played by De Niro) sits with his sons after a Hamptons house party in one scene of the movie.

See the set in action when the film premieres on HBO Saturday, May 20.

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    Mary Altaffer / AP

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    Inside Madoff's homes

    Bernard Madoff’s Manhattan penthouse, Long Island getaway and Florida estate are for sale in the hopes of raising tens of millions of dollars to help reimburse victims of his Ponzi scheme.

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    Penthouse view

    Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side in New York City. The U.S. Marshals Service plans to put the 4,000-square-foot duplex, a Palm Beach, Fla., estate, a yacht and two smaller boats up for sale in the hopes of raising tens of millions of dollars to help reimburse victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

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    Luxurious surroundings

    The foyer and dining room of Madoff's penthouse apartment. Madoff estimated his Manhattan apartment was worth $7 million.

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    Living in style

    Chinese antiques, porcelain vases and towering wooden screens adorn the living room.

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    Spacious dining

    The dining room of Madoff's penthouse is as large as some one-bedroom apartments in New York City.

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    Scene of the crime

    Madoff's office in the New York apartment. The home office has a leather couch, paintings of sailboats and a sculpture of a bull, a favorite Madoff motif, on a coffee table. There's also the desk where authorities said they found 100 checks worth $173 million that Madoff was ready to send out to close relatives and friends after he realized he would be caught.

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    Stainless steel countertops

    The kitchen of Madoff's penthouse apartment has marble and stainless steel countertops and Baccarat crystal glasses in the cabinets.

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    Crystal for sale

    Baccarat crystal labeled for sale in the kitchen of Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

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    Breakfast nook

    The kitchen of Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment has an atrium breakfast nook.

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    Master bedroom

    A four-poster bed adorns the master bedroom of Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment.

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    Fallen from grace

    A detail of a poster of a photo of Bernard Madoff signed by friends and relatives left behind in Madoff's penthouse apartment.

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    Closet space

    One of three walk-in closets in the apartment, where agents found more than 50 business suits and countless pairs of men's shoes.

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    Spacious bathroom

    One of the bathrooms in Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment, with white marble floors, a bidet and a flat-screen television.

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    Crammed closet

    Boxes with personal belongings in a closet in Bernard Madoff's penthouse apartment.

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    Ruth's office

    Ruth Madoff's office in their penthouse apartment.

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    'Bull'

    Bernard Madoff's yacht, named "Bull," is a 55-foot 1969 Rybovich that has been completely refitted, from brand-new twin Man Diesel engines to all-new electronics.

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    Bunk-style

    Madoff's boat features three small state rooms with bunk beds, rather than a large state room with regular-size beds.

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    On board

    The small kitchen on Bernard Madoff's boat was updated in prepation for the auction.

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    Bullish motif

    Napkins and glassware bear the name of Bernard Madoff's boat, "Bull."

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    Florida seclusion

    A large banyan tree in the front yard of Bernard Madoff's Palm Beach, Fla., home. The house, which will be sold at auction, is tucked into a secluded, palm-lined lot with a stunning view to the west across the Intracoastal Waterway.

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    On the auction block

    Everything in Bernard Madoff's study in his Palm Beach, Fla., home is tagged for auction.

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    Home away from home

    The formal dining room at Bernard Madoff's Palm Beach, Fla., home.

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    Master bedroom

    The sitting area of Madoff's Palm Beach, Fla., master bedroom. The 8,700-square-foot house, built in 1973, has Mexican tile throughout, five bedrooms and seven bathrooms.

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    Water view

    A telescope points out towards the Florida Intercoastal waterway, where Madoff would have been able to see his boats at a 100-foot private dock overlooking a chevron-shaped pool with a Jacuzzi at one end.

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    Palm Beach living

    Large vegetation and a swimming pool sit behind Bernard Madoff's Palm Beach, Fla., home.

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    Close to the sea

    The 1.2-acre lot in Montauk, New York sits closer to the surf than larger neighboring homes on the southeastern tip of Long Island.

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    Room with a view

    This is a view of the living room of the house of Bernard Madoff in Montauk, New York. A staircase descends to the living room with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and a stone fireplace.

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    Dinner for eight

    The dining table has a view of the ocean. At 3,014 square feet, the home is cottage-size by superrich standards.

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    'Understated' design

    The master bath, one of three bathrooms in the house, has a look right out of the 1980s.

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    Decoy ducks

    A set of antique duck decoys on a hallway table.

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    In the bedroom

    The second-floor entrance leads to this small master bedroom with a private terrace.

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    Nautical-meets-folk-art

    The Madoffs' interior decorating taste leaned toward nautical-meets-folk art.

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    Faded furniture

    Faded furniture, like this night table in one of the bedrooms, can be found throughout the home.

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    Relaxing on the porch

    Several sets of glass doors open onto the porch. The four-bedroom, three-bath beach house has been described as "simple, stylish and understated."

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    Pool party

    A small swimming pool overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. A private path winds to the beach through pine trees, rose bushes and dune grass.

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