Dean Tavoularis (born May 18, 1932) is an American motion picture production designer whose work appeared in numerous box office hits such as The Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now, The Brink's Job, One from the Heart and Bonnie and Clyde.
Although born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Greek immigrant parents, Tavoularis spent his entire childhood and teenage years in Los Angeles, in the shade of the Hollywood studios. He studied architecture and painting at different art schools and landed a job at the Disney Studios first as an 'in-betweener in the animation department, and later as a storyboard artist. In 1967, Arthur Penn called him to take charge of the artistic direction of Bonnie and Clyde. Three years later, Penn called him once again to invent the no-longer-existing Little Big Man. But it was a meeting with Francis Ford Coppola in 1972 on the set of The Godfather that set the creative tone of his career. The Godfather II and The Conversation, in 1974, consolidated their collaboration and laid the way for what was to be their joint creative challenge: Apocalypse Now, the Vietnamese odyssey for which Tavoularis created a nightmare jungle kingdom, inspired by Ankor Wat. It was also on set of Apocalypse Now where he met his future wife, French actress Aurore Clément. (Clément's role was eventually edited out of final cut of the film and only restored in the Apocalypse Now Redux version in 2001.
From 1967 until 2001, he worked on over thirty movies and landed five Academy Award nominations, one of which he won with The Godfather II, and has become a movie magician capable of recreating unexpected landscapes in a studio or in the middle of nowhere. For the 1982 release One from the Heart he recreated both the Las Vegas 'strip' and McCarren International Airport on the sound stages of Zoetrope Studios. The list of directors with whom he has worked is also impressive: Michelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point, 1970), Wim Wenders (Hammett, 1982), Warren Beatty (Bulworth, 1998) and Roman Polanski (The Ninth Gate, 1999). Tavoularis has been able to take his ability to invent magical spaces to unsuspected extremes alongside Francis Ford Coppola.