Everything Old Is New Again
Making 1973 feel like the present extended from camera and lighting techniques to the more tangible aspects of costumes and sets. It fell to art directors Clay
A. Griffith and Clayton R. Hartley and costume designer Betsy Heimann to bring back the
decor and fashion of the early '70s--not in the retro sense of today's styles, but as they were back then.
Crowe's own collection of memorabilia and mementos were invaluable references. They also studied old periodicals and teen magazines, and sat through an assortment of 1970s films. Griffith offers, "Every night, we would watch two or three films to recall the feel of the decade, as well as to get the popular culture right. We also watched 'rockumentaries' like 'Mad Dogs & Englishmen,' which follows Joe Cocker on tour on a bus, which was perfect."
Neutral colors and earth tones were extremely trendy fashion choices in 1973, so
Heimann designed many of the costumes in browns, olives and golds, with pops of
orange and scarlet. At the same time, there was a contrasting trend of red, white and blue, which is also seen in the wardrobe.
The costume designer had fun with the bold combinations of fabrics, patterns and shapes that were prevalent in the eclectic fashions of 70s rock and roll. Lace, gauze, velvet, fringe, bell-bottoms, florals, cowboy hats, pattern on pattern, and texture on texture all appear in varying degrees in Heimann's wardrobe designs. In addition, all of the t-shirts were custom-made to reflect sayings and images of the period.
Heimann worked closely with the principal cast to establish each character's individual style. "I tried to mesh the costumes not only with the character but with the actors playing them," she explains. 'For instance, less was more with Kate Hudson, who has such an angelic look and whose character is both innocent and sensual. She wears mostly diaphanous shirts, eyelet lace tank tops, brown velvet pants and, of course, that long faux fur-collared coat that was so popular in its day."
As for the band, Heimann describes the look as 'rock stars as cowboy outlaws." She adds that there was a subtle but key difference between lead singer Jeff Bebe and lead guitar Russell Hammond. ·'Jeff is more showy than Russell, so we dressed Jason Lee in more outrageous colors and more velvets, and the jeans he wears on stage are studded. Billy Crudup, as Russell, had a more all-American look, with basic jeans, boots, and t-shirts. His look is effortless and unstudied. The irony is that the harder Jeff Bebe tries to be noticed, the more everyone turns to Russell," Heimann observes.
Of all the cast, it is Patrick Fugit whose wardrobe undergoes the greatest transformation, corresponding to the evolution of his character. Heimann notes, "When we first meet William living at home in San Diego, he wears t-shirts and jeans. As he travels with the band, he begins to dress more like them, and his appearance is less put together."
The art directors applied a similarly contrasting style to the settings to reflect the changes in William's world as he steps out into what Crowe calls "the circus of rock and roll." Griffith and Hartley incorporated three separate color palettes: one for William's life in San Diego; another for the exteriors as the band traveled on the road; and a third for the interiors of the various motels and hotels in which
they stay. The first was designed using softer color combinations so that when William hits the road, there was a distinct color contrast, though not an explosion of color. Like Heimann, Griffith and Hartley incorporated the popular earth tones of the '70s, so we see subtle hues of browns, greens and yellows juxtaposed with a lot of orange in the
decor. The famed New York han
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