Curses and Corsets
Costume designer Jeffrey Kurland's challenge mirrored that of the production design team: creating different looks for the many sequences in the past and present. Designing different looks for Mortals and Casters within those varying time periods was another one.
Kurland relates, "It was complicated, meshing the two worlds to get the exaggerated feeling of the Caster world, while inter-mingling it with the world of reality. And then, on top of that, we have the past and present also convening."
Sherman notes, "Jeffrey and I and Matthew Ferguson, the set decorator, worked hand in hand, discussing what people would be wearing, in what rooms. So when you see Macon on the porch in the weird robe, with sunglasses and an eclectic magazine, it all works, you immediately get the eccentricity of him juxtaposed with the reality of the rest of the world."
Kurland took the Light and Dark theme into consideration for everyone, citing, "To a certain extent we showed that with color, but more so in silhouette, and shade, and angularity, than just color itself. There's a lot of shadow and shade that goes into it. It's a subtle thing, but helps to define who the characters are."
Kurland had around 80 outfits custom built, including Jeremy Irons' entire wardrobe. Macon's struggle to inhabit both the Light and Dark world was "an interesting dichotomy to tackle," Kurland conveys. "The Darkness, which is always still there, will somehow seep through. Macon can do and wear whatever he likes. That freedom was a nice thing to have. You see a little reference to the '20s, '30s, and so on because he's been around a long time."
He also found it interesting to explore Ridley's look, which is as unpredictable as her character. "Ridley is quite the fashionista," he explains. Since LaGravenese wanted to have more fun with the magic, Kurland incorporated an iconic film look for each of Ridley's ensembles, including Rita Hayworth in GILDA and Marilyn Monroe in RIVER OF NO RETURN.
LaGravenese says, "Jeffrey is brilliant. We've been friends since he did my first directing project, LIVING OUT LOUD. We're both movie geeks, so he went to town with all of that." Rossum's favorite was a long lace cut-out in which Ridley makes her memorable entrance into Gatlin. She also wears a black lace dress with corset and turtleneck for the Caster Ball.
Kurland also had to design an antebellum dress for Emma Thompson, who describes the ensemble which her Caster character, Sarafine, appears in at the Ball as "a gigantic hooped dress with red ruched petticoats, and dark purple with black over the top, which pushes up her bust."
By contrast, Thompson says that Mrs. Lincoln's character "is the champion of the dowdy housecoat and some really terrible suits and twin sets. Her underwear alone is a whole story: a pointy bra, girdle and nylon underwear. It's like a nylon hell. She always wears a crucifix and has a tight hairdo like a helmet. It's tragic." Thompson also wears a large, unwieldy hat at a town meeting. "I had such fun with Jeffrey. He had this fabulous opportunity to put me in some of the ugliest things he ever made," she smiles.
Kurland's design for Lena's ball gown incorporated both the formality demanded by an iconic Caster event and a representation of Lena's true personality. "I decided that layers of tulle, silk gazarre and net would be lightweight and work beautifully for the movement and physicality involved," Kurland describes. "The bodice needed structure, but I designed the top of the gown as a man's shirt might look, open and loose, which I felt was more her style. The vintage silk peau de soie and many well placed seams helped to give it the grace and elegance that it required."
Although Kurland created many new costume concepts, there are specific iconic traits in the book that he took care to carry over to the screen, including Lena's necklace. Kurland designed it and says, "It's little pieces of what she's gathered together from the places she's been, a little trinket, a little charm, a piece of a doll, and the bottle cap is also there."
Englert states, "It was really great working with Jeffrey and beginning to understand Lena and the way she dresses. It was fun getting into those details."
Kurland adds, "It's a very individual style. It can't be like the girls who ridicule her, but it can't be so outlandish that you're put off by it, which was a very interesting line to walk." Part of that unique style is a tattoo number that changes as Lena counts down to her Claiming.
Amma also has a very special tattoo, going back to her ancestral African roots and a practice called scarification, denoting tribal identity and rites of passage. "There's a certain kind of spirituality and elegance to Amma," says Kurland. Her wardrobe is tailored but very avant-garde -- colorful and patterned. It stands alone."
As Lena faces the Claiming, she and all Casters attend a ball to celebrate her transformation. At the same time, the Mortals are celebrating the Civil War re-enactment of the Battle of Honey Hill. Both required many costumes.
Kurland illustrates, "First, there's the real 1864 battle. Then there's the modern day reenactment. There is a difference between what people in 2012 think 1864 is like as opposed to what it actually was like."
Shooting the Caster Ball took place over the course of several days at the Ravenwood exterior. The director discussed the scene, originally the Claiming ritual in the book, with Rousselot and decided that, for the film, a visual cornucopia of eccentric-looking Casters attending a coming out party would be cinematic. LaGravenese recalls telling his costume designer he wanted the "Ascot Gavotte-meets-Alexander McQueen," noting, "Jeffrey created 25 of the most original costumes with no time in the schedule because I got the idea during prep. He's amazing."
In a film where magic transforms everything from a plantation to a library and weaves past and present together, the filmmakers hired special effects supervisor Matt Kutcher and his team, and visual effects supervisor Joe Harkins to facilitate the wizardry of special and visual effects.
LaGravenese relates, "It was exciting to use visual effects to go from a dreamlike quality in certain places to a very organic, realistic quality in others. I think incorporating visual effects to accent the reality is good storytelling, because you allow an audience to fill in things with their imagination and participate in that storytelling."
In addition to enhancing brick and mortar, the teams also created lightning storms, rain, snow, and an earthquake to sustain the supernatural weather theme running throughout the film and Lena's life. Fittingly, life imitated art when a real tornado was spotted near the set and filming had to temporarily shut down.
The unearthly storm raging between Casters and Mortals in Gatlin -- and ensnaring two young lovers' destiny -- would appear to be stacked in otherworldly favor. But appearances can be deceiving.
Having supernatural powers, Casters can generate fantastic phenomenon, while Mortals are tethered to the forces of nature, unable to make the elements heed their bidding. But although Mortals may not be able to make it rain or cause an earthquake or decide where lightning strikes, they possess something valuable that Casters do not understand: humanity. And that potent, innate trait empowers them to rise to any challenge.
Richard LaGravenese concludes, "With all our flaws, fears, confusions and weaknesses, mortals also have great powers. Faith. Choice. Compassion. Sacrifice. Love. In telling a story about Supernaturals, the hope is we're telling a story about the magic of our own humanity that makes ordinary beings extraordinary, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES."
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