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THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Defining the Look: Costumes, Makeup, Props & More
Wendy Partridge joined the team as costume designer and was excited at the prospect of the challenge. She comments, "There's always a creative element for every film you do, but not to this massive extent, where you have multiple worlds, so many different personalities and such a diverse cross-section of creative looks needed, so it was really exciting to come on board."

Working closely with the director, production designer, prop designer and Charlie Wen, the head of Marvel's visual development, Partridge started developing the costumes and the look for the characters. "Alan is an unbelievably visual director and he was very involved and very caring about every single visual element of the film," says Partridge. "He has a wonderful aesthetic and was very collaborative and it was a professional delight working with him."

Key among the ideas was to run the aged and weathered look and feel of the film through to the costumes to help the overall film be as naturalistic as possible and resonate as a living, breathing world, whether that be on the streets of Asgard or London, or in the palaces or on the battlefields. Partridge explains, "In 'Thor' we didn't see a whole lot of everyday Asgard, so it meant we could create what was going on in the streets of Asgard. We could look at what an everyday Asgardian might wear when hanging out with the boys, so that was a really delightful part of this job to create many, many facets of a world we had previously just seen a snippet of."

She continues, "We developed a mandate that said we were going to see what elements the characters had been through, whether it was age or perhaps their battles, so that the armor and costumes had just more depth and a little bit more integrity in terms of their everyday life."

Partridge notes that in terms of armor, this wasn't always easy, as you don't know what sort of metal you are dealing with in the world of Asgard and the Nine Realms. She states, "I think one of the key things was that you didn't want to think the gods were invincible, so there needed to be some sense of vulnerability, even for Thor."

Chris Hemsworth echoes these thoughts. "The sets, the costumes, the hair, the makeup -- all of it was about making it look more realistic. Not having them so much like gods that they were unrelatable. There's a human quality to them all, which is wonderful."

Partridge and her design team set about extensive research prior to designing the costumes, which started with the comic books and moved on to the mythology that is behind the comic book characters. "There is solid mythology behind every one of the characters, and I think that's one of the things that became really intriguing and a favorite part of my research," says Partridge. "The Thor mythology, which is based on Norse mythology, is based on Celtic mythology, so I started right back with the earliest Celtic historical information that I could find, so around 3000 years ago," continues the costume designer. "Considering our Thor gods are 3-4000 years old, that felt like a great place to start. I got entrenched in the art of that period, which is called Liten and that's what we based a great deal of our aesthetic on in this film. There are these circular motifs that are part of that ancient artwork and they show up in a way in the Kirby comic books."

Of the rich history of visual imagery within the comic books, she notes, "There is a lot of really beautiful imagery to pull from and you're melding these elements of history with your own take on it and evolving it. It's a wonderful challenge."

Part of that evolution resulted in the costume department developing all of their own fabrics for Asgard, which involved lots of ombre (dip dying to achieve a graduated effect), shading and aging and incorporating the Liten imagery. Wendy Partridge explains, "The designs on almost all of the fabrics we have were developed within this Liten, Celtic style and then abstracted into the prints. If you're looking at a dress that Rene Russo has, all those materials have been printed and then ombred and dyed to look like that. It's not something that you can go and buy."

For Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World", Wendy Partridge and the filmmakers were also mandated to develop the costumes to be as functional for the actors as possible, given the increased fight scenes in this film and the dramatic action and stunt sequences. Partridge notes, "In 'Thor' they had incredible looking armor that was very, very restrictive. But they didn't do a ton of fighting, so it wasn't as big a deal. In the sequel, however, there is way more fighting, so as well as evolving the look of the costumes, we basically re-engineered all the armor so that there was full mobility."

For the look of Thor, Partridge says, "Thor has his signature look, and for this we have introduced a beautiful seamless, dark blue leather, casual cape. It's cut very simply but it just drapes beautifully, so when he's hanging out with the boys he has all of his Thor amour underneath, but he just has this beautiful, draped leather that is elegantly simple, and which Chris Hemsworth just carries off."

Partridge also notes that her team enjoyed some unusual challenges when developing Chris Hemsworth's costume. She explains, "Chris really is the quintessential Thor. He has got a spectacular, proportioned body to just carry the presence of a Super Hero, but he had lots of issues the first time around, which we tried to solve. He is constantly working out, so we're faced with the challenge of his muscle tone changing on a daily basis, which meant we ended up with about 25 sets of armor and 30 plus capes."

The costume department's team of leather workers also worked hard to ensure there were no episodes of trouser splitting. "We did a lot with stretch leathers in the trousers so that we didn't have things like crotches that split, which is a permanent leather trouser issue," explains Partridge. "So we try to use different products so that those things don't happen and yet they still look amazing."

The Mighty Thor's look would not be complete without one of the film's icons -- his hammer Mjolnir. Forged from the heart of a dying star, it can summon lightning and control the elements as well as give Thor the ability to fly. The weapon is intrinsic to his power as well as the traditional and comic book look of the character. It is a weapon and prop that the filmmakers discussed at length. Director Alan Taylor liked elements of the hammer from "Thor," as well as the size of the hammer in "Marvel's The Avengers," so the team looked at amalgamating the two. With key input from the producers and Charlie Wen, the design went through multiple versions, taking in various design elements.

Property master Barry Gibbs notes, "It's about 10% bigger than in 'Thor.' We've changed the leatherwork on the handle to suit the costume, so that as it fitted into his hand there was a flow to the rings on it. We also achieved a great finish on Mjolnir. We went down the route of 3D prototyping it, which works, but it doesn't have the handmade touch. It's almost a little too manufactured, so we've used a lot of acid etching in our processes, so that if we produce something in aluminum, we can get not only a great patina on the product, but also good aging on it and it looks particularly natural."

There were about 30 hammers made for Thor of various weights for different uses. The master hammer is made from aluminum but it is replicated in different materials and weights, including a "soft" stunt version. Of the 30, five versions are used most often, including the "lit hammer," which emits light when lightning strikes.

Chris Hemsworth felt that by giving Mjolnir a more realistic feel it would help audiences relate more to the film. He comments, "The hammer has been taken and roughed up and beaten a bit and scratched, so it looks like it has been through thousands of years of war and battle and it's not straight off the rack."

The makeup designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, in conjunction with wardrobe, prosthetics and the other departments also worked hard to bring through the realism of the characters with a more naturalistic approach. She explains, "Alan wanted to make these people more realistic, so we broke them down a little bit more and actually gave them contours and made them sweat; things you wouldn't normally see in a big Super Hero. In this film Thor is bleeding and has been punched and you can actually see it, and actually feel that this is a person, not just a Super Hero."

When creating the look for Odin, the team wanted to ensure that his look, stance, and overall appearance were very powerful and strong, although Partridge notes, "Anthony Hopkins already has the ability to do that in his sweat pants!" Working with the legendary actor was a pleasure for the team and the costume designer adds, "He's incredibly appreciative of all the elements that we can bring together to help him pull that performance ability off."

Odin's armor, like many of the characters, is made almost entirely of leather to give it a more grounded feeling. Also the elements that go around his signature disks all have beautiful embossing on them and the overall costume has had a subtle amount of aging and breakdown to give it a worn and also loved feeling. Partridge describes key details of his costumes, "He has three or four outfits of different scales of armor in terms of how much metal armor is on it. It's real metal, so it has a beautiful luster to it and all the textiles are just incredibly rich, making sure that everything about him feels completely regal and in control and powerful."

Complementing Odin's stature and status, the props team also developed his staff from the first film. Barry Gibbs notes, "He has Gungir, which is his golden staff, and we took the original design and tried to add some history to it. If you can read it, there is a message in the runes that are down the shaft of the staff."

For Thor's fellow warriors, the Warriors Three, Partridge and her team had fun developing and evolving their look from the first film, again simplifying and toning down some of the detail. Hogun has a dark navy blue tone and slight Asian look to his costume, while Fandral's signature color is green, but notably different to that of Loki's green costume. Partridge elaborates, "In this film Fandral's costume is a little bit greyer. We took it further away from Loki than they did in the first film and made it a more subtle shade. The character has definitely got the flair of someone who loves himself and there is more flair and panache in his costume and we give him big high-bucket boots."

Actor Zachary Levi, who plays Fandral, felt very strongly that his character should embody some of the key comic book traits, one of which is blond hair. The director and hair designer Luca Vannella were keen to keep Fandral blond but Levi's very dark hair was an issue for them. Levi comments, "I naturally have really dark brown hair and we weren't sure if we could dye it or if it would work and there was discussion about it possibly being a lighter brown and I said, 'no, no, no, no, he's blond, he's blond.' The only things I have ever wanted to say regarding input towards the character are to stay true to the characters as they are represented in the comic books."

In Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" all characters see increased action and fighting sequences, so the weaponry has been altered to be more practical and fit for purposes within big choreographed fights scenes, as well as complementing the film's aesthetic. The director also wanted to add a sense of history to the established props and a worn, organic feel to those being developed. In fact due to the number of battles within the film, with warriors from across the different realms, the props department developed 140 different styles of weapons (outside of the main characters and elf weaponry), requiring 18 technicians, including sculptors and metal workers, who individualized the weapons.

When it came to Hogun's weaponry, the props team loved the mace from "Thor,"!but made some minor upgrades. Gibbs comments, "Hogun's mace is such a great prop. We changed very little on it, basically just the handle. We had problems with the spikes breaking so we developed a different system for fitting those. We tweaked it, making it more balanced, so it would make Hogun look more fluid with his movements."

For the larger-than-life Volstagg, Wendy Partridge notes that the team brought his costume a little closer to that of his character in the comic books. She notes, "Everything about that character is just hearty and jovial, but the same things apply. We were evolving from the first film, so we simplified some of the elements, and brought in more brown and pink elements. In the comic book he's fuchsia and we have brought a rose tone to his costume, which is really lovely."

The props team also worked on a simpler design for Volstagg's axe, making it a double- headed axe, with a new shaft grafted onto it. Volstagg's sizable costume has also evolved to make it more maneuverable for actor Ray Stevenson as well as having a hi- tech cooling device fitted within it, to stop Stevenson from overheating. He comments, "The costume this time is a bit more user friendly. There are movable sections to it, the way it is interlocked, so you've got a lot more dynamic within the costume itself. The chain mail and certain elements of the outer costume are lighter to reduce the weight."

On his character's size, Stevenson adds, "We actually increased Volstagg's girth and the fat suit extends from the wrist to the ankles to the neck. I then wear a big woolly hat of a hairpiece and a big pashmina of a beard. When you've got the costume on and the armor on, there is nowhere for the heat to go. So they have this vest, which has thin tubes coursing around the whole torso and I have these ungainly pipes that can come out of the costume and plug into a circulating device of ice water, so between takes I plug in!"

Wendy Partridge admits that the costume for Lady Sif is one of her favorites. "I've done a number of Super Hero women and I was really looking forward to working with Jaimie Alexander. She is such a spectacularly beautiful woman and I wanted to absolutely capture the most femininity we could there and yet bring full warrior to her, so she can be out there kicking ass and giving every bit as much as The Warriors Three."

Jaimie Alexander appreciated the costume development and comments, "Wendy is fantastic. She really listens to you and for me, she really knows the female body and it helped a lot. She said to us all, 'What can we do to make this better-' A lot of my movement in this film is based on martial arts and flexibility rather than just blunt trauma hits and the costume allows me to have just tremendous agility, which is great. I can high kick up to my ears if I wanted to, whilst looking like I'm wearing the toughest armor you've ever seen."

Barry Gibbs also enjoyed working on Sif's weaponry and notes that her shield is one of his favorite props. Using the same processes for manufacturing and finishing the shield as they did for Mjolnir, Gibbs comments, "We achieved a great finish on Mjolnir but it doesn't look handmade, so we've used a lot of acid etching in our processes, so that if we produce something in aluminum, we can get not only a great patina on the product, but also good aging on it and it looks particularly natural. Sif's shield is stunning."

He also notes that the materials they used for Sif's shield were completely different, in order to look like steel and leather. Sif's complex sword, which can double as a staff, was also developed further to make it adapt from a single sword into two and then connect up to become a staff. It is also able to be single blade and spin around into a fighting stick and also break down into two swords.

Queen Frigga, Odin's wife, played by Rene Russo, was the other key female Asgardian character for Partridge to design for and she enjoyed bringing the Norse and Celtic imagery through in her costume. She notes, "As part of the melding of historical elements from the comic books and from our research, we created this aesthetic armor for the ladies, which is an evolution of armor to jewelry, so for Frigga (and Jane in Asgard) we have these beautiful sculpted armor pieces, with pieces of artwork engraved into them. So we didn't just take ancient Celtic verbatim, it was about evolving it into something that potentially our gods could have evolved into that was also really beautiful and unusual."

Dressing the human women of Jane and Darcy, Wendy Partridge notes that their style from the first film was something the team wanted to continue on with. She notes, "We really wanted to follow through that they're the same personalities, but they have been in England for a couple of years. So, you're not taking on the full British style, just a sense that they've been morphing here for a while and still have their quirky personalities, particularly Darcy."

Although one would think that dressing Jane Foster for a date, which is an early scene in the film, would be simple, Partridge notes that those scenes can be the most challenging. "I think we probably bought 50 outfits to look at what would be right for Jane as a fish out of water on a date, so she doesn't feel quite right. It's a fine line between too dressy and not dressy enough; that doesn't feel sexy enough, or doesn't feel Jane enough. Those things are incredible challenges because it really personifies where the character is at that moment."

Natalie Portman hopes audiences will enjoy her main look, which is the incredible dress she is given to wear in Asgard, topped off with a classic British coat. She comments, "The funny part was combining the Asgardian clothes with a Barbour jacket. I have my Earth Barbour jacket over the Asgard dress for much of the film, so that's a combination that always makes people laugh."

For the roller-coaster final section of the film where we see Jane in Svartalfheim and then back on Earth, having narrowly escaped with her life, the makeup artists found themselves with the challenge of making Natalie Portman less beautiful and more battle weary. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou notes, "We kept Jane's makeup very earthy and natural looking, but she has to look dirty because she's going through lots of rubble and that's a bit of a struggle when you have a beautiful woman and you make her up beautifully and then have to dirty it down."

The final key Asgardian characters to design for were Loki and Heimdall. In Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" we see Loki at his lowest ebb in his cell. He has two casual cell costumes, but when he leaves his cell to join Thor's mission, he returns to his signature look. Partridge explains: "He basically picks up where he left off with The Avengers. There's certainly more aging to it and the costume is darker. We have slimmed it down a bit and he has less armor, although Loki has some serious choreography with his fighting so we needed to make sure he could fight, but also still maintain the incredible elegance and poise that Loki has."

For Tom Hiddleston, Loki's wardrobe offered another insight into a character he loves to play. He explains, "It's really exciting to see his prison outfit because there are two shapes to it. One is very polished and almost lush, as if he's wearing a very expensive dressing gown, and the other is when you see him at rock bottom and he has torn his clothes and his hair and his face. It's an incarnation of his own self-hate and his own despair. He's literally ripped at the fabric of his clothes and that was really exciting to do, because I've never done that, because the character is so controlled and polished. In the first two films when he's wearing Earth clothes, he's wearing impeccably tailored suits with beautiful scarves and he's just got this extraordinary elegance to him, which comes from a kind of vanity. Deconstructing that vanity was really exciting."

When it came to Loki donning battle fatigues and armor, Hiddleston explains that the look was again meant to feel aged and worn with a nod to past skirmishes. He explains, "It was important that the armor Loki had wasn't too new, as if he'd gone into the armory and cobbled together an outfit that would be suitable for combat but was old. Because it's not as if public enemy No.1 is going to be given the privileges of new armor every time, so I like the fact that the forearm plates are still scratched because he got Hulk-smashed when he was on Earth fighting The Avengers."

In Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World," the character of Heimdall departs from his stationary post and picks up a lot of action when he fights to save the palace from invaders. Wendy Partridge notes that this meant a substantial departure from his previous costume. "Idris was another of our really involved engineering feats because in the first film he had this stunning armor and he basically had to stand in the observatory and be the eyes of Asgard. He didn't really move and his costume was very restrictive, with very heavy and dense armor. But this time he takes down a full-on, bad-guy space ship, so he needed full mobility, and yet still be able to maintain Heimdall's unique appearance. So we made his costume with many more components. We have a beautiful motif of a tree on the center of his costume, which is part of the mythology of the tree of life. Again we kept the tones of his costume golds and bronzes, but gave it that lovely age and we are saying this is his 'working suit.' We also used a completely different technique for building the armor, so that everything is about a third of the weight it was on the first film."

Partridge also went to work on the soles of his shoes. She explains, "One interesting aspect with his wardrobe was that in a scene where he is running, we actually focus on the bottoms of his feet. So we went to a great deal of trouble to create his own particular soles for his shoes, so when you see it, it doesn't say Adidas or Nike on the bottom!"

The props department also developed Heimdall's weaponry from the first film, so that the gracious but imposing Heimdall now wields a huge, broad sword. Barry Gibbs explains, "We took Heimdall's initial sword and beefed it up a little bit, giving it more weight. We re-sculpted the handle, the pommel and the finger-guard and increased the blade, which was quite slim in the first movie. We took it up to probably just under half an inch thick, so it's a really heavy blade." Heimdall also now has two daggers that are concealed in his costume, which he uses to bring down one of the dark elf harrow ships during the attack on Asgard.

To achieve the level of costumes required for Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World," even Wendy Partridge admits that the wardrobe department was enormous. At its peak, she notes that there were upwards of 120 people working in her department and they made approximately 1500 costumes.

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