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ROMAN J. ISRAEL. ESQ.

Creating Roman Israel
In creating the character of Roman Israel, Washington would completely transform himself - but the actor says that these cosmetic changes were all organically born out of the character he was building with Gilroy.

"It works from the inside out," says Washington. "It's not, 'If I wear my hair like this, you'll feel that.' I start on the inside, and it leads me to the outside - I get specific with the character and I find it, and it leads me to where I want to go. With Roman, he's stuck in the 70s - his hair, his clothes. He clearly doesn't care about these things. He can't afford them, but it's also that his mind doesn't work like that. He's been protected. Suddenly, his life changes, and he comes to think these things are important."

Costume Designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck would turn these internal character traits into external costume choices, Gilroy says. "When you meet Roman, he's wearing what he's worn for the last 40 years - a clip-on tie, a tweed jacket, 20-year-old headphones with the orange foam pads. A flip phone. Rockport shoes."

"Roman would have a certain outfit - he'd basically have worn the same thing all the time," says Jamison-Tanchuck. "As Denzel was processing and building the character, we'd talk every day for a couple of weeks."

Washington would remove the caps on his front teeth, let his hair grow, and wore his shoes a few sizes too big to influence the way he would walk. In Washington's characterization, this is not a character who is concerned about appearances - all of his choices serve only functionality and comfort, Jamison-Tanchuck says. "Roman doesn't own a car - he walks," she notes.

Nothing takes Roman's concentration away from the larger fight. He eats mostly peanut butter sandwiches; his meager apartment is packed with vinyl records and the walls are covered with photos and memorabilia of his civil rights heroes; every inch of space is covered with hoarded material. His history, his convictions are all around him.

Then, everything changes. "In the middle of the film, Roman outwardly transforms - it's an enormous costume turn that happens," says Gilroy.

"He starts looking at the way the people dress in the Pierce law firm, and he begins to try to emulate them," says Jamison-Tanchuck. "Where his earlier suits had earth tones and warmth, he starts choosing colder navies and charcoal grays."

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