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BIG FISH

Costumes
When Danny DeVito saw Colleen Atwood's costume sketch for the circus ringmaster, he was hooked and knew he wanted to play Amos Calloway. "We envisioned Amos as a sort of demented ringmaster,” says Atwood, "with unevenly striped pants, the tall crooked hat. It all had that Tim Burton touch.”

Atwood, who won the Oscar® this year for her costume designs for Chicago, has that rare ability to effectively capture a character with just a costume concept, so much so that it becomes a key to the actor. In Big Fish, she accomplished this time and again, no mean feat considering the dozens of costumes she created for the film's principal cast, as well as the thousands of extras who appear in scenes that span half a century.

"Colleen always thinks from a character's point of view,” says Bonham Carter. "Playing a character is like adopting a different skin. Having your costume is yet another new skin, another layer of character. Because everybody from the town of Spectre is sort of semi-ghost-like, I wear this diaphanous sort of cream thing. But my favorite is the witch's outfit. Not the five hours of makeup, but the dress, the shoes, the cane.”

Because of the epic scope of Big Fish, Atwood separated the story into different periods and themes - the present day story, the allegory part, the 50s and 70s, the circus, etc. "Each piece had its own nuance, then I tied everything together with color and texture.”

Comparing the magical realism of the tall tales and the emotional realism of the present day sequences, Atwood contends that, "They're not really so separate. In a way, they're both real. That's the basis of the story. One is as real as the other. So I tried to make both a little hyper-real so they'd marry together visually."

One of the only characters who runs all the way through the movie is Karl the Giant (Matthew McGrory). "The idea that Tim and I had with Karl,” reveals Atwood, "is that when we find him in the beginning he is living in a cave, basically like an animal, clothed in a shirt of pieced-together rat skins and god-knows-what living in his matted hair and beard. As he moves through the human world he slowly becomes normalized. At the start, when he and Edward leave Ashton, he is wearing a great tent of a canvas coat and sawed-off suitcases for shoes. But by the end of the movie he is in a suit and tie just like everyone else.

Adds actor McGrory "Karl initially has a very feral feel to him. Having him wear a shirt of skins is so imaginative, so cool as is the ZZ Top-like grooming. Getting rousted out of the cave by Edward turns out to be a great thing for him. I become Edward's excuse to leave and I get to grow too. We finally reach a point where I'm ready to be on my own with a great job at the circus.”

The young Edward, played by McGregor has the most costume changes to reflect the adventures of his life, says Atwood. "He's a football star, a baseball player, the school's leading actor, a suitor, a husband, a young father, a salesman, businessman – and he's heroic in all of these guises.”

"The women,” she continues, "are romantic straight through, which meant lots of soft, feminine dresses for Sandra, both in the ‘50s and the present day.” For the scenes in Spectre, Atwood wanted to convey a romanticized, impressionistic nature of the idealized town. "That's why we used light colors and soft fabrics. The citizens of the town are very pale, kind of ethereal. The costumes for young Jenny are made of light-colored vintage fabric because Jenny belongs to Spectre.”

In the sprawling former Cloverdale Junior High School where the Big Fish production workshops were housed, the Costume Department consumed the most space. Classrooms and hallways overflowed with racks of crinolines, girdles, bras and waist cinchers, the devices that made it possible for female extras to squeeze into the mid-century form-fitting fashions. The Alabama te

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