Lianne Spiderbaby (Lianne MacDougall) is a writer for Fangoria, Cineplex, Famous Monsters, FearNet, Film Journal International and Video Watchdog magazine. Her new book, Grindhouse Girls: Cinema’s Hardest Working Women, is being published by St. Martin's Press. Lianne is also the host of Fright Bytes, and her journalistic force has started to "bleed" out of the horror genre and into the mainstream. Lianne Spiderbaby holds an honors degree in Film Studies, University of Toronto.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Costuming DJANGO: An Interview with Sharen Davis
On a steamy hot day on set near the Evergreen Plantation in Edgar,
Louisiana, DJANGO UNCHAINED costume designer Sharen Davis and I sit under a
tree chatting, hoping the shade will help our somber mood; today it is a closed
set as a particularly upsetting and rather naked scene is being shot inside of
a small barn.
Occasionally, Tarantino allows me into the closed set after getting
the ‘okay’ from cast and crew members, but I still need frequent breaks because
the shoot is so deeply intense. Django (Jamie Foxx and/or stunt double, Clay
Donahue Fontenot) is hanging from the ceiling, suffering torture on behalf of Billy
Crash (Walton Goggins) and Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson).
Despite the solemn atmosphere on set, Davis is calm and
exceptionally kind, she is incredibly humble; Davis has been nominated for two
Academy awards in costume design for DREAM GIRLS (2006) and RAY (2004) and she
specializes in design for films with African American stars.The deep mulberry purple suit worn by
Calvin Candie (DiCaprio), the bright royal blue suit and frilly bow, and the
iconic BONANZA-inspired green jacket worn by Django (Foxx) could very well earn
Davis yet another nomination in this year’s Oscars.Although westerns usually employ dirty, muted and toned-down
ensembles for their characters, Davis and Tarantino envisioned something much
brighter, and richer for DJANGO UNCHAINED, and Davis tells me to specifically
watch out for the costumes in delicious and scandalous Cleopatra Club scene.
How does it start for you?Where
does the vision start?
we have an amazing director who has amazing concepts, so it has been really
wonderful to take his baseline and some of his ideas so that I can take each
character to a certain level.That
really helps and it then can become really creative.I had to really expand due to the fact that there are so
many men in this film.I had to
really conceptually think about how I could make each of them look very
different, even before they were cast.I would put ideas together into different piles, and then once the
characters were cast, I came up with illustrations and I’d show Quentin each
How did your designs change after DJANGO was cast?
DAVIS: Quite a
bit.Usually I don’t even start
illustrations until after casting.For example, with Don Johnson as Spencer Gordon Bennet, once he was cast
I came up with this idea of a Colonel Saunders pimp [laughs], with a off-white
suit.He was one of our first
Before the film’s release, already people are talking about Django’s outfits,
the bright blue suit, and the green jacket he’s so often seen wearing in the
DAVIS: In July,
Quentin showed me a television show and he wanted that show to influence Django’s
costumes, I thought it was a great
idea, so I just had to put a bit of a spin on it, and I really think his
costumes have come together wonderfully.
Which costumes have been the most involved?
DAVIS: Dr. King
Schultz for sure; Christoph Waltz’s costumes.He has so much detail and he has the biggest amount of
wardrobe. The dentist is a well
dressed man! He has a multitude of coasts, jackets, ties and vest.He was very fun to design for.
How much historical research went into the designs for DJANGO, things like
corsets and pieces from the time period?
DAVIS: I started
with silhouettes of the clothing.For this film, I had to let go of the fabric choices for the time period
– back then, the fabric made the clothes look like drapery, and I couldn’t have
that for the costumes.I did use
tube skirts, the right silhouettes for the dress, and corsets of course.I went a bit more colorful with the
dresses as well, than what was typical of the time period.I went a little more detailed with
texture.I got a little creative
with those dresses, since there aren’t many women in the film.
Apparently the costumes at the Cleopatra Club in the film are amazing.
designed those costumes to look like candy, that scene is going to be really
great.Those costumes are designed
from the time period, but I wanted the dresses to look like treats, so the
colors are a lot like jelly beans.They’re not sexy, but they look cute and tasty.I talked with Quentin a lot about what
he wanted for that scene.It had
to be something where the minute you walk into that room as an audience, it had
to be something you’d never seen before, it’s one step above reality.Still fitting in with the times, but
What about Kerry Washington (Broomhilda)’s costumes?You’ve worked with Kerry before…
DAVIS: I do really love Broomhilda’s
outfits, she always has a tinge of purple in her costume, which is the
Broomhilda costume.I had a great
time designing her dresses.I
worked with Kerry before and I always enjoy working with her, she has great
ideas and I get a lot of inspiration from her.It was challenging because there were so many men on this
film, so working with Kerry was really nice.Quentin’s casting is incredible, so there were a lot of
different opportunities for my designs, and I’ve really enjoyed it.