Costume Designer Milena Canonero takes us inside Wes Anderson’s latest flickThe fact that Wes Anderson’s films are often set in a hard to place date and time could be difficult for the life of a costume designer, but not so says The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou collaborator and three-time Academy Award winner Milena Canonero. “It makes everything so much easier and more free,” she says of their latest undertaking The Grand Budapest Hotel, out today.
To capture the fictional, candy-colored Eastern European Republic of Zubrowka in between World War I and World War II, Canonero took a holistic approach. “We had meetings and also exchanges of ideas and references not just for the costumes themselves, but the total look of the principal characters from head to toe,” she says.
Photographers like Man Ray and George Hurrell, and painters like Gustav Klimt, Kees van Dongen, Tamara de Lempicka, and George Grosz served as inspiration points. “One also is stimulated by looking not only at the real people of that time, but also at other images and literature that are unrelated to the period and the setting of the story,” she says. “The look of each actor has to have its raison d’être.” For instance, Tilda Swinton’s Madame D.’s 1930s Klimt-esque coat and Willem Dafoe’s Jopling's Prada leather trench were distingushable pieces for their characters (Prada also happened to design the 21-piece luggage set for Madame D. and Ralph Fiennes’s Monsieur Gustave.) For Gustave that translated to the color of his uniforms. “It gave a nice twist to liveries that would have otherwise been rather predictable,” she says. “Ralph is not only a great actor, but also a director, and he is also extremely particular and detail-oriented like Wes and me. A triumvirate that needs to be satisfied.”