Into the Woods Costume Designer Colleen Atwood
Although you might not recognize her face, I’m sure you will recognize her work in such movies as Chicago, Alice in Wonderland, The Silence of the Lambs and Edward Scissorhands. Colleen Atwood is an extraordinary Academy Award winning costume designer. You’ll find her most recent work in Disney’s Into the Woods. She has won 3 Oscars and had over 40 nominations! During my press trip to LA me and 24 other bloggers had the chance to sit down with Colleen for an interview!
Colleen began by telling us how every project starts with a story. She gets the script and starts to dream about the costumes and how they would fit into the story. She meets with the director because they are the one she collaborates with the most on the film. Colleen said she then does a lot of research, design and costume textile development which she loves because she loves the craft. Colleen said, “People doing things with their hands is exciting and sort of inspiring for me.”
Colleen then takes the ideas she has put together and presents them to the director. She finally gets to meet the actors cast in the film which she has meetings with to present her creations. Before she gives the cast the clothes at all, she tries to meet with them and show them her ideas so if they may not like something she can talk to them about it. Then she starts the actual making of the costumes and the fitting process.
We asked Colleen if she had any favorite costumes that she created for Into the Woods. She said she had a great time with Meryl’s costume because of the textile art that was involved in it. It involved not just Colleen’s ideas but the hands of a lot of really talented people, mainly women.
Some of the scenes in Into the Woods might have been a little hard on the costumes. We asked Colleen if she ever cringes a little when one of her amazing designs might be falling down a hill or getting destroyed. Colleen said, “I like the costumes to look like they’re worn, so it doesn’t bother me. I cringe on a different level like if I don’t have enough of them to be destroyed. But I don’t cringe on a artistic level at all.” She said she accommodates the costumes if they are going to go through a lot during different scenes.
Colleen said she used inspiration from Victorian meats, fairy tales of the twenties. She created the pieces of material out of earth like linens and mole skin which is a kind of cotton because she felt they were more poorly kind of fabrics which worked great for the Baker, Baker’s wife and peasants. Tracey Ullman and her son were in much worse shape than the baker and the baker’s wife, so their costumes were even more tatty and kind of forlorn.
Emily Blunt’s costume was a bit challenging since she was pregnant so it had to change the most of any costume. She added a lot of panels to her costume so you wouldn’t notice her pregnancy bump. Colleen laughed, “And all of a sudden she got into that like kind of fifth month. She came to work after a weekend and it was like she’d grown I swear.”
Meryl Streep actually went to school for costume design. We asked Colleen if she had any input or involvement in her costume. Colleen responded, “Well there’s not an aspect of a character development that Meryl isn’t involved in. She is the Meryl Streep.” Colleen said Meryl embraced all the textiles in a way that somebody that really knew what it took to make it appreciated it. Colleen continued, “It was a really gratifying collaboration to, not only work with someone of her kind of amazing talent.”
Cinderella’s costume immediately went to an eighteenth century reference for Colleen. In the early Grimm fairy tales the shoes are gold, not glass which you will see in the movie. Colleen found a great thirties fabric she had been hoarding for a while. It was perfect for Cinderella’s costume. Since Cinderella does a lot of movement in the costume, Colleen said she wanted to create the shape of it more loose, modern and also to get the movement she wanted for the camera.
When Colleen gets a creative block she said she likes to escape. She enjoys reading books or just going driving. Colleen said, “Sometimes driving is good. There’s something sort of hypnotic about it. I also am really a big believer in working out and I do an exercise program called Gyrotonic.” She said just walking away from the work, letting it sit and then coming back to it often helps with creative block.
Be sure to head out to see Into the Woods this weekend with your family! The live action musical has nearly crossed $100 million at the domestic box office! It is such an amazing movie! The Oscar voting period closes tomorrow and I am sure we will see Colleen Atwood nominated yet again for her extraordinary work and hopefully a 4th #Oscars win! Plus, I think Into the Woods should definitely be nominated for Best Picture!
Here’s a great video on “The Costumes of the Woods” that gives us more detail on what goes in to the creation of the costumes, hair and makeup from Into the Woods:
Be sure to check out our other great posts for Into the Woods:
Into the Woods Interview: Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Tracey Ullman
Into the Woods Interview: Emily Blunt and James Corden
Into the Woods Interview: Anna Kendrick and Director Rob Marshall
10 Reasons to See Disney’s Into the Woods
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Into the Woods is rated PG and is now playing in theatres everywhere!