NarniaWeb Set Report #4: The Wardrobe of Prince Caspian
Exclusive: Prince Caspian Set Report #4 – Costumes
We had been at Barrandov Studios in Prague for under two hours, and I already felt like I had enough for a lengthy report! But now, Ernie Malik (the film’s publicist) began leading us to the costume shop. During my two days in Narnia, I heard it said over and over that Director Andrew Adamson wanted the scale of this film to be bigger than the first film, and the costumes were no exception. It was estimated that Prince Caspian will have three or four times as many costumes as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Disney has sent us four more images. View them in the Image Gallery!
We were greeted by Kimberly Adams, the Associate Costume Designer. Kimberly’s other credits include the first Narnia film, There Will Be Blood (2007), The Ring (2002), and Thirteen Days (2000), and she has worked with Isis Mussenden (Costume Designer) for 20 years. Kimberly first started working on Prince Caspian in September 2006. We had caught them on a rare slow day; most of the crew was up at Ústí getting ready for the battle. They were also preparing costumes for the “end sequence and festivities sequence.” Kimberly led us to Isis’ office, where I noticed the actors’ height marked on the wall outside. Inside, the walls were completely covered with hundreds of pictures and artwork, many of which had notes scribbled on them. As soon as I walked in, I knew there was no way I would be able to remember all the details. But, in this report, I’ll give it a try.
Ústí was even more amazing. After we ate, Ernie led us to the back of the lunch tent. At least, I thought it was the back. He opened a flap I hadn’t noticed and I saw that it led not outside, but to another room. I walked through…and it was like stepping through the wardrobe. The room on the other side was probably twice the size of the lunch room, and it was full of costumes! I was starting to think I wouldn’t be able to handle so many shocks in one day. The first thing I saw was a long white table with mirrors, beards, moustaches, and other makeup pieces. They had a 24-hour system set up: if there was shooting all day, there were repair crews working all night. Next, Ernie led us past a pile of realistic-looking dead bodies (very creepy) and to the main costume area where hundreds of costumes hung. There, we met Isis Mussenden and she gave us a tour. Isis’ other credits include the first Narnia film, American Psycho (2000), Thirteen Days (2000), and she worked with Andrew Adamson on both Shrek films (2001, 2004). Like most of the crew, Isis’ passion for what she does was very evident as she showed us around.
This report is a tricky one to write, because I got so much information at different times over two days. So, what I have attempted to do is take all that information (Kimberly’s tour, Isis’ tour, and what I saw on set) and categorize everything.
The Four Pevensies
The basic designs of the Pevensie costumes were very similar to what they wore in LWW, except for the colors. Susan‘s (Anna Popplewell) dress was purple, and Lucy‘s (Georgie Henley) was orange and white. One of Peter‘s (William Moseley) costumes looked similar to the leather outfit he wore when he battled Maugrim in LWW, except it didn’t look like leather. Each of the Pevensies also has a costume for the Night Raid on Miraz’ castle. I’m pretty sure Peter doesn’t wear his regular armor from the first film during the raid. Susan wears a leather corset for the raid and battle, and I think I saw her in chain mail as well.
Peter’s and Edmund‘s (Skandar Keynes) armor looked just like their armor in the first film. The only differences I could see were that the red appeared to be slightly darker, and Edmund’s tunic was straight all the way around, rather than the inverted-V shape in the first film. Edmund also didn’t have any chain mail on his legs.
Very often in filmmaking, the most difficult challenges are the things that sound simple: I heard a few times during my trip that Caspian’s white shirt was a real challenge to manufacture. 15 of them were made. Sarah Sheppard (textile artist who also worked on LWW) showed us a big book full of different fabrics and artwork, and one image showed Caspian wearing his white shirt and holding a candle (perhaps sneaking off with Cornelius to the tower?).
It was quite a thrill to see Ben Barnes (Caspian) in costume for the first time! In a picture on Isis’ wall, he was wearing a primarily blue outfit with a cloak and hood. In the film, Caspian’s costume will start out very Telmarine and then evolve into something more Narnian. “I mean, obviously I’ve escaped from Miraz’s castle, so I’m in my Telmarine outfit,” Ben later told us. “And then I slowly become slightly more ‘Narnianized.’ As we move towards the battle, I end up with this kind of great mix of the two types of outfits. Some of my armor is the same as the Telmarine army, which kind of highlights the fact that I’m fighting against what are essentially my own people, which is quite a hard thing, I think.”
When I finally saw Ben in armor on set (what a thrill!), he appeared to be wearing the same armor that he is wearing in the new poster. The lighting in the poster is slightly mis-leading though; the colors don’t look that dark in real life. The poster makes his brigandine look almost black, when it was actually a dark green (better look). His mail, brown pants, vambraces, and pauldrons appeared to be Narnian. The pauldrons definitely were because they both had the image of a lion carved into them. It looked as if he still had his Telmarine sword (which he is also holding in the poster) even though, in the book, the Seven Brothers of the Shuddering Wood give him a Narnian sword (discuss). It was amazing how authentic it all looked, even close-up. As they waited to be called on set, Ben and Pierfrancesco Favino (Glozelle) started rhythmically shaking the mail on their arms (the DVD guy was there filming, so maybe we’ll see this in a behind-the-scenes video someday).
I saw at least two costumes for Doctor Cornelius. In the first image I saw, he was wearing glasses and a big, thick, dark-blue robe that reminded me of a monk a little bit. Kimberly said that Cornelius’ costume is a subtle blend of Narnian and Telmarine designs. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to look closer. The other costume I saw was his coronation outfit. If I remember correctly, the main colors were bright orange and green, with a coat that went down to his knees.
“The Narnians, we know. We did the last one, all of us know who the Narnians are,” Kimberly said. “Most of our key creative team did the last show as well. That was the easier part of the movie. Breaking what the Telmarine look took a little time. We started from the peasants, and then worked out way up to get to where Miraz is. Because the Telmarines were a new culture, we didn’t want it to look like every typical ‘Lordy’ movie that you’ve seen. We tried to find something that was unique to the Telmarines.”
Isis: “There are a few hints from the book: they came from a portal, pirates coming through a cave. So they’re sophisticated and a bit barbaric. We went for the Mediterranean feel, which was a call by Andrew, to get ourselves in a different culture, a little different skin tone, a little different flavor. So when creating the army, we started with a little pirate, a little bit of a lot of things. Even a little bit of Tibet, which was an inspiration of mine from a show that was at the Metropolitan museum in New York. So the plated armor comes from a Tibet inspiration. There’s a very classical way of making leathered armor, but instead of the leather, we’ve used plastic plates. So we did use plates so you could get that amazing look. And part of it is so they would be articulated. So it’s based in a real use. They’re called brigandines. And brigandines came in many different styles. You see a little bit of the pirate influence; we have a cross-belt that comes across.”
By now, pictures are online, so you can clearly see the Spanish/Mediterranean influence, especially in the helmets. Probably the most interesting and unexpected piece of Telmarine design I saw was the face plates. “It’s not a mask, it’s a face plate,” Isis explained. “A mask is something someone wears so you can’t see who it is underneath. A defense piece is to keep your face from being sliced open.” All the writers, including myself, were very curious about the face plates.
As I looked at the face plates, I remembered something I heard a long time ago about George Lucas giving Stormtroopers helmets so that the action scenes in Star Wars wouldn’t be as intense (since you can’t see their faces when they are killed). And since NarniaWebbers had expressed concern about the rating of Prince Caspian, I asked…
Q: Is a PG rating one of the motivations behind the masks?
Isis: “Yes. It was one of the ideas we had… Well, Andrew wanted a mask; he wanted something to be faceless. But then we said ‘oh look what we can do with it.’ And they did bring that up. It’s funny because I had never heard that before. Although I did have the argument that these are human-looking faces, so I’m not really sure that’s going to help (laughs). And it was also just to make the Telmarines unite.”
All the Telmarine armor was built right there in the Czech Republic. Isis told us that they have an assembly line set up where they can dress 120 soldiers in less than an hour and a half.
Isis led us into a small room with shelves full of boxes and more costumes hanging up. Damián Alcázar (Sopespian) was standing there in armor as Isis’ team made some final adjustments. Isis pulled a box off the shelf that contained the Lords’ face plates, which were different from the others. She explained that the soldiers’ face plates are metal, the lords’ are bronze and metal, and Miraz’ is all bronze, so it’s “stepping up.”
Isis: “When it came to the lords, we have an El Greco palette to make them a little bit different. Each of the lords has a mask that pretty much fits who he is. Not necessarily his exact features, but different looks for the different lords. Each lord has their own color and their own heraldry. They’re in the same tone: blues, greens, beiges. And these have all been aged. I actually owe my aging crew a huge party once we put the army out, because it’s tedious. I mean, you thought it was tedious to make them, but how tedious is it to age all of these. They have to age them with stuff that doesn’t wash off. First of all, you never know when you might get caught in a rainstorm here. Second of all, we have an entire sequence by a river where some people have to go in the river, so the pieces have been waterproofed. Then they need to be aged with paints to look like dirt, and sun beaten. They were aged so well when we started in New Zealand that I was freaking out that they weren’t going to last. And they kept saying, ‘Isis, they’re aged, it’s okay,’ and I kept saying, ‘But they’re not going to make it through the summer!’ Because they looked so sun-beaten already, but it wasn’t, they had just done such a good job. But now we’re starting to get them aged with time. As people wear them they loosen up, which is great because we haven’t gotten to the battle yet. For the next three days, we’re dressing the entire army, so they’ll start to wear them in.”
During my visit, I saw several different costumes for Miraz, and I definitely got the feeling that he’s going to be a more prominent character in the film than he is in the book. “The villain has to have a presence, he’s gotta have an identity,” Ernie Malik said. “And also has to be portrayed in such a way that when he [is defeated], you applaud. That’s the way it was when I was a kid and went to the movies. When the bad guy got it, everybody applauded.” I think I remember Kimberly talking about the outfit Miraz wears for his coronation and a conversation with Prunaprismia afterwards. In one picture, he was wearing what looked like nightclothes, and I recall getting glimpses of other outfits as well, but I didn’t see them long enough to remember details. Actually, I was really worried about trying to remember the details of Miraz’ armor until a few days ago when Disney sent over the very same image that I saw on Isis’ wall! Now you can see it for yourself, instead of me having to describe it for you. Notice the clear Spanish influence in the helmet especially, his bronze face plate, and the compass motif on his shield.
When Sarah Sheppard showed us the book of different fabrics, I noticed a baby doll on the table. It appeared they were trying to make costumes that would fit the doll. Were they designing costumes for Miraz Jr., even though he doesn’t appear in the book?
We didn’t stay in Isis’ office as long as I would’ve liked, but we had a schedule to keep. Kimberly led us down the hall to another office covered with concept art. It was here that I got my only glimpse of Peter Dinklage as Trumpkin and Warwick Davis as Nikabrik. I didn’t see the pictures long enough to remember details, but Trumpkin had a strawberry blondish beard that probably came down to about his waist, as you see here. The thing I remember most about that picture is that Trumpkin had wrinkles and looked older than I imagined. I actually saw three head shots of Dinklage in three different makeups, each with a different amount of wrinkles (perhaps that was when they were still experimenting). Nikabrik’s costume had dark colors, his beard was gray, and he appeared to be standing in a forest. He looked different from the concept art that you see here, so I think this might be an early design. If I remember correctly, his beard was bigger, he was a little fatter, and his costume was darker. All the dwarfs looked so much better than the dwarfs in the first film that you can’t even compare them.
“In LWW, the dwarfs were in their battle gear and they were all pretty much the same,” Kimberly said. “This time, it was nice because each dwarf was their own individual character. They’re hiding out in the woods, but they are craftsman. They know how to make their own stuff; they build stuff for the kids.” The dwarfs I saw on set wore chain mail, brown pants, and shoes with tips that curved slightly upwards (like Ginarrbrik’s). They carried axes and wore round, slightly pointed helmets. Kimberly said that their biggest inspiration for the dwarfs and creatures was Fairies, a book by Alan Lee and Brian Froud. “Andrew has always been a fan of it,” she said. She noted the designs of the jewelry that Nikabrik wears on his arm, and various hat shapes that were inspired by that book. (It’s funny, because I listened to the audio commentary on The Two Towers DVD while I was writing this report, and I heard Director Peter Jackson say that they were also inspired by Fairies)
The rest of the Old Narnians wore very little armor. Kimberly explained: “In the first movie, we dressed the creatures. In this movie, Andrew did not want creatures being in clothing. So, pretty much it’s the dwarfs, and then everyone else is in armor or nothing. The centaurs are bare-chested or they’ve armor when they go to battle.”
But even though the creatures wore little armor, I noticed a lot of variety. For example, some centaurs had two pauldrons, some actually only had one, and some had none at all. Some had a shoulder strap going across their chest, some had two that made an X-shape, and some had bare chests. Some of the fauns had helmets, but most didn’t. The satyrs’ armor was mainly leather pauldrons and tunics which looked similar to the first film, but their breastplates from the first film were gone. One thing all the armor had in common was that it all looked very used and worn out. Instead of the nice shiny armor from the first film, this armor looked old, and many pieces had signs of repair.
Isis: “[The Narnians] are now renegade; they’ve been in the woods for a while. So now they only have makeshift armor, which is kind of revamped from the first film. Some of these pieces were revamped, and some new pieces were built by Weta Workshop in New Zealand. Some if it we re-created again, and with some of it we literally used the older stuff. LWW, for us, was the dawning of the Narnian armed forces. Now it’s a thousand years later. So it’s a bit familiar, but kinda different. This is Andrew’s vision of what has happened over the years, and what they can do to put themselves back together for this battle against the Telmarines.”
Kimberly pointed to concept art for Giant Wimbleweather. If I remember correctly, he looked quite similar to Rumblebuffin from the first film. Kimberly said that Wimbleweather will be played by a local 7′ actor, but he will look about twice that size in the finished film. So when designing his costume, they had to keep in mind that whatever they designed would be magnified.
Kimberly talked about how, when designing, they tried to give each costume a story. She told one story about someone killing a giant and taking his shirt and having his wife chop it down for him. These back-stories won’t be in the movie; they’re just stories that designers made up to make the costumes feel like they have a history beyond what is seen on the screen.
Bacchus and Silenus!
I have saved the best for last. When Kimberly led us into the next room…oh, hurrah! There, I saw concept art for Bacchus and Silenus! I was actually looking at the opposite wall and whirled around when I heard Kimberly say their names. Yes, they are in the film! Silenus’ costume was blue, and he looked vaguely similar to Pauline Baynes’ illustration from Chapter 11 (although Isis later told me that she didn’t look at Baynes’ illustrations this time around). Not surprisingly, there was a clear Greek influence in Bacchus’ costume. The color was a light green that reminded me of the Statue of Liberty.
More Q&A with Isis Mussenden
Q: How much time did you have?
Isis: I started with my very first sample in September . My leather worker showed me the very first samples of what I was thinking of doing. We actually started construction and the order went in in December. And that’s 200 soldiers, 40 cavalry, about 35 stunt, 30 royal guard, 12 lords, and Miraz.
Q: Have Pauline Baynes’ illustrations influenced the costume design in this film at all?
Isis: Not on this one. On the first one it did, you know with Tumnus and his scarf and little bits. But, as I’ve always said about Pauline Baynes’ illustrations, they were done in the 50s about the 40s. So they always are 50s. The professor looks like a nice old man from 1956. It never quite translated. But her impressions of what it was are so beautiful and they’re the ones that everybody connects to most. We used them much more in the first movie. For this one, not at all. I didn’t even actually look at them. In LWW, it was all about the book. And now with Prince Caspian, I think the script is far better than the book. So on this one, for me, it’s all about the script and not the book. Complete opposite. Much, much more exciting. Actually, a very good adaptation; I think people are going to be very happy with it. Much more exciting, and it’s all still in there, it’s all the same, but the drama and cinematic value that was put into it will be really fun. I think the kids are going to like it, I’m going to like it. With adults, we have so many more people this time. Last time we had the Witch, four kids, and a couple Beavers (laughs).
Q: Is it heavy when you have the Telmarine gear on?
Isis: When you have the whole gear on, it can get heavy. Not nearly as heavy as it would be if it had been metal. A Costume designer’s job is to make the actors feel the part. If you make it too easy, if you loosen the corset or don’t put enough weight, they’re going to move around like they’re dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, and that’s certainly not going to help the look of the film. There are constrictions to everything we wear. When Miraz gets all his armor on and he needs to be boosted up on a horse, believe me, if he had real armor on, he’d need a crane to get up on that horse, which sometimes they did. So it kinda helps take you to where you need to go. We’re more worried about the heat than the weight. We have to make sure we can get somebody out of this in about 3-4 minutes, which we can. Because in 3-4 minutes, somebody is going to faint. Part of the design job too is to make things movie-friendly. So we need to be able in 5 minutes max get somebody out of this so they can cool off.
Q: Will any of the army be created with digital effects?
Isis: Oh yeah, we’ll multiply it certainly, yeah. There’s only 300 here; it’ll be an army of 5,000. On LWW, I remember saying ‘okay, how many ogres do we have? We’re going to design 15 and do different bits and pieces to them, but at the end of the day, how many will there be? There’ll be like 800.’ So eventually, when you design CG characters, which I really didn’t have to do on this one, you want to give it variety so it doesn’t have that stamp of multiplication. I learned that from Shrek.
Q: Does that figure into your designs, what can we rendered in the computer?
Isis: Absolutely. Well, almost anything can be rendered into the computer. That was a big issue when we did Shrek 1: what they had the time to render. Now, the technology is so beyond that, and so much better. I saw a preview for Shrek 3 and I thought, ‘oh they make me look bad!’ They can pick up their dresses and have big sleeves, and I could never do that before. Or, I could but they wouldn’t let me because it was too many hours to render. But with the new technology, it’s amazing what they have come up with in ten years.
On Working with Andrew Adamson:
Isis: Working with Andrew is always great. He’s always calm and focused. He may be late to every meeting (laughs), but when he gets there, he’s yours. Which is better than getting somebody’s half-attention. We work very closely together. He gives me a lot of freedom and he expects me to bring it to the table. But he’s a wonderful editor and he can elaborate on what he’s trying to get across, which is what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear what color button to put on something, I just want to know who these people are and what you’re doing with them. Why is Caspian like this or where is Edmund going? Where do we want to lead them into the next story?
Isis (cont.): If the sleeves are really big on one guy, he might say ‘it’s too romantic for me.’ And then I know I need to tone it down. Because if he doesn’t want this person to feel romantic at that moment, we need to take it somewhere else. And that’s the kind of direction that a costume designer loves to get, because we’re all trying to tell the same story and help the actor do the same thing. If I put the actor in this big romantic thing and Andrew doesn’t want it to be that way, it’s partly my fault.
Isis (cont.): I’ve worked with Andrew for about ten years now. Shrek 1, Shrek 2, LWW, and now this. So we’re very good friends as well as work collaborators. And, Andrew is one of the smartest people I know. You find directors who maybe know about one thing; they’re stronger about the camera, or they’re stronger about story, or they’re stronger visually. Andrew is just strong on all levels. I’ll show him a fitting picture, and he’ll say “well, what if you moved the buttons over here or did this.” Believe me, he can’t dress himself (laughter), but he gets it and he sees it, and we go, ‘oh wow, that really works.’ I’m almost embarrassed, you know, because I’m the expert. So it’s really fantastic because he is constantly thinking about story, which is my big thing too. I don’t need to make a pretty picture, I don’t need to make it all beautiful and show my stuff. I want the characters to look right, and that’s what he’s all about. We’ve just always had the same kind of sensibility and a bit of the same style and the same sense of color, which is really nice. The same with Roger Ford (production designer) and Kerrie (set decorator). We’ve been lucky enough that, when we don’t even talk to each other sometimes, we put it together and say ‘oh that makes sense.’ It all kinda works the same, the same level of tonality in the film. And once we get started, then we’re all on a roll. Visually, it’s all coming together.
And, that’s it for Report #4. I am both sad and excited to say that there is only one more set report to go! As always, I’m looking forward to reading your reactions in the forum. To be concluded…
Other Set Reports: IGN.com