LRM Exclusive Interview: Costume Designer Colleen Atwood for THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR

– by Gig Patta

With over three decades of costume design more, award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood is making more and more beautiful costumes for the big budget studio projects.

One of the latest projects is with this week’s Blu-ray release with THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR, which she is involved in all of the costumes from the multiple costumes worn by Emily Blunt, the hunter’s costumes of Jessica Chastain and Chris Hemsworth and to the glorious golden dress worn by Charlize Theron.

LRM had an exclusive phone interview with Atwood earlier this month to discuss her approach and difficulties with this wondrous project.

THE HUNTSMAND: WINTER’S WAR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.

Read the full transcript below.

LRM: I wanted to let you know that the costumes in the movie is absolutely—beautiful.

Colleen Atwood: Thank you. We had a lot of fun making them.

LRM: What are some of influences you had to draw from to make these costumes different from the previous movie?

Colleen Atwood: It took place in a more northern frozen world. I did a bit of northern tribal research for the colors that are influenced by winter. With Charlize’s character, since she came out of the mirror—I used more of the gold vibe for her costumes throughout the movie. It’s mainly the northern European influences probably around the 12th century. It’s being influenced by tribal people, which was the starting point from there.

LRM: Which types of costumes do you find the most challenging for the cast? Was it Charlize’s, Emily’s or was it the Huntsmen themselves?

Colleen Atwood: Jessica did a lot of her stuntwork. Her costume was challenging in a sense, because they had to function in really difficult ways. She did a lot in the costumes. For most, it’s easy for the other actors. However, we anticipated Jessica wanted to do a lot of that stuff. It had to really work well for her for the [stunts].

With Charlize’s and Emily’s costumes, the thing that was interesting was to create these really strong woman characters in their costume. So it’s a juxtaposition with Jessica as another strong third character as far for the women. That was a good challenge.

LRM: Were these costumes kind of time consuming? It looks like Emily’s and Charlize’s seem to be very detailed and meticulous.

Colleen Atwood: All costumes are very time consuming. Some more than others. The dress that Charlize wore to come out of the mirror took three people about two weeks to make. Emily’s final costume, in which she wore in the final battle, took four people in three weeks to make.

So when you start adding all the hours on those costumes, they are a lot of hours of labor. It’s very time consuming.

LRM: How many costumes were there for Emily? It seems like she changed wardrobe quite a bit throughout the entire movie.

Colleen Atwood: She had a lot of changes. She had the most changes out of anybody. She had about 23 or 24 changes—which I don’t remember exactly. It includes all the nightgowns and throwaway stuff. That’s a lot of clothes.

LRM: Indeed. That’s a lot of clothes. Of course, we can’t forget all the armor that the different soldiers had to wear. Was there any type of influences there and try to make something that wasn’t seen in any fantasy movies before?

Colleen Atwood: Most definitely. I definitely wanted to make them different. For example, Freya’s animal is the owl. So I wanted to make her helmet to not look like a normal helmet. I came up with this idea to make the helmet look like an own from far away. So it looks like an owl’s head with two pointy things. It was very basic. It was made out of leather and metal together. I ended up really liking it.

As for the armor, it was based on a picture I’ve seen as a northern set of armor. I’ve made it a little sculptural, which the picture looked like leather wrapped around someone’s body. It’ll look really crappy if you made it for film. We took the influences of that and refined it so it could really work for action in this movie.

LRM: So when you designed these costumes—what comes in mind first—the practicality or the look?

Colleen Atwood: First the look. Then making the look functional.

LRM: Do you have a favorite costume you worked on during this project or was the most fun for you?

Colleen Atwood: I really liked Freya’s mirror dress. It’s the leather dress she comes out with.

LRM: You have a long illustrious career to this point by working on big budget films and winning award. What types of costumes do you enjoy the most in making? Is it in a fantasy setting, sci-fi, or modern setting?

Colleen Atwood: I think what I like is what’s at the moment in that time. You never know what you’re going to be hit with next. The thing that’s fun about it is that you don’t just doing the same thing over and over again. That’s what I love about my work.

LRM: Could you talk about some of your upcoming projects that our readers would love to know?

Colleen Atwood: I have two movies that are coming out later this year. One of them is MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN in September, which has a wonderful story based on the book. It’s very quirky and very magical. I also have FANTASTIC BEASTS, which comes out in November. It’s the J.K. Rowling film. It’s the first movie she has ever written. The costumes and sets are just unbelievable. They are great projects. I feel good about the stuff I’ve been working on.

And then, I’m doing DUMBO next with Tim Burton. It’s a human circus story set in the 1890s backdrop.

LRM: Wow! Those are some pretty awesome projects. Let me wrap this up with one last question—is this a hard business to actually get into? I’m just curious.

Colleen Atwood: I think if you have the qualifications and you work hard at it. There is a lot of work out there with all the new digital media shows and indie projects. They’re a different span of work. However, trying to get on a movie like the movies I am working on are a little more difficult, because the level of experience is pretty high. It tends to be harder to get on those big studio films.

But, there’s definitely a lot of work out there. Of course, it does depend on where you live. You have to live somewhere where those jobs are available. [Laughter] Then again, you probably could be anywhere since people make so much stuff—it’s amazing!

LRM: That is true. It’s been a pleasure. I love all of your work, Colleen.

Colleen Atwood: Thank you.

THE HUNTSMAND: WINTER’S WAR is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download today.

Source: LRM Exclusiv

Interviews, LRM Exclusives, Film Colleen Atwood, The Huntsman: Winter's War