Disney’s Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has just hit store shelves on Blu-ray, and to celebrate that, we had a chance to chat with Ellen Mirojnick, who worked as costume designer for the fantasy flick.
Take a look at our discussion below, and remember, the film is out on Blu-ray now!
LRM Online: Pretty exciting to talk about the film, Maleficent, and being in the involvement of costumes and all that sort of fun stuff that obviously us girls really enjoy watching and seeing, and being that fairytale dress-up.
Mirojnick: That fairytale magic.
LRM Online: Yes. There you go. You said it perfectly. Can you tell me how you even got started in that career field?
Mirojnick: Being a costume designer?
LRM Online: Correct. Yes, to leading on to projects like today.
Mirojnick: Well, I’d have to say that first, I got started by pure accident. I was first a ready-to-wear designer. I designed clothing. I did that for about seven years. I was at a point where I was a little bored. I needed the next challenge. My husband at that time was working on a film in New Orleans. I went to visit. They didn’t have a costume designer. They asked if I would do it and I said yes. I didn’t know what I was saying yes to, but that was the very, very beginning. It was a film that took place in 1913 in a poorhouse, actually, and was kind of funky and funny. It was just ridiculous, truthfully. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I jumped into the fire, did it all and I was bit by the bug. Here we are, many, many, many years later.
LRM Online: Well, that’s quite impressive. That is quite an accident, going from wedding gowns to now these dressing that are seen by millions of people. Not only that, but re-creating them in costumes, not to mention with little girls.
Mirojnick: It’s been a long time. I forget the past, but every now and then, it’s good to reflect on it, to see what things have remained the same, what things change, what things have made you grow, et cetera, and how different times and different experiences influence what you design today. It’s really, really thrilling to work on a film that young girls will see and possibly they might be influenced by not only what they see. Most importantly, what they feel and where they can … how they grow as a result or what influences they have. Is it the dress itself or is it the situations that the dress is working in? Is it the actress or is it the environment? All of those questions are really fascinating to me, and I love being able to participate in a field in a profession that has the ability to hopefully influence young people in a positive way.
LRM Online: Well, you touched on a good topic, which I was going to ask you about. In this case with Maleficent, how did you incorporate … You’re walking into a film where there was already a Maleficent before, so there were already some costumes. Did you have to use a little bit of those ideas? Because obviously, you can’t do a drastic change for these characters and their dresses. How did you use that as inspiration?
Mirojnick: Well, of course it starts from the very, very beginning and the characters were established. However, the difference with this film was that this film takes place five years later. For example, our Aurora has grown to be a young woman from a teenage girl. That’s a big difference. What stays the same is her palate, but that’s about it. The shape of her gown, the purpose of her gowns are very different than they were in the first film. She’s on a new journey, a new road. She’s been asked to marry the prince. She goes to the castle. There are other things that occur. Things that she never thought once would be … That she would be subject to. She’s involved in. There’s a resolve in the end that she really comes back to who she really is and who she wants to be as she moves forward in her life.
So that part is very different. Maleficent, on the other hand, Maleficent is a very, very strong character in our vocabulary, in our story. She’s one that has been set forth many, many years before, even if we go back to the animation. So there are rules that you don’t really draw outside the lines, but in the case of this story, Maleficent now has wings. Her wings travel through our entire story. The way in which her costumes are designed is totally different. We learn for the first time where she comes from. It’s her origin story and what she is vulnerable to and what her passions are and what she is born to do and what she’s born to fight for. It is a total evolution of what came before is to what we see now. It’s a total growth. It’s very inspiring in that respect, in that what you have known before is not … Don’t close your mind off to that, right? Keep it open because there’s a whole new story that’s about to evolve. So that was thrilling.
LRM Online: You know, that’s funny because you did mention that. The vulnerability in Maleficent’s character and then the dress is also … It’s just a simple dress. You’re right. You’re pointing that out so well, and I didn’t really think about that until now. I guess one of the things that we don’t really focus on, but yes. Now when I watch it again, I will be able to appreciate it a little better.
Mirojnick: Oh, good. Good, good, good. It’s a different time. It’s a different time. It’s a different place. It’s a different age. So you look at it with fresh eyes. I’m sure you’ll be able to experience that.
LRM Online: One of the newer characters, and I loved … Honestly, I think her dresses were my most favorite, were Queen Ingrid’s.
Mirojnick: Yes. Oh, and which was your favorite dress?
LRM Online: I love the one with the pearls. Pearls or beads. The white dress. Oh my gosh. That looked so beautiful.
Mirojnick: The first time you see her?
LRM Online: Is it? No, I don’t think that’s the first time. I think that’s towards the end, where she has-
Mirojnick: Oh, the battle dress.
LRM Online: Yes, that one. The battle. Yes, that one. It’s like, “Whoa.” The making of it, the start. So many layers of fabric. This fabric looks pretty thick. I’m wondering how heavy this dress was.
Mirojnick: It was heavy. It was heavy, but what you see of the dress is in the fabrication. The fabrication is woven, the way it looks. The reason why I chose it was that it looked as if it could be a woven metal because it was for a battle scene. It’s real fabric. It has a bit of metallic running through it, but that’s about it. Everything else has been layered on top of the dress to be able to feel as if it was armor that she goes into battle with.
LRM Online: Yeah. That’s a lovely dress. Also, the blue one. The blue one was spectacular.
Mirojnick: Oh, good. I’m so glad you like them.
LRM Online: Yes. I said I feel bad because I mean obviously, I should like the dresses that … Everything from Maleficent to Aurora, but for me, Queen Ingrid, she was just rocking those dresses.
Mirojnick: She rocked it. She rocked it. She really did, but you know what? She was a character written to be able to do like that. She wasn’t a poor queen in the forest. She was the queen of a very, very vibrant, bubbling village … I mean, kingdom that wanted everything for herself. She had great drive and ambition to capture it all.
LRM Online: That’s true.
Mirojnick: She just wore it all at the same time.
LRM Online: Which ones would you think of the whole film … your maybe top two that you would just really endured, enjoyed the making of it? If it’s okay to say if you had two favorites.
Mirojnick: Sure. Well actually, two favorites that I have are Queen Ingrid’s. One is the battle dress that we just spoke of, and the other one was actually the first dress that she appears in because I loved the yoke of pearls that … There’s a pearl necklace and there’s a pearl yoke. It all merged into one. It was just so pretty and so poised and so elegant and unpredictable to what was about to become.
LRM Online: I see. I see what you’re saying. It’s funny because for the battlefield dress, it has a little bit of her. That was her signature … you know, with that dress. That’s so true.
Mirojnick: But I loved those two. I love those two.
LRM Online: So we both have the same favorite costumes. I imagine you were also involved with the men’s. A little more-
Mirojnick: Yes. Involved with everyone.
LRM Online: Less low-key. How was that? Working with all the gentlemen outfits.
Mirojnick: Everything was really, really sensational. I think that it is … With the design of film of this nature is just thrilling because you can set yourself in a time and a place that is so different than where you really are. So your imagination runs wild. When you have men that are so willing and able to wear what the costumes need to be, it’s really … It’s great because everybody is up for the adventure. Everybody was up for this adventure and I think everybody had a great time.
LRM Online: Well, yes. Definitely. We had a great time watching all the costumes, of course. I do want to say, you did work on one of my favorite films, The Greatest Showman, which I think-
Mirojnick: Oh, thank you.
LRM Online: Yes. Talk about creativity, because that one, I have to say, I bow, because that was pretty impressive. I mean, you’re talking about a whole show type of outfit.
Mirojnick: Yeah. I love that film. I really, really love that film and it was great to be able to design that film. It is an absolute favorite. It will live in my heart forever. I’m glad that you love it, too.
LRM Online: I did. It is one of my favorites.
Mirojnick: I can watch it every day and it becomes … It makes me happy.
LRM Online: Yes, I was going to say that.
Mirojnick: I listen to the score and it makes me happy. It’s wonderful imagery just as it is with Maleficent. It’s great imagery to look at and feel, even though there are things that might be a little disturbing that happen. There’s a really, really lovely story that goes along with it and that of love, and love of family and bringing people together, and not being separate at all. You know, and not divisive at all.
LRM Online: Yeah. Yeah, no, yes. To finalize, if I may ask, are you by any chance working on Cinderella?
LRM Online: Yay!
Mirojnick: Yes I am, but it’s a revision of Cinderella. It is a whole new story. It’s an adaptation that also allows Cinderella to become a woman of the 21st century. She’s now independent. I won’t tell you what the story is exactly, but it is a revision of Cinderella. That’s what I can tell you. It’s one that is a total musical. It’s music and dancing. It isn’t the same as the one that was the Rodgers and Hammerstein one or the one that I did, which was also Rodgers and Hammerstein one with Brandy and Whitney Houston. This one is different music, full music, full musical, dancing, and telling of a different type of story. They have a different outcome in this version of Cinderella.
LRM Online: Well, this is great. You said it’s a musical. I mean, I’m excited for that. I really enjoy musicals. That’s one of the reasons why The Greatest Showman is one of my favorite musicals-
Mirojnick: Thank you.
LRM Online: … that’s been out in the few past years, so yes. Looking forward to that.
Mirojnick: I as well. That’s why I’m doing it. That is why I’m doing it. We have a great fairy godmother in Billy Porter, so I’m very excited.
LRM Online: That’s awesome. Well, congratulations. I mean, you have quite a package there
Mirojnick: Thank you.
LRM Online: All right. Well, thank you so much for your time, and you have a great holidays, and wish you lots of luck for 2020.
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is out on Blu-ray now!
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