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HOW'D THEY DO THAT?

Costume designer Julie Weiss takes the Olympics over the top with crystals and color in 'Blades of Glory.'

February 11, 2007|Sheigh Crabtree | Special to The Times

JULIE WEISS has a bad case of post-Swarovski-crystal stress disorder. Her fashion affliction is apparent as soon as you walk into her tiny design studio near the Santa Monica Airport.

The two-time Oscar-nominated costume designer offers up crackers dressed with generous swatches of Camembert cheese.

"Just be careful there isn't a stone in there," she says.

Next to a rack of Weiss' Lycra skate costumes is a speckled cheese plate. The glistening red pomegranate seeds turn out to be shimmering red crystals. Now relegated to a bedazzled tablescape, these are the stragglers that failed to adhere to Will Ferrell's skin-tight jumpsuit, in which he performs as "fire" to Jon Heder's "ice" in DreamWorks' upcoming "Blades of Glory," opening March 30.

Prior to landing directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon's Olympic ice skater comedy, Weiss' costumes were more demure. She's the designer behind wardrobes on HBO's Emmy-nominated "Mrs. Harris," as well as "Hollywoodland" and "Bobby" -- all brimming with period-perfect suits and dresses.

"I love gray wool," Weiss says. "But along the way I forgot how to laugh."

With "Blades of Glory," she jumps from tweeds to spandex spacesuits. And then there's Amy Poehler, who spirals as a candy-floss chandelier, while Heder twizzles in a peacock costume.

Weiss lifts from the rack two white Lycra jumpsuits seen in the movie's electrified finale. They're a visual mash-up of Tron, Los Angeles Lakers warm-up suits and the Jacksons' 1984 Victory Tour. The pearlescent stretch bodies are individually hand-stoned with crystals and tiny battery-powered LED lights, all offset by enormous purple-and-gold belts.

The fabric is outlined with purple silk-screened patterns that recall circuitry, subway maps or, Weiss suggests, our central nervous systems.

"The ganglia is everywhere. Everything is interconnected."

Mind you, some of the cell bodies that trigger our sensory nerves and tickle our funny bones are tough to track down. Weiss combed the globe for a rainbow of 21,000 individual crystals. Each actor had two versions of an outfit. Weiss also dressed skating doubles, stunt doubles and stunt specialists, such as the two Romanian barrel jumpers imported for one scene. Every one of those outfits was hot-glued with stones for a super-prism effect.

"You could say we caused a global crystal crisis," she says, laughing. "We bought ourselves out ... completely depleted our supplies."

In a panicky moment this summer, Weiss rushed to see a vendor in downtown Los Angeles. He apologized but told her she couldn't have the Prussian blue stones fresh from Eastern Europe because he had just earmarked them for a "very aggressive lady" on the phone. (Weiss was that lady.)

"I lost track. The crystals were everywhere. My shag carpet was glowing, you wake up with indentations in your arms," Weiss says.

One of the most elaborate constructions is Heder's peacock jumpsuit made from 10 fabrics, crystal mesh and chiffon embroidered with vintage sequins and feathers from Bob Mackie and Ray Aghayan's legendary shop.

Perhaps even sillier than her themed, Ice Capades-inspired costumes is Ferrell's streetwear. Sourced from Santee Alley and the dregs of Santa Monica Boulevard, Ferrell's casual clothes consist of clashing pleather reptile patterns, knockoff Harley Davidson boots and a leather jacket that looks like an armadillo that lost its way on the interstate.

"You see these clothes and they say to you, 'Couldn't you just give me a chance?' " Weiss says. "Will Ferrell wears them as if he's in a Porsche."

This is true of the movie's comedic ensemble overall, which, Weiss says, pumped up the costumes and made them their own.

"They all found that place to jump from in their imagination and land in reality," Weiss says. "That is what you beg for as a costume designer."

*

On the Web

For a video interview with Julie Weiss, go to latimes.com/blades.

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