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Oscars 2013: A tale of two costume designers

January 10, 2013|By Chris Lee
  • Charlize Theron as the evil queen in "Snow White and the Huntsman."
Charlize Theron as the evil queen in "Snow White and the Huntsman." (Alex Bailey )

Two costume designers. Two ends of the spectrum. Two totally different Oscar experiences.

On Thursday morning, Joanna Johnston landed her first Academy Award nomination for her costuming work on Steven Spielberg’s period biopic “Lincoln.” Colleen Atwood, meanwhile, picked up her 10th Oscar nod – on the heels of three previous Oscar wins – for her efforts outfitting nearly 3,000 actors on the fairy-tale thriller “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

For her part, Johnston was feeling “woolly” on nominations morning, having flown to Los Angeles from London the night before, only to discover the movie she was planning to work on next — Spielberg’s sci-fi epic “Roboapocalypse” — had halted production plans because the director felt it was becoming too expensive to produce.

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Just as she was trying to digest that bad news and regroup, she learned of her nomination.

“I’m kind of having an out-of-body experience,” Johnston said. “Life’s a roller coaster.”

Her costume designs — based on meticulous photographic research Johnston conducted to discover how Washington politicians dressed in 1865 — will also go up against Jacqueline Durran’s for “Anna Karenina,” Paco Delgado’s costumes for “Les Misérables” and Eiko Ishioka’s work on “Mirror Mirror.”

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Atwood was in downtown Los Angeles’ garment district hunting for fabric samples when she received notification of her latest Oscar nod. The designer previously took home golden statuettes for her work on 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” in 2005 and “Chicago” in 2002.

She described her efforts for “Snow White and the Huntsman” as being in the service of a “darkish fantasy fairy tale with a little bit of edge to it.”

“The film is loosely set in 10th to 12th century,” Atwood said. “When you break it down, it’s a very modern, incredibly minimal design. I was able to look at those centuries as filtered through the history of fairy tales — in the '20s, the '40s, how each generation interpreted the fairy tale. It gave me the palette for the film.”

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Portraying an evil queen with dark magical powers in the film, costar Charlize Theron allowed the costumer to help define her character through her spiky fashion sense.

“The vibe with Charlize was really edgy,” said Atwood. “She was up for being incredibly wicked. It was a designer’s dream.”


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