'The Danish Girl': Tom Hooper on
Courtesy of Universal

Director Tom Hooper and his team of artisans on “The Danish Girl” created a rich-looking period film on a budget of only $15 million. The Focus Features pic tells the love story of Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), who becomes  Lili Elbe, and spouse Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), from 1926 to 1931. Hooper spoke with Variety about his collaborators.

Costumes: Paco Delgado

“Paco had worked a lot with Pedro Almodovar, and he had experience looking at gender fluidity through costumes. Eddie had many conversations with trans women, and some said they had a hyper-feminization at the beginning, where they over-reached and became too feminine, before they had the confidence to be true to who they really are. Paco took that note and used it brilliantly. He was also clever with Alicia; there was gender fluidity to both characters.”

Production Design: Eve Stewart

“She had the idea of using a series of rooms in each set, to give the characters a perspective: ‘I’m in this room, but I wish I were in the other room.’ There’s something teasing about that distance. For the Paris scenes, we wanted art nouveau — that movement was about the rejection of masculine culture and straight lines — to embrace feminine forms, with florid explosions of color.”

“Paco Delgado was also clever with Alicia (Vikander). There was fluidity to both characters.”
Tom Hooper

Cinematography: Danny Cohen

“We were inspired by Danish painter (Vilhelm) Hammershoi, who painted figures in austere blue-gray color tones. And we tried to capture the quality of Scandinavian light. Danny thought it would be compassionate as we try to find Lili. We did a dance of collusion. When Lili feels like she’s blending in, or when she feels like she’s failing, there were subtle differences in light changes and camera heights. Women tend to be slightly smaller than men, so cameras often look up at men, down at women. If we put the camera slightly higher than Eddie, it brings out a femininity.”

Hair/Makeup: Jan Sewell

“Jan had a close collaboration with Eddie. He had copies of her continuity photos, and would consult them to see where he had been and where he was going. Seven months before the shoot, we did our first screen test. We photographed Lili with a tiny bit of makeup and no wigs, and Lili felt powerfully present, in a simple way. There was a lesson there. As a result, the film goes through a journey; at the end, Lili goes back to her own hair, the body language becomes simpler; that came from the tests.”

Editor: Melanie Oliver

“She’s consistently underrated because she makes her work look invisible. She’s a great storytelling partner. Her choice of takes is excellent, and she has the ability to tell you things you don’t want to hear, but in a compassionate way. Performances can gain hugely by smart, intuitive editing. Eddie and Alicia have been very clear on how grateful they are.”

Music: Alexandre Desplat

“When Einar puts on the stocking and holds the dress, the music at first was dark and troubling. It was great, but we thought, ‘What is that saying about discovering your true self?’ The music needed to balance anxiety with hope. That moment was the opening of the door to Lili’s authentic self, but also about how to get through that door when people won’t accept it. Alexandre added the beauty of the moment, the sensuality of the fabrics, the discovery of her authentic self. Eddie was balancing those two forces — pain and joy — and that became the direction of Alexandre’s score. He also wanted the score to convey that sense of drive and inevitable emergence. He rose to the occasion, as he always does.”

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