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Creating the Look: ‘Defiance’

Jenny Beavan recreates attire of Jewish partisans

For costume designer Jenny Beavan, her work always starts the same way.

“Everything I do is based on the script and the story,” Beavan says. “I absorb myself in research and talk to the director about how to tell the story through what the characters are wearing.”

For “Defiance,” that meant conveying through their costumes the struggles of a group of Jews who lived in the forest during the Holocaust.

Beavan says working with helmer Edward Zwick was special because he had a clear idea of the story he wanted to tell. She was able to work with the actors for a few weeks before filming.

“In this film, the characters live with nothing, so their costumes have to show how they cope with that,” says Beavan, who made six of each costume since the actors were involved in so much physical action. “You have to have a certain amount done up front, but things evolve during the course of shooting because you become inspired by something, so we were still tweaking everything until it was just right.”

Beavan, now at work on Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” focuses on the fundamentals when things get hectic on set. “I’m a storyteller and part of a team,” she says. “You have to stay organized and be supportive of the people you’re working with because then it all falls into place.”