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Janty Yates: The future offered new challenges

Billion-Dollar Production Team: 'Prometheus' - The costume designer

Having worked on such varied Ridley Scott films as “Gladiator” (which won her the Oscar), “Robin Hood,” “American Gangster” “Hannibal” and “Kingdom of Heaven,” costume designer Janty Yates has thoroughly immersed herself in periods ranging from ancient Rome to the recent past. But fast-forwarding to the future, where there are no historical precedents, and designing for “Prometheus,” set in 2080, “was a huge challenge — especially as I had been in the Middle Ages for so long,” she says. “It was imperative to find a never-before-seen look and Ridley was especially keen to avoid the obvious puffy NASA spacesuit look. We wanted to show that in 68 years’ time, all the suit functions would be integral in each body suit.” With this brief, the spacesuits were designed intentionally, “with absolutely no connection to ‘Alien,’ ” she says. The off-duty civilian look was kept more casual. “Ridley did not want to go down the road of the ‘Star Trek’ on-board uniforms.”

Helmet design presented Yates and her team with another challenge. “Ridley requested video monitors embedded into the helmet interior, and we succeeded in implanting 11 working monitors in the helmet base and in the dome,” she says. “Also, on the planet, the actors were sometimes only lit by us, overseen, of course, by d.p. Dariusz Wolski. We installed thousands of LED lights into each helmet, as well as two huge battery-run air pumps to stop condensation and allow the actors to breathe easily, plus the skull caps that carried sound recording equipment and microphones enabling the actors to communicate with Ridley and each other.”

Later in the shoot, the team also installed the smallest HD cameras available on top of each helmet, enabling Scott and editor Pietro Scalia to have each of the actor’s p.o.v.

While designing the Perspex helmet domes, Yates and her team cast more than 50 prototypes “before we got to Ridley’s ideal shape,” she recalls. “He required that the dome be approximately the shape of an egg. We ultimately achieved this, but due to torsion and cross-tension many domes exploded or shattered, filling many a workman’s skip and causing sleepless nights for some of the team.”

Yates says that “huge attention” needed to be paid to the design of the armor and the lines of non-extension: “These are the natural body lines that one must follow when building armor — otherwise, movement is inhibited,” she says. “To wear any armor created without taking these into consideration would make any movement impossible, especially running, fighting and tumbling, even lifting an arm or turning the head. Concept art is wonderful — the hard part is making it work.”

The team also spent considerable time sourcing body suit materials. “The body tubes had to be functional, bendable and aesthetically appealing — something that was not sourced overnight,” she says. “We went through many color combinations during the process and ended up sourcing from Taiwan.”

Although gloves are usually considered accessories, “ours were definitely not,” Yates adds. “There were working video monitors in the cuff-guard, plus each joint section was manually applied, making 32 per pair, with a minimum of four pairs per actor and all their stunt doubles” — a total of around 3,500.

“We were fortunate to have our (very patient) lead actress Noomi Rapace with us for many fittings,” sums up Yates. “She went through all the changes with us, including changes of color combinations, and was enthusiastic and cheerful throughout. In fact, all the actors were exceptionally patient — each fitting being several hours. I think it’s fair to say that once we had fitted the spacesuits on each actor they all seemed happy to wear them for the long periods of time required with the minimum of discomfort — the comfort of actors always being a huge requisite in my world.”


Janty Yates, Costume Designer

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Billion-Dollar Production Team: “Prometheus”
Great Scott’s go-to crew
The production designer | The cinematographer | The cosutme designer | The editor