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

Robin Hood
Ridley Scott

Body of Lies
Ridley Scott

American Gangster
Ridley Scott

Miami Vice
Michael Mann

Kingdom of Heaven
Ridley Scott

Irwin Winkler

Charlotte Gray
Gillian Armstrong

Enemy at the Gates
Jean-Jacques Annaud

Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott

With or Without You
Michael Winterbottom

Plunkett & Macleane
Jake Scott

Welcome to Sarajevo
Michael Winterbottom

The Man Who Knew Too Little
Jon Amiel

Michael Winterbottom

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
Christopher Monger

Bad Behaviour
Les Blair

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

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Vitalina Varela

    Locarno Film Review: 'Vitalina Varela'

    Frequently beautiful compositions and the theatrical use of a fierce kind of artifice have long been the hallmarks of Portuguese auteur Pedro Costa, regarded by a small but influential group of aesthetes as one of the great filmmakers of our era. For those in tune with his vision, the director’s films offer an exciting lesson [...]

  • Notre dame

    Locarno Film Review: 'Notre dame'

    Not to be too cynical about it, but might the recent horrific fire in Paris’ cathedral attract audiences to a film in which the gothic gem plays a major role? It’s likely a wiser marketing strategy than promoting the unrelenting silliness of Valerie Donzelli’s oh-so-kooky comedy “Notre dame,” the writer-director-star’s return to contemporary Paris following [...]

  • Joachim Trier

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • Cat in the Wall Movie Sarajevo

    Sarajevo Film Festival Builds Bridges Through Art

    Rising from the rubble of the Bosnian War to become one of Southeastern Europe’s leading film and TV industry events, the Sarajevo Film Festival has plenty to celebrate as it marks its 25th edition this year. The festival was established in 1995 during the four-year siege of Sarajevo as part of an effort to help [...]

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

  • Patricia Louisiana Knop Dead: Screenwriter Was

    Screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop Dies at 78

    Screenwriter Patricia Louisianna Knop, who collaborated with her producer-director husband Zalman King on erotically-charged films of the late 1980s and 1990s including “Siesta” and “9 1/2 Weeks,” died Aug. 7 in Santa Monica after a lengthy illness. “9 1/2 Weeks,” starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, was directed by Adrian Lyne, co-produced by King and [...]


    How 'Blinded by the Light' Brought Bruce Springsteen's Music to the Screen for a Song

    Blinded by the Light co-writer/director Gurinder Chadha knows firsthand what it feels like to be an outsider. Born in Kenya when the country was a British colony, she grew up part of the Indian/Asian diaspora who made their way from East Africa to London. For that reason, the 59-year-old’s movies has always dealt with the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content