Those who have seen Janty Yates’ work with Ridley Scott in period epics like “Gladiator” and “Kingdom of Heaven” know they can expect a feast for the eyes that’s grounded in research, but also offers what she calls “a little twist.” Translation? A bit of extra sheen in a metal breastplate, or, in the case of Scott’s biblical saga, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” dressing Joel Edgerton’s Ramses entirely in gold, or making T-shaped garments for the plebes that look, in Yates’ parlance, “quite hot.”
Hollywood’s depiction of Ancient Egypt has always caused costume designers to bring out their A-game (think both “Cleopatras,” 1934 and 1963, respectively), and almost 60 years after “The Ten Commandments,” Yates oversaw a veritable army of artisans, from a factory in Morocco that made leather goods to an Italian jeweler based in France.
“The jewelry on ‘Exodus’ was a big deal,” Yates says. “Everyone wore about 15 pieces: headresses, pectorals, bracelets, upper arms, multiple rings, the belts — what we call the aprons.”
In all, she supervised about 7,500 costumes. The intent was to dazzle. “The Egyptian courts were shimmeringly stunning,” she says. And when things didn’t quite measure up, Scott gave them that extra “little twist.”
“When we first dressed (Sigourney Weaver’s Queen Tuya),” Yates recalls, “Ridley said, ‘I just want her to be a little more of a man-eater.’”