The fingerprints of a multi-talented Hong Kong-born artist are all over Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster.” Not only did William Chang design the costumes (for which he’s Oscar nominated), but he was also the production designer and editor on the martial-arts pic.
It was an epic production, says Chang. “I worked on it four years; we made over 1,000 costumes with a team of 30.” He juggled another team of 80 in the production design department that created 15 complex sets that were combined with locations in Manchuria, Kaiping and throughout China. “This was the first time I’d worked in this period, which spans the 1920s and ’30s in China, through to the ’50s in Hong Kong, so we had to do a lot of research to get all the details right,” says Chang, who first teamed with Wong in 1988 on “As Tears Go By.”
To this end, he and Wong studied archival photographs and documentaries. “We wanted every button, every ribbon, every piece of embroidery and lace, every type of fabric to be completely authentic. For instance, the fabric and materials they use in the north are very different from the ones in the south.”
The team also spent months traveling in China studying architecture and collecting material for the massive shoot, which took three years to complete. Wong “doesn’t work with a finished script, but we had the whole storyline and look of the film mapped out ahead,” says Chang, who began editing the film during a nine-month break in principal photography. “Costume and production design and editing are all closely linked for me,” he adds.