Costume Designers Guild Awards: “Birdman,” “Grand Budapest,” “Into the Woods” Top Films

"American Horror Story," "Game of Thrones," "True Detective" take TV honors

Costume Designers honor"Birdman," "Grand Budapest," "Into the Woods"

UPDATED 11:34 p.m. The Costume Designers Guild Awards may come too late to influence the Oscars race, but they managed to confirm what already seems to be clear: “Birdman” is the film to beat.

Albert Wolsky won the contemporary film category for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s backstage tale, while legends Colleen Atwood and Milena Canonero took prizes for “Into the Woods” (fantasy film) and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (period film).

“Birdman” has a broad swath of awards support from numerous guilds, but “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is hot on its heels among design orgs.

In the TV categories, oft-honored “American Horror Story: Freak Show” took honors for made-for/miniseries. “True Detective” was honored as top contemporary TV series, and Michele Clapton won for “Game of Thrones” in the period/fantasy TV series category.

Colleen Atwood, winner for “Into the Woods” in the fantasy film category, recounted a fitting the day before where an actor was complaining in front of the mirror, saying “I was thinking it would be more colorful.”

“I told him ‘I was thinking it would be for a 32-inch waist, not a 38,’” she said, sending the aud into a roar of laughter — and approval. But she also thanked her director Rob Marshall for making her feel appreciated and valued on the film — something that doesn’t always happen.

Harrison Ford gave a heartfelt presentation of San Francisco-based designer Aggie Guerard Rodgers, the 2015 career achievement honoree, with whom he did five films. He quoted her saying “I am very interested in the common man.”

“As a common man, I am very glad for that interest,” said Ford. “She said ‘My movies do look like me.’ So it’s not surprising her movies have such genuine beauty and resonance.”

Ford recounted how on “The Conversation,” he didn’t get the part he auditioned for, but Francis Coppola wrote in a part of “Young Man” for him, with two scenes. “Aggie and I conspired to put me in a $900 billiard green Brioni suit and a $500 pair of fancy-ass Italian shoes.” On set, Coppola asked to see him in his costume. “Francis looked at his investment,” said Ford, “And I had four more scenes.”

“That’s what you people do,” he said. “You do what cannot be done.”

Receiving the Distinguished Collaborator Award, Richard Linklater said “I’m here as a director to tell all costume designers: We’re all pretty full of ourselves, we think we can do everything, but I don’t know one director who thinks he can be a costume designer. We’re in awe of your talents.” He finished with a thank you to his regular costume designer, Kari Perkins, noting that “Boyhood” was a period story that was contemporary when it was shot. “It’s a very inexpensive way to do a period piece,” he quipped. “You just shoot it and wait a long time.”

Deborah Nadoolman Landis received the inaugural Edith Head Award for the Advancement and Education of the Art of Costume Design. Her husband of 40 years, director John Landis, introduced her and recounted how in 1997 she invited a group of designers to their home and suggested an annual dinner for costume designers, reasoning costume designers rarely see each other and the event would build solidarity. That was the genesis of the CDGA Awards banquet.

Before the show, Deborah Landis told Variety she relished the chance to see old friends such as  “The Grand Budapest Hotel” designer Milena Canonero, who spends much of her time in Europe nowadays. Said Landis, “It’s really about having a drink and a good laugh with your friends and professional colleagues.”

At the podium, she thanked a long list of supporters and influencers, including “Angie Jones at the NBC costume department. who co-signed a car loan one week after I started because I’d be working somewhere in three years.” She reminded the gathering that Edith Head was a founder of the Guild, and said “When you are negotiating for your next project, be brave. Consider: What would Edith do?”

 Naomi Watts, Lacoste Spotlight honoree, was the last to the podium. “Just watching the clips,” she quipped, “I am really glad I have it in my contract I get to keep all the clothes. There are so many good outfits in there.” She recalled her mother sewing clothes at home, then becoming a costume designer herself. “That had to have fueled my passion to become an actress, because I saw it so close-up,” she said.

A complete list of winners appears below:

Excellence in Contemporary Film: Albert Wolsky, “Birdman”

Excellence in Period Film: Milena Canonero, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Excellence in Fantasy Film: Colleen Atwood, “Into the Woods”

Outstanding Contemporary TV Series: Jenny Eagan, “True Detective”

Outstanding Period/Fantasy TV Series: Michele Clapton, “Game of Thrones”

Outstanding Made-For or Mini:  Lou Eyrich, “American Horror Story: Freak Show”

Excellence in Commercial Costume Design: Christopher Lawrence, Army “Defy Expectations, Villagers”