×

David O. Russell, Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson Dish on Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘Joy’

Costume designer Michael Wilkinson and director David O. Russell revived ‘70s style with “American Hustle,” scoring respective Oscar noms in the process. For their next collaboration, they ambitiously chart a woman’s evolution from college student to matriarch over 30 years — and by way of 45 costume changes — in “Joy,” out Dec. 25.

How did you begin working together?

David O. Russell: Michael was brought in on “American Hustle” and had an amazing vision and passion for what we wanted to do together. … He’s not only very bold and creative, but he’s also very collaborative and kind and enthusiastic and that all shows in the work.

Michael Wilkinson: My agent had set up a meeting with David at the Greenwich Hotel in New York. Within two minutes of talking, I realized that we shared the same passion for characters. … It became apparent very quickly that, although we’re from different backgrounds, David and I speak the same language.

Why are you such a good team?

Popular on Variety

DOR: We are both willing to try many, many things in pursuit of the right vision, and we both get excited about that vision.

MW: David has a way of drawing a level of work out of his collaborators that is totally unexpected and original. We both share an attention to detail; with David, any accessory — right down to a character’s socks — might be featured in a shot. He shoots in 360 degrees, so there are no shortcuts to be made, no phoniness.

What are some personal highlights from your projects?

DOR: I loved creating Christian Bale’s character’s look. In “American Hustle,” (he and Amy Adams’ character) get to play dress-up, in a way. In the dry cleaners, with Edith and Irving, they try different clothes on, which is what they’re doing with their lives — they try different lives on with their souls.

MW: I particularly enjoyed creating Amy Adams’ look with David. It was wonderful to explore the new, liberating spirit in the clothes for American women in the late 1970s. We wanted to reflect the sense that Amy’s character Sydney was constantly treading the fine line between supreme confidence and fragile vulnerability. With her low-cut, body-hugging costumes, she’s out on a limb, with very little between her and the world, in an emotionally raw, dangerous and exciting space.

Why was fashion such an integral part of “American Hustle,” and how did you see the film impact the fashion world?

DOR: The movie is about people and how they love the people around them, their clothes and their lives, or how they wish to love their lives. And that made them very exuberant, daring people in a fashion sense. They’re embracing their roles in life with great flair. Diane von Furstenberg embraced the film, featured it in her store windows and did an interview about our lives and our work in The New York Times Style section. I ended up going to the Met costume ball as a result, which I had previously been to in my youth as a bartender.

MW: David and I wanted the characters to use their costumes as a part of their “hustle.” Each actor was constantly reinventing themselves in their fight for survival, and dressed as the person that they aspired to be — characters playing characters. … The late 1970s was such an exuberant and expressive period for clothes. It was an era when ideas were big; people lived large, took risks and didn’t give a damn.

What was your vision for the costumes in “Joy”?

DOR: To tell a story about four generations of a family across three decades, and a girl who comes to be the power of the center of it. That’s a lot of evolution across multiple worlds, from the truck-metal garage, to the mother’s soap opera, to the unemployed Latin singer/ex-husband, to a cable television station Bradley Cooper’s character is starting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

MW: We approached “Joy” as a timeless fable — an allegory about a woman’s journey to self-discovery and self-empowerment. … With the costumes, we made choices that are timeless and classic — sturdy, “honest” pieces that have an effortless beauty to them. … We were very specific with our palette — we strove to create a luminous effect by limiting colors, the way you would do for a black and white film. We used the full spectrum of grey tones and warm, neutral earth tones — choosing tones that contrast for an impactful, graphic quality. We studied the world of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper, and were inspired by the way they found both richness and isolation within the everyday world; we sought to capture some of this contradictory tone in “Joy.”

How do you collaborate on creating a character?

DOR: Jennifer Lawrence’s character goes from when she’s 10-years-old to 40-years-old; you have to think about what she’s going to look like as she evolves. Her age is changing and her hair is changing, and [her] personality is staying the same but getting more mature and more powerful.

MW: For “Joy,” we were inspired by a wide array of daring women. David’s characters live large, impassioned lives — they’re wildly imaginative and wholly unique, and so I always want their clothes to be equally imaginative and unique.

What advantage does working with the same team afford?

DOR: To me, it’s like the privilege of being the member of a band that loves to play their music together, and each album and each concert tour is going to be different, and take on new material and new challenges.

MW: There’s a liberating sense of trust and exploration. [The cast] prove to me that they are not only the most gifted actors of our generation, but that they are all gracious, smart, generous and brave human beings — willing to lose themselves within the complexities of the characters that they play.

More Film

  • Ordinary Justice

    Berlin: 'Ordinary Justice' Director Chiara Bellosi on Fascination With Courthouses

    Young Italian director Chiara Bellosi is at the Berlinale with “Ordinary Justice” which examines the lives of two families on opposite sides of a murder case who intersect on the benches outside the room where the case is being tried. This first work, screening in Generation14Plus, is produced by Carlo Cresto-Dina who discovered Alice Rohrwacher (“The Wonders,” “Happy [...]

  • The Invisible Man

    Elisabeth Moss in 'The Invisible Man': Film Review

    These days, the horror-fantasy thriller tends to be a junk metaphysical spook show that throws a whole lot of scary clutter at the audience — ghosts, “demons,” mad killers — without necessarily adding up to an experience that’s about anything. But in “The Invisible Man,” Leigh Whannell’s ingenious and entertaining update of a concept that’s [...]

  • Nora Arnezeder

    Berlin: Wide's Thriller 'Blast' Sold to Japan, Latin America at the EFM (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Blast,” a high-concept thriller produced and represented in international markets by Paris-based company Wide, has sold to several territories at the EFM in Berlin. Vanya Peirani-Vignes’ feature debut, “Blast” takes place Parisian parking lot where Sonia finds herself trapped in her car with her son while her boyfriend’s daughter has been left outside to deal [...]

  • digger

    Greek Director Grigorakis Saddles up 'Western' 'Digger' at Berlin

    For a feature debut that he describes as a contemporary Western, Greek director Georgis Grigorakis settled on a familiar archetype — “a lonely guy with his horse, with his shotgun” — who, in keeping with the genre’s conventions, is drawn into a confrontation and is prepared to fight to the bitter end in the defense [...]

  • North Macedonian directors Ljubo Stefanov (R)

    Berlin: 'Honeyland' Directors Prepping New Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

    Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, the Macedonian directors of the dual Oscar-nominated documentary “Honeyland,” are prepping several new projects, Variety has learned exclusively. The directing duo are looking to build on the success of their debut, a moving portrait of a lone beekeeper struggling to preserve a traditional way of life, which was nominated for [...]

  • David-Casademunt-and-Joaquin

    Rodar y Rodar Boards “The Beast” (EXCLUSIVE)

    Barcelona-based Rodar y Rodar, producer of Spanish horror titles such as J.A. Bayona’s “The Orphanage” and Oriol Paulo’s “The Body, has thrown its weight behind David Casademunt’s “The Beast,” boarding it as its main producer. “The Beast,” which participated in Filmarket Hub’s 2017 Sitges Pitchbox event as well as Ventana Sur’s 2017 Blood Window, it [...]

  • Bad Tales

    Italy's Pepito Prods. Shines With 'Bad Tales' (EXCLUSIVE) Trailer

    Italy’s Pepito Prods., at Berlin with competition drama “Bad Tales” by Damiano and Fabio D’Innocenzo, is emerging as a new home for the country’s auteurs.  The company, headed by former RAI head of drama Agostino Saccà in January, scored more than $6 million in Italian cinemas with veteran Gianni Amelio’s “Hammamet,” a biopic of disgraced [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content