Below-the-line department heads who have the opportunity to work together on more than one film often develop a kind of communications shorthand. For production designer Franco-Giacomo Carbone and costume designer Lizz Wolf, “Creed II” marks their fourth collaboration — a relationship that began with 2008’s “Rambo.” This worked to the great advantage of the eighth installment in the “Rocky” franchise, released by Warner Bros. on Nov. 21.
Carbone chose specific colors for the characters and fight scenes, allowing those visuals to communicate a parallel storyline and on-screen continuity across departments. For instance, emotions like hate, anger and pride were expressed with cold blue hues. “It’s not a good color for protagonist Adonis [Johnson, Apollo Creed’s son, played by Michael B. Jordan],” says Carbone. “But, every time we see Adonis in a positive way, we see him with warmer colors, with reds and golds.”
Wolf, in turn, drew from Carbone’s choices when designing her costumes, making them “reflective of the fight [and set] colors, because those colors are very telling,” she says. At the same time, she had to create a balance so as not to give away the outcome of the fights while remaining within the same color framework.
For one scene, Wolf dressed Adonis in shade-transitioning gray-silver ombré trunks that could have multiple interpretations. “You don’t know what’s going on,” she says, “and when he comes out, it feels very ominous.”
Carbone and Wolf’s longtime friendship also allowed for collaboration in more unusual ways. For example, Carbone consulted with Wolf when designing Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and Adonis’ apartment, realizing that what people wear informs other elements of their lives. “We hung an inspirational jacket of [Bianca’s] inside the center of the room, and it seemed to bring it all home,” says Wolf. “She was never going to wear that jacket ultimately, but it was a reflection of all the colors that had been brought in to create her wardrobe.” Having a production designer include a costume piece on set, as Carbone did with the jacket, is a rare opportunity. “It’s been a long time, if ever, that I’ve done something like that,” Wolf notes.
Carbone recognizes the similarities between his work and costume design. “She’s [creating] with clothes, and I’m doing it with walls and furniture,” he says. “It’s the same job. We care about the same things and we’re telling the story visually.”
Both Carbone and Wolf appreciate the benefits of their rapport. “You want to find people that you creatively marry,” Wolf reflects, “and we did that instantly. I think that was to our advantage on ‘Creed II.’”
The relationship also aided the film’s greater storytelling arc. “You’re not really just going to see a movie about boxing,” Carbone says. “It’s about so much more.”