×

How ‘The Kitchen’ Production Team Cooked Up 1970s-Era Clothes, Cash and Guns

Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elisabeth Moss play women who take over their husbands’ criminal business in Warner Bros.’ “The Kitchen,” adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic book series by Andrea Berloff, who also directed. Costume designer Sarah Edwards and prop master David Schanker used their skills to create a supporting parallel story for the characters that evoked the look and feel of New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in the late 1970s.

“The story starts out with the girls under their husbands’ thumbs,” says Edwards, who used costumes as a visual representation of each character’s arc. As the women find success, it became important to show that “suddenly their clothes reflected the new means they had. They changed their hair, they changed their clothes and they started wearing more jewelry.”

Edwards researched the period thoroughly to find the right balance of colors, patterns and textures. Much of what the actresses wear had to be specially designed because of the difficulty in finding specific examples of clothing from 40 years ago, let alone the multiples required for a movie. “You don’t need just one costume but several — for them to go into water or get blood on or for the stunt double,” she says. 

Denim turned into an unexpected challenge, since jeans are made differently today than they were in the ’70s. “Now there’s a lot of pre-fading to jeans, and
that didn’t exist,” she says. “Now jeans are all broken in. It starts with the fabric. It’s the dyes, the weave, the color and the wash.” While Edwards designed most of the jeans seen in the movie, she admits to one “cheat” in using a pair from McCarthy’s now-defunct clothing line because their retro style worked well on the actress.

Actual cash plays a big role in the film, and Schanker knew that for it to look right, he had to find vintage bills. “Newer money has larger heads [on the front] and they’re not necessarily in the center,” he says. “They’ve added color into the bills over the last decade, and the designs have changed.”

Federally authorized prop money looked wrong on screen when the actors counted it because the texture was different. So Schanker had to find older bills. Adding to the degree of difficulty: Old money is destroyed as new bills are put into circulation; prop houses’ supply of such bills was insufficient for the movie’s needs.

“I had to find collectors who had enough of it,” he says. “And we bought it at more than face value. The $100 bills were about $140 each.” 

While contemporary movies featuring bank heists and large quantities of cash can get the real deal from a bank — protecting it with security guards on set — Schanker didn’t need to go that far. He had about $10,000 on hand, and it was mostly smaller bills.

Prop guns also were researched to be accurate to the time and place. “The guns are not only period correct but correct to the neighborhood and income of each user,” he says. 

Schanker worked with director Berloff (an Oscar nominee for co-writing the screenplay for “Straight Outta Compton”) to map out every gun the characters carried. “There were some scripted scenes where people were getting rid of the guns after a shooting, and that would mean they would need to pick up another gun somehow,” he says. “So what gun would they get off the street illegally at this point in New York history?”

Though it may seem that props and costumes are two separate departments, they actually work together quite closely. For a scene in which the women handle a great deal of jewelry, for instance, some of it came from one of Schanker’s sources, and some of it included jewelry the characters wear. “I’ve worked with David before,” says Edwards, “and it’s all a collaboration.” 

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • John bailey Academy President

    Former Academy President and DP John Bailey to Receive Camerimage Lifetime Achievement Award

    John Bailey, the cinematographer and former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, will receive a lifetime achievement award from the 27th Camerimage film festival in Torun Poland. The Fest, attended by top DPs and other artists from around the world, will run on Nov. 9-16. Bailey’s credits include Lawrence Kasdan’s “The [...]

  • Alita: Battle Angel VFX

    How Previsualization Helps Create Pitches for Projects Like 'Alita: Battle Angel'

    Filmmakers are increasingly using previsualization, a now-standard technique for planning highly technical shots and sequences, as a tool for pitching a project to production companies, investors and studio executives — before a single full scene has actually been shot. More creatives are relying on the technique, dubbed “pitchvis,” to fashion a compelling and engaging presentation [...]

  • A Quiet Place

    Production Growth Stretches Crafts Talent Pool, but Experience Is Still Needed

    The growing number of outlets for movies and television means that demand for qualified artisans is at an all-time high. But while job opportunities have multiplied, the path to success — and potential elite status — is still a difficult one that requires on-the-job training, experience and skill development to deliver top-notch results. Some of [...]

  • Queen and Adam Lambert Live

    How the Queen + Adam Lambert Tour Brought the Opera to Arenas

    Just as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic of late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, wowed moviegoers last year, stage design firm Stufish Entertainment Architects has helped Queen + Adam Lambert’s current U.S. tour deliver a screen spectacular of its own. The tour, which plays New Orleans on Aug. 20 and Atlanta on Aug. 22, touched down at [...]

  • Mark Damon, CEO & Chairman, Foresight

    Mark Damon's DCR Finance Receives $150 Million for Financing Georgia Films (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mark Damon’s DCR Finance Corp., co-headed with financer Adi Cohen, has received a $150 million investment from Go Media Productions for Georgia projects, Variety has learned exclusively. Damon, whose credits include “2 Guns” and “Lone Survivor,” made the announcement Monday with Cohen. The deal calls for Atlanta-based Go Media Productions to join a private placement as [...]

  • The Handmaid's Tale -- "Household" -

    ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Crew on Why the Lincoln Memorial Shoot Was Worth the Effort

    Shooting on location at a national monument may seem glamorous, but it often involves extensive prep to comply with strict regulations, restrictions and crowds — all for a short on-screen moment. For the cast and crew of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” the seven months of planning and negotiations required for a one-day shoot at the [...]

  • Producer and crew on set. Twelve

    'Driven' Kept Shoot in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria to Help Locals

    Behind-the-scenes featurettes have long enumerated the many obstacles any movie or TV show has had to overcome to reach the theater or TV screen. But few films faced hardships as severe as those overcome by “Driven,” the real-life hero-to-zero story of automaker John DeLorean (played by Lee Pace) and his misadventures with ex-con pilot-turned-FBI informant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content