By Tim Nasson – Quick. Can you name anyone that has been nominated for two Oscars in the same category in one year? If you answered Jacqueline Durran, you certainly know your Oscar trivia. She is nominated twice this year for Costume Design, for Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast. (Her teammates are nominated for both films, as well; Sarah Greenwood, production designer and Katie Spencer, set decorator).
I spoke to Durran on the phone from her home in London and she is just what I expected; a cheerful British woman, devoid of any pretension and excited to talk about two of the biggest movies to be released in theaters in 2017, both with audiences and critics.
Durran got her big break as a costume designer in movies with director Joe Wright, director of Darkest Hour, with his first movie, Pride And Prejudice (2005), the movie for which she received her first Oscar nomination, and also a period piece. (She had worked with Mike Leigh on the critical favorite Vera Drake in 2004).
“I had always been interested in clothes. Second hand clothes, fashion. When I realized there was a possibility that I could do this for a job I tried to figure out how I could get involved in the movie aspect. The first thing I managed to do was get a job in a costume house. So I worked in a costume house for two years and got to know the costume designers and became an assistant and learned the job by doing the job. I have a Masters Degree in costume design but it is irrelevant. I learned how to do it by watching actors and listening to directors. And I am still learning. It is a constant thing. You respond to the script. I think it is a job you can learn to do.
The movies for which she received Oscar nominations for this year, Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour, couldn’t be more different, and she explains the differences on both sets.
“It really was creating a world,” she says about Beauty and the Beast. “It was a serious job. It was a case of making most of the costumes. What we were trying to do was invent a world that was partly based in 18th century France and partly based on the animation [of the original Disney animated film]. It was taking the core costumes from the animation but then making them into something you believe in a live action movie.
In a previous interview Durran expanded on that. “People want to see a recognizable Belle. To play around too much with those components would potentially be a disappointment to the viewer. We knew that Belle had to have a yellow dress. She had to have a blue pinafore. So I had to have the animation, the historical period and everyone’s point of view in there.”
“When you look back on the animation, the concept of the costumes is brilliant but the detailing isn’t there because it didn’t need to be, because it was animation,” she continues. “But when you come to reinvent it, you have to add to it, you have to make the costumes look at home in the world you are creating, so it is really a matter of creating a whole world. The scale of the job is so different. For Beauty and the Beast we made over 500 costumes. And for the Darkest Hour we probably made 20. I’m guessing. But the scale was totally different.”
“I really enjoyed this movie. It was problem solving, bringing all of the elements together. It was great to work with the art department, the director, the actors, to bring it all to life,” she says, of Beauty and the Beast.
Durran was on the set of Beauty and the Beast almost every day. “There were thrilling moments where you have never seen everything come together until you see them on the set. The opening and closing songs choreographed, for instance. It was really thrilling to see amount of work everyone put into them. It is a great feeling to see it work because there were no dress rehearsals.”
As for working with Gary Oldman, before Darkest Hour, Durran had worked with him on his other Best Actor Oscar nominated role in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
“I knew what to expect,” says Durrant, of Oldman. “He is a brilliant actor. He is very adamant and interested in getting the details of the costumes completely right. It all matters. The Shoes matter. The shirt matters. The pocket handkerchief matters. The ring matters. Everything matters. It was just about trying to make the costume work for Gary. The way he wants to put his glasses away when he is acting. Where he wants his pockets to be. How he wants his shoes to be. All of these elements, you have to pay attention to them all. It’s not something where you can just make a suit. It is really detailed work. But it’s thrilling because it’s a great feeling to be contributing to a great performance.”
Durran explains the first time she met Oldman before the film began shooting. “He had on the prosthetics and the fat suit, and he started walking around and began creating the character. He started doing the [Churchill] voice and all the other things and it was just amazing. The prosthetic wasn’t my concern, not my department, but it was extraordinary. What you see on the film is what you saw to the eye. No CGI. It really looked like that. He was totally transformed.”
With such a spectacular year, how does one choose which movie to root for on Oscar night?
“Speaking of the double nomination, it is kind of like Sophie’s Choice. Can you pick a favorite”, I ask her. “I really don’t want to pick,” she says, hesitantly, “but I did a lot more creation on Beauty and the Beast. I think in terms in the amount of creation, I have to pick Beauty and the Beast.”
The 2018 Oscars will be telecast live, Sunday night, March 4, beginning at 8PM EST. Tune in to find out who wins. And print your Oscar Ballot right here.
Darkest Hour is now on Digital and is also available on Blu-ray and DVD.