Following the success of the Hollywood blockbuster Les Misérables, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is thrilled to have the Academy Award® and Bafta nominated costumes from the film on display for the first time in the UK, courtesy of NBC Universal Archives & Collections, this Easter holiday.
The special exhibition will feature nineteen costumes and a selection of props. Included will be Hugh Jackman’s Valjean convict costume that he wore in his Portsmouth scenes, various costumes worn by Anne Hathaway as Fantine, Isabelle Allen and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Natalya Angel Wallace and Samantha Barks as Eponine, Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier, Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop, Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche, Aaron Tveit as Enjolras and various other colourful clothing and items iconic to the film.
As Director Tom Hooper and Les Misérables’ costume designer, Paco Delgado, began the translation of the characters from stage to screen, it remained of utmost importance for them to showcase clothes, not costumes. Drawing his inspiration from artists who worked in and around the period—such as Eugène Delacroix and Francisco de Goya—Delgado had to reflect all of the styles of clothing and social standings throughout the story’s 33-year span. He reflects: “We have covered so many things. We have made convicts, prostitutes and nuns. We have poor, and we have rich. It has been an amazing job.”
What was important to the designer was to blend historical accuracy with a bit of the surreal, honouring the period’s grittiness while still offering escape from the end of the Napoleonic era. He sums: “When you normally approach a period movie, there’s mostly the intention of reproducing reality with a lot of accuracy. Because this is a musical, and that’s an unreal situation in life, we had to put some fantasy into it. We knew that we had to walk that line of reality and fantasy.”
The Valjean costume on display reflects his really rough situation as a convict with almost no expectations, and he has texture in every sense—in his rough clothes and his beard. He’s dead in his clothes. It’s only as the film progresses that he comes into a much more sophisticated style.
With Fantine’s costumes you see a decline, Delgado explains that to make the already lean character look even thinner, he used clingy fabrics and airbrushed the sides of Hathaway’s costumes with darker colours, to give her the look of a young woman vanishing from consumption.
Other changes reflected in the costumes on display are the young Cosette, as a waifish, raggedy girl who is working as a servant in the Thénardiers’ inn, against their daughter, Éponine, who is a prettified doll. Delgado says that: “Ten years later, it’s completely the opposite. It’s like Alice in the mirror, but they have crossed in the opposite direction.” Reflecting on the girls’ guardians, the Thénardiers, he simply describes them as “the colour of the movie.”
It required a large crew to create the approximately 2,200 costumes for the masses of extras, and the team perfected designs across France, Spain, Italy and England. Unfortunately for the costumers, it was imperative that their work be destroyed. To ensure that the outfits looked as if they belonged on beggars and starving poor, Delgado’s team literally ripped, shredded and cut (even blowtorched) their way through the outfits. Still, the close observer will note that the design team wove in the colours of the French flag throughout the epic. Whether it be the red of Enjolras’ jacket at the barricade, the blue of Fantine’s dress at the factory, or the white of Cosette’s wedding dress and Valjean’s garments as he lay dying, every decision was intentional.
A featurette on the costume design can be seen here: http://youtu.be/jd5ffc48RJU
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard with HMS Victory and Portsmouth Naval Base were both used as locations in the film, giving Hooper the ideal backdrop he needed for the film’s opening sequence. It is in No. 9 Dock that we first meet Valjean, alongside the other convicts, as they haul a massive ship (based on HMS Victory) in for repair. Soon after, Javert hands Valjean his precious ticket of leave. Using one of the base’s dry docks, normally used to repair vessels—and which the crew ironically filled with water so it would appear as if the convicts were pulling the battered ship out of the water—presented one of the biggest logistical challenges on the film. The camera crane, the wave and wind machines and the rig with the ship’s ropes had to be craned into the dock during a very short window of preparation, given that the production had chosen to use one of the massive functioning docks. On shooting days, navigating cast and crew down the very steep and wet steps to the docks was seriously hair-raising, and the production team said it was a small miracle that the unit left that location without injury.
Les Misérables is out to own on Blu-ray and DVD from 13th May. Pre-order now at www.amazon.co.uk
The costumes will go on display in the Mary Rose Story building from Friday 29th March until Sunday 14th April 2013. Entry can be gained with a ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard or its attractions or can be purchased separately priced at Adult: £5, Senior: £4, Child: £2.50, Family: £12.50.
For further details of events at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard please visit: www.historicdockyard.co.uk/events