Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Emily Blunt as the Baker’s Wife in ”Into the Woods” / Photo: Walt Disney Studios
Talk about range. Costume designer Colleen Atwood has created the looks for over 50 films, including Chicago, Memories of Geisha, Dark Shadows, to those slice-and-dice digits for Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands. This month, the 66 year-old designer is responsible for the wardrobes in two very different movies that both go into wide release Christmas day. Into The Woods, a film version starring Meryl Streep, Anna Kendricks and Johnny Depp and based on the classic musical, is fantastical with flashy, larger-than-life costumes reflecting the world of fairy tales. Big Eyes, on the other hand, is an indie biopic of artist Margaret Keane (played by Amy Adams) directed by Tim Burton (Atwood and the director are longtime collaborators), which features more everyday clothes. Still, both films represent different aspects of this three-time Oscar award-winning talent. Yahoo Style spoke with the designer about creating the looks for Into The Woods and Big Eyes as well as her rather impressive career— even for Hollywood standards.
Yahoo Style: What was your starting point for Into The Woods?
Colleen Atwood: It’s always the screenplay and meeting with the director to see what their vision for the film is, and then I take that and explore inside my mind. For this, it was about thinking about the fairy tale genre and how all these stories could hook together visually. This movie is a great design dream.
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YS: Which character’s look did you design first?
CA: I knew Meryl [Streep] was the witch, so I started with her. I liked the idea of the costume looking like a twisted piece of wood that blends with the woods around her and is part of the woods. I used crinkled chiffon and applied really thin leather cording that I could twist so it would look like wood and still be really light weight and feminine.
Meryl Streep as the Witch in “Into the Woods” / Walt Disney Studios
YS: Johnny Depp plays the wolf in the film. How many times have you worked with him now?
CA: About seven. I’ve worked with him more than anybody else. I consider myself pretty lucky! He’s a fun person to put a costume on. What I usually do is bring the costume and its concept to him with some pieces he can play with, and then we figure out together.
Johnny Depp as the Wolf and Lilla Crawford as Little Red Riding Hood in ”Into the Woods” / Walt Disney Studios
YS: Big Eyes is a much more subtle film visually. What was your approach to the costumes there?
CA: It was a very different beast. It’s a film about two people and their story set in the real world of the early ‘60s. It’s about a woman who’s very conservative in background but not in spirit. I took that and pared it down. It’s about what’s not there, for the most part.
Amy Adams as Margaret Keane in Big Eyes / The Weinstein Company
YS: What it’s like working with Tim Burton?
CA: I love Tim. He’s such an artist. He can bring to life both whimsical characters and real things in a really special way. He’s one of a kind. I love that Big Eyes is reserved. It’s not what people think Tim can do and it’s really great because Tim is not always dark, which is the thing he gets nailed with, as do I because I work with him.
YS: Do you get categorized as dark?
CA: A lot of times people say, “You have so much dark work.” But there’s a lot of color in a lot of things I do. I love color. It just depends on the master I’m serving.
Christoph Waltz as Walter Keane in “Big Eyes” / The Weinstein Company
YS: Did you always want to be a costume designer?
CA: No, I wanted to be a painter when I was younger. I lived in a small farm town. I had these two grandmothers, who I always say are my influences. One of them was the Irish grandmother who sewed and taught me how to darn and make clothes. And my other grandmother was very glamorous and wore capes. I look at all the things I did and I think they were the first step in me realizing what clothes could be. I used to save all my money when I was growing up, doing odd jobs, and buy clothes. Weird clothes for a small town, like white blazers.
Sketches of costumes from “Big Eyes” / The Weinstein Company
YS: Which films are you most proud of costuming?
CA: I really love the costumes I made for Sleepy Hollow. It was the first time I really painted fabrics and materials. That got me started in a certain mindset of costuming that I like. Memoirs of a Geisha was an amazing job to be able to embrace and learn from what the kimono making process really is. And Planet of the Apes, which people didn’t exactly love, was a gigantic challenge. It’s maybe not my favorite costuming work I’ve ever done, but I loved what I learned from it.
YS: What movie do you wish you had gotten the chance to costume?
CA: The Wizard of Oz. That’s something I would have loved to have a shot at.