Dariusz Wolski, ASC and costume designer Janty Yates discuss their collaborations on these two distinct features from director Ridley Scott.
House of Gucci photos by Fabio Lovino, courtesy of MGM Pictures, Inc.
The Last Duel photos by Patrick Redmond and Jessica Forde, courtesy of 20th Century Studios.
Costume designer Janty Yates was beginning to imagine how Adam Driver would look in classic Gucci fashions from the 1980s, though her task at hand was fitting him with 14th-century French armor. It was 2020, and Yates was amid back-to-back projects with director Ridley Scott that featured Driver: The Last Duel and House of Gucci. “We talked about Gucci often during filming of Last Duel — you’d have to be totally inhuman not to,” says Yates. “It was a very exciting project.”
The short break between the disparate productions was typical for Scott, who directs a movie a year, give or take. Yates is part of the core creative team that helps him maintain that pace, along with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, ASC, and production designer Arthur Max. Yates and Max have worked with the director since Gladiator (AC May ’00), and Wolski has been with the team since Prometheus (AC July ’12).
“It’s been an extremely strong collaboration and a very important one,” Yates says. “Ridley is very involved in costume, and his approval is my be-all and end-all. The next person I turn to is Dariusz. And, of course, on everything we do, I sit down with Arthur as early as I can and as often as I can. For me, it’s about color palette first and foremost.”
Referring to the project the trio is currently prepping for Scott — Kitbag, about Napoleon Bonaparte — Yates continues, “Just yesterday Arthur and I spent three or four hours going through all the interiors of the locations we’re going to use, and it’s just as well I did, because I saw he’d got a four-poster draped in cerise. Cerise — a deep pink!” She laughs. “And three days ago, I sent Dariusz the undipped duchess satin and the dipped duchess satin for the ladies in waiting for Napoleon’s coronation scene. We’re always in touch about that sort of thing.”
By the time Wolski begins to physically prep a Scott film, Yates and Max have been at work for several weeks. “They’re both doing a tremendous amount of research and work while I’m reading the script and thinking about it in my own way,” Wolski says. “When I arrive, they walk me through what they’ve done, and we discuss everything. The photographic approach is a bit more between Ridley and me, but they are involved in that, too.”
Dressing the Guccis.
The first thing Yates does when Wolski arrives is “take him through every character’s closet to get his blessing because by then I’ve got a lot of the costumes made,” she says.
That process was quite an undertaking on House of Gucci, which charts the Guccis’ turbulent family dynamics and business fortunes over three decades. Among Yates’ biggest challenges were Patrizia Reggiani Gucci (played by Lady Gaga, whom Yates refers to as “L.G.”) and Aldo Gucci (Al Pacino), who is the public face of the family business.
“Patrizia has 54 different looks because L.G. wouldn’t wear anything twice,” she says. “Ridley said he wanted her to be ‘slightly sober’ in her look, and I was a bit nervous about my first Zoom fitting with L.G. — as we know, she has worn a meat dress [to the MTV Awards]! But she immediately told me she wanted to dress like her mother, who was a classy Italian woman. That was a huge relief. We took that idea and blinged it up with an enormous amount of jewelry; she always wore two necklaces, two bracelets on each wrist, brooches and huge earrings.”
Scott, who draws his own storyboards and character concepts, “sent me the most beautiful drawing of Aldo,” Yates continues. “He is a dandy. He has a checked jacket, a waistcoat, a flower in his lapel, pocket handkerchief, wonderful cufflinks, dark glasses, a Panama hat, and very elegant shoes. So, we dandied Al up. For example, I had several shirts made for him with half-inch horizontal stripes — quite unusual, but we have photographic proof Aldo wore shirts of that ilk.
“Aldo is a bit clashing, and then there is Paolo [played by Jared Leto], Aldo’s son, the dandiest dandy, who’s gone a bit wrong — his clothes never match. I actually wasn’t able to show Dariusz much of Paolo’s closet because Jared spent six hours in the prosthetics department and we seldom saw him until he came on set. We’d just send along my choice, and he’d put it on. His clothes were all made by the Attolini brothers, who did the magnificent tailoring for The Great Beauty. We couldn’t have done better in that department!”
A striking shot of Patrizia posing for her husband, Maurizio (Driver), on their Manhattan balcony pays explicit homage to fashion photographer Helmut Newton, specifically his black-and-white photo Elsa Peretti in New York, 1975. With a laugh, Yates recalls this as one of her most vexing assignments. “Ridley kept saying, ‘Helmut Newton! I want it to be Helmut Newton! She’s got to look spectacular!’ Well, [Peretti] is in a Playboy bunny outfit. I didn’t know what the hell we were going to do. I finally said, ‘Let’s put her in a very simple long-sleeved black dress.’ It was either me or my cutter, Dominic Young, who decided to do the square neck with the flash in the center front. And it does look spectacular because it’s angular and monochrome. It just worked.”
“This exhibition serves as an extension and showcase of the terrific work by my remarkable team of artists.”
— Ridley Scott
Marveling at Yates’ ability to transform even simple setups, Wolski points to an over-the-shoulder shot in The Last Duel: “It’s early morning, and Pierre [Ben Affleck] and Jacques [Driver] are talking on top of a castle with the landscape behind them. Adam has this cloak around his shoulders that’s such a beautiful graphic fabric. Normally, when you set up an over-the-shoulder, you put the foreground in shadow just enough to draw attention to it, but in this case, the shoulder had such incredible texture!”
The wrap was not a last-minute addition to the scene, says Yates. “I had spotted that cloak and singled it out for Adam, and I’d also singled it out to be draped around his shoulders on that balcony,” she says. “It was a beautiful cream cloak with a dark-brown leather fretwork pattern on it — [his character] had just picked it up to keep himself warm, as it was 5 or 6 in the morning. Even Adam, who has strong opinions about his costumes, loved it.”
In another scene, Marguerite (Jodie Comer) argues with her husband, Jean (Matt Damon), in a courtyard in front of several bystanders. “Everyone in the background looks like they stepped out of classic Italian Renaissance paintings — just beautiful,” says Wolski. “That’s Janty.”
The cinematographer acknowledges that the fairly monochromatic palette dictated by The Last Duel’s period and wintry setting did not always show Yates’ work to its best advantage. “Janty hasn’t quite forgiven me,” he says with a laugh. “So many of the fabrics she found had rich color and fine-pattern textures, and she’d say, ‘If you take all the color out, no one will see it!’” Noting Scott’s preference for desaturated palettes, he adds, “[Janty and I] often have that argument.”
“Yes,” says Yates, “we do joke about it. I’ll show Dariusz something and say, ‘Look, Dariusz, look! Bright colors!’ And he’ll say, ‘That’s fine, I can get rid of that by pressing a button.’” She laughs. “It’s an ongoing discussion, for sure. But with Ridley’s vision, I am happy to go with whatever Ridley and Dariusz decide.”
It is all part of “a fluid collaboration,” says Wolski, “and the result has a bit of everything in it: Janty’s touch, my touch, Arthur’s touch and, ultimately, Ridley’s vision. It’s all integrated, and in this way, the look of the film comes together.”