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Interview with Mark Bridges: 50 Shades of Grey Costume Designer


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As Fifty Shades of Grey hits cinemas, I caught up with its Academy Award winning costume designer, Mark Bridges. Mark has worked on films such as Inherent Vice, Silver Linings Playbook, Yes Man and Be Cool, to name but a few. His work on The Artist won him an Academy Award for Best Costume Design and his recent work on Inherent Vice has earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design for this year's upcoming Academy Awards.

I asked Mark whether any of his inspiration for the costumes he created for the Fifty Shades of Grey film was derived from E.L James’s novel itself. His answer was surprising.

He says: "I did think that it was good to be able to have the author on set, and she was able to guide me on some things that she felt that the readers would expect. So I didn’t read the book but I did have the author there to give me a little guidance, so it was nice.

"The director, Sam [Taylor-Johnson], and I decided that I wouldn’t read the book, that I would just work off the script, but anytime that I may have been missing something from the book that E.L James - Erika - felt we should probably have (in the movie) she let me know in a very nice way and I was happy to do it."

Mark’s costume choices for Ana and Christian, especially for their initial interview scene, were purposely used to highlight their personalities and the disparity between them.

“Ana was dressed not so subtly, wearing a sort of mis-guided combination of a floral blouse, skirt and cardigan. Then she wears this toggle coat that I designed and we made a couple of them. We tried to just sort of contrast the sort of awkward, unrefined girl against the very slick, very handsome Christian Grey in his very well-fitting suit, shirt, tie that were detailed, immaculate and very striking, so it puts her at a disadvantage right away. Yet the colours that I chose for Ana, play up her eyes and you can see underneath all the toggle coats and floral blouses, and things, why she might turn out very interesting.”

His designs were, to an extent, inspired by current fashions, however, he tried to use more classic, less period-specific styles to make sure that the film won’t date easily.

“I think some of the ideas of what men’s suits mean today and how a pant [trousers] fits, and how long a men’s suit jacket is, I think that influenced some of the choices that I made with the tailor, but I certainly didn’t copy any one thing. For Christian, it just was more based on traditional men’s wear, for Ana, I guess I think I was aware of the sort of fit of some of the jeans that we used, and I was very much influenced by one designer for one of her dresses. We just re-made a designer dress in a different colour, because, it was the right style and fit but it didn’t come in the right colour that we needed dramatically. I was aware of it (current fashion) but I also tried not to make things be too specifically from a collection or from say ‘Fall 2013’ or something, because it immediately dates the movie, so I tried to be ‘all period-no period’ classic, with a little bit of an eye towards what’s happening today to make it accessible and good-looking to the audience.”

Bridges purposely developed the characters’ costumes throughout the course of the film, to reflect the developments that their personalities were undergoing.

“I tried to have an arc in how Christian goes from very sort of buttoned-up and protective to slowly becoming a regular guy, so that by the time he introduces Ana to a stranger as his girlfriend, he’s like a regular guy on a regular date and you feel, you see that she has changed him, as he says. The other arc, for her (Ana), is that she becomes more slick, more sophisticated, more grown-up and we chart that through little subtle changes in her clothes. So they both have an arc - they’re different from when they started out, and hopefully that reflects how they’ve changed each other, psychologically.”

Mark most enjoyed a specific scene in the film, and the character development and costume use within it.

"I was very happy with the scene at dinner, when the whole family has dinner together - when the Greys meet Ana, it just seems everyone had their own character, yet they all looked sympatico together. I think you understood who everybody was at that table, and I was very happy with seeing them all together, because there’s a lot of scenes where there’s only two or three people, so to see more than two or three people in one scene, I was very pleased with how that looked."

Fifty Shades of Grey is released in UK cinemas today. 

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