Costume designer for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Michael Kaplan, talks us through his choices and intentions for clothing in the film. Prepare to be disappointed if you want Tom Cruise’s blue silk suit worn in Dubai; it was custom made by Mr. Kaplan himself. At least Cruise’s Persol sunglasses are available to buy, however.
Michael Kaplan is a powerhouse force in costume design. He is guaranteed to have worked on at least one Hollywood movie you fondly remember from the last twenty years or so. If in doubt consider he designed Samuel L. Jackson’s pimp ensembles for The Long Kiss Good Night (1996) and Randy Quaid’s bad taste brilliance as Cousin Eddie in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989). All of those beauteous stage outfits you saw in Burlesque? All Michael Kaplan. Not to mention Fight Club, Flashdance, the list goes on…
Currently hard at work on Star Trek 2, Michael Kaplan spared Clothes on Film time in his busy schedule for an exclusive chat about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. With one of the biggest franchise releases of the last quarter, Kaplan’s own mission was to create fresh and memorable costumes for a series that prides itself on looking very good indeed.
Clothes on Film: Despite its contemporary setting, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol has a definite retro 1960s vibe. Was this how you approached the costumes?
Michael Kaplan: Yes, in a very subtle way, as homage to the 60’s TV series I grew up with. I’ve done the same thing on Star Trek, though perhaps not as subtly.
CoF: Ghost Protocol features some sharp suiting, the lustrous blue on Tom Cruise, the lightweight grey (with purple stitching) on Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg’s double breasted – were these all custom made?
MK: All the principal actors’ suits were custom made. For Tom Cruise, we needed 16 versions of the blue suit, his shoes (20 pairs, custom made) and shirts (24, custom made) all for that one sequence alone. There were so many different circumstances which called for these vast numbers; stunts with various harnesses, stunts with pads, shoes for running, climbing, distressed versions, etc. Hopefully in the end it all comes together and has a seamless look.
When you need to have so many of the same garments for an actor, it is actually more expedient to manufacture them, although finding enough of a desired fabric can be challenging?
CoF: Simon Pegg as Benji’s look is obviously distinctive within the Impossible Missions Force. Was this to establish his eccentric, slightly geeky side?
MK: Although having all the needed multiples is crucial, my actual job is to create characters with the clothing I am designing. Although the suit look for “Benji” was a working disguise, I wanted it to capture some of his quirkiness.
CoF: Are we correct in deducing that Tom Cruise wore a midnight blue tuxedo with black silk lapels at the ball in Mumbai?
MK: Tom and I thought a midnight blue tuxedo would be more interesting and bit more flattering than a black tux. Once again we needed many multiples so we used Tom’s great relationship with Giorgio Armani to manufacture my design.
CoF: Where’s is Tom’s casual jacket worn for the latter part of the Kremlin bomb sequence from?
MK: When Ethan flees The Kremlin he reverses his Russian uniform jacket, creating yet another disguise, that of a tourist – a casual nylon jacket over a Bruce Springsteen T shirt. The uniform jacket was custom built with a nylon “jacket” lining. The T shirt is my own.
CoF: Ghost Protocol has a very glamorous, glossy veneer but grounded in reality; would this be fair to say?
MK: I think any film needs to be based on a certain level of reality and believability. The stunts and gadgets need to look like they really work or you’ll lose the audience.
CoF: Were Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg both wearing Persol sunglasses in the movie?
MK: I love Persol sunglasses and wear them myself. There is a retro quality to many of their frames which seemed right for Mission Impossible.
CoF: Can you tell us a little about Paula Patton’s two most outstanding ensembles, the pale blue dress with matching jacket and green ball gown?
MK: The light blue dress and jacket Paula Patton wears in Dubai was designed for her. I wanted a business-like ensemble that would separate her from all the men’s suit looks. The pastel color was perfect for the climate and a dress with a jacket that could come off was a nice change when her character was out of disguise. The sleeveless dress also showed off Paula’s beautiful arms.
When setting out to design a piece of movie clothing, I first must review all the characteristics it must have. Paula’s green gown was no different. The scene where it is worn is a seduction scene so a certain amount of décolleté (low cut with mucho cleavage) was necessary. There was also a bit of action and the director (Brad Bird) wanted to see a lot of leg as Paula steps out of a car (a high slit). I chose a colour that was bright enough to follow Paula’s character around a crowded party, dressing no other extra in that colour (of course I selected a colour that looked amazing with her skin tone).
CoF: It is interesting that you did not go with red for the ball dress. Would this have been just too visible for her character?
MK: The colour red is very powerful and important. I use it occasionally. For the India party scene, many of the servers and butlers traditionally wear red; I didn’t want to fight with that.
CoF: Colour seems important for you in signifying mood. There is a scene in a train boxcar where the new Impossible Missions Force first meets. They are all wearing varying shades of grey; was this to suggest that they are trapped between right and wrong?
MK: Grey is my favourite colour – for a different reason, at home, my nickname is Grey. In the box car scene, those shades of grey seemed right – nothing as deep as being trapped between right and wrong. Sorry.
CoF: Finally then, Ghost Protocol establishes a new silhouette for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, first seen with the hood of his leather jacket pulled up over his head after the Kremlin bombing and then repeated at the end of the film with a hooded sweater. Was this intentional repetition, to show that Ethan is now alone and hiding in the shadows?
MK: In this case you are quite right (I CAN be deep). This was my intent and I am trying to think of an appropriate prize for you for discovering it!
Thank you, Mr Kaplan. We will take a set invite to Star Trek 2.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is released in the U.S. on 16th December (IMAX) and in the UK on Boxing Day. / class=
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