For most cinemagoers Piper Perabo arrived on the big screen in her breakout role for Coyote Ugly (2000). Since then she has worked in television, on Broadway and continuously in movies. Costume wise Ms. Perabo has mixed period with contemporary though tends to work in the latter. For Looper she plays Suzie, a nightclub dancer struggling to bring up her young son in a decaying near future, and the lover of Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) before he attempts to mend his hedonistic ways.
Speaking exclusively to Clothes on Film, Piper Perabo talks dressing the character of Suzie and working with costume designer Sharen Davis:
“The stage wear was my favourite costume; it was a combination of altered garments and created ones. Sharen Davis had shown me sketches of her ideas, and watching those ideas be assembled, created, and then tweaked for practicalities of movement was so fun.
The original script (by writer/director Rian Johnson), to the best of my memory, has descriptions of the world, but not specifics on the women’s clothing. Jeff Daniels (as Abe) has a line about Joe’s necktie, but no one talks about the working women’s dress.”
Perabo was fully aware her role in Looper would require occasional nudity: “I took the part knowing it would be risqué.”
For Looper, Perabo has two distinct looks: day wear and work (stage) wear. Suzie’s stage wear is, according to Sharen Davis, for a “futuristic saloon dancer, combining the late 1800s with the 1980s”. The night/day transition marks an external change for her character from siren to mom. Ultimately Suzie is working to live. Perabo continues:
“I loved Sharen’s ideas; all I had to do was go to fittings and keep saying yes. I remember when she showed me the completely see through 1940s dressing gown that I wear in the bedroom scene with Joe. It would be the gown and a pair of underwear, that’s it. My only concern was “Can I wear high heels too?”
You know the quote, “…You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them; the costume can tell you how to breathe, length of stride, class, wealth, age, confidence, and don’t even get me started about what a character has in their pockets…”
Evidently Piper Perabo is an actress who appreciates the value of costume design in building character. In a sense she had exactly the same goal for Looper as Sharen Davis: to bring Suzie to life in a justifiable, plausible way. Suzie becomes essential to the plot (in the latter half of the film for Older Joe especially) and what she wears – or does not wear at times – is an essential part of creating a believable story world.
With thanks to Piper Perabo.
Looper was released on 28th September.
© 2012 – 2013, Christopher Laverty.