Welsh born costume designer Lindy Hemming started her career in the theatre, conceding she hardly watched any movies at all until moving to London. Yet several decades later Ms. Hemming has designed for such hugely successful features as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) and won an Academy Award for Topsy Turvy (1999). Of course her tenure with Pierce Brosnan as James Bond (and one for Daniel Craig) is well known, much like her role as Christopher Nolan’s regular costumer for his Dark Knight trilogy.
Having long been intrigued by Nolan’s unique vision, particularly after Memento (2000), Ms. Hemming was thrilled to secure the job of costuming Batman Begins (2005). Bringing both a sense of realism and ingrained theatricality to The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), in addition to a complete overhaul of the Batsuit; she now completes the arc with Bane and Catwoman for The Dark Knight Rises. Here Lindy Hemming explains exclusively to Clothes on Film her role in designing the biggest Bat yet.
The bat suit worn by Christian Bale remains unchanged, after a significant redesign for The Dark Knight. However, ten versions of the cape were made with varying lengths; shorter ones for action scenes and a glider version that snaps out as batwings. The suit is comprised of 110 separate pieces, with several multiples made. Its base layer is polyester mesh with individually moulded flexible urethane attached to form armour plating. Outer panels comprised of carbon fibre provide additional protection.
Clothes on Film: Where did you begin research for the new characters? The comic books?
Lindy Hemming: Research began as ever in Chris Nolan’s ‘Garage’ lair in late august 2011, a slow process of conversations during which more and more ideas of Chris’ about the story were unveiled. Of course they (Chris and Jonathon Nolan, his brother) had already decided that the script would feature Bane and Catwoman, but their paths were still being mapped. Obviously, I looked at the Bane reference from comics, because, when dealing with heroes, anti-heroes and superheroes, there are millions of fans with expectations, but my job is to try to find ways of incorporating those expectations into a more realistic looking character, giving visual signals or references to the original Bane.
Bane’s character was to develop throughout the film, and his story, where he came from, why he is injured, is shown from early youth to the ‘film present’. He is given some reality, as with all things Nolan, thus making him more interesting and believable. This is how I like to work, and why Chris is such an interesting and exciting director to collaborate with. The same process applies to all leading characters. When my research began, I had never heard of Bane. Catwoman of course I knew a little of, especially Michelle Pfeiffer’s costume by the great Bob Ringwood (with Mary Vogt). However, as usual, we soon abandoned that path, and embarked on looking for real life parallels for both of them.
The catsuit worn by Anne Hathaway is actually a two-piece, separated by a low slung, fitted utility belt; her serrated heels double as weapons. The suit’s outer material is polyurethane coated Spandex with an embossed hexagonal pattern. Catwoman iconography is referenced subtly by night vision goggles (also functioning as a jeweller’s loupe) that flip up to form ‘ears’ when not in use..
CoF: What conversations with Christopher Nolan did you have about costumes? Presumably realism was paramount?
LH: ‘Considerations’ with Chris Nolan are ongoing throughout the production period and filming, but obviously more intense during early prep. As he likes to work with set, costume designers and cinematographer while the script is still being formed, this means that designing and writing are able to be a complete process. Production designer (Nathan Crowley) and I are in the privileged position of being able to have almost daily access to the director. This means that as a costume designer one can really get to know what the director wants to say with the character. It gives us more time to investigate together who the people we are designing for might be, and how they develop into their look at the start of the story.
Often I think the idea of ensuring realism for the characters is more working out how to meld the actor/ character/ clothes together, so that however ‘unrealistic’ or strange the character might be, their clothes look like they really are ‘their clothes’. Especially if they are a superhero!
CoF: Why did you design Bane’s shearling coat yourself? Was it impossible to find multiples of something that fitted your interpretation of the character?
LH: Because of my research for this character; he is a man who has travelled the world as a kind of mercenary. I was looking at two main areas, firstly his military surplus scavenging, which has gone into making up his entire wardrobe and breathing equipment; I fell in love with a very old, matted Swedish army sheepskin arctic wear coat with huge collar and lead weights as buttons, a great characterful garment. Secondly his idealistic, romantic, revolutionary aspirations, which was how Chris Nolan had explained an aspect of him; this lead me to think about the French Revolutionary style / military greatcoat look with ample collars. We also has a feeling that this garment could be a ‘sign/signal’ of the change for the mania in his behaviour of and his worsening destructive megalomania as he enters the football field.
Obviously this combination of ideas in a garment did not exist so I decided to set about designing it and having it made in L.A. It was a very difficult project, and there were the issues of multiples, the non- matching aspects of sheepskins, and, for poor Tom Hardy as Bane, an extra hot, heavy horror, as he was already facing torture by face and mouth with the covering mask.
Bane’s costume is intended to resemble a hotchpotch of influences from different parts of the world he has visited as a mercenary. The mask’s design is intentionally animalistic but functional; it masks his identity but also keeps him alive by pumping a painkilling gas into his body. It was digitally mapped to Tom Hardy’s face as a prosthetic but intended to look metal. It had to appear completely different to Batman’s cowl and could not be black.
CoF: How about Bane’s costume underneath the coat (padded vest)?
LH: The padded vest was made as it would have been in the story, from a collection of surplus tent canvas, old webbing belts, metal plates from the door of a jeep, military meshes etc., and was designed to be worn both with and without the leather and canvas back support belt, which Bane needs due to his torture in prison as a child/teenager. These pieces were also needed in exactly identical multiples, and were a very important part of achieving his extreme silhouette; tinkering with his proportions to help make him look more bulky, animalistic and aggressive.
CoF: Who was the trickiest character to nail down?
LH: The trickiest character to nail down was Marion as Miranda Tate, who must not be given away during the course of the film, but who needed to look ethnic in some way that might relate her to Ra’s A Ghul by the end quarter of the story. Very Difficult.
In her role as Selina Kyle, Hathaway mainly wears black, apart from an orange prison issue jumpsuit and a blue linen sundress for her final scene with Bruce Wayne in the Florence cafe.
CoF: Tell us about Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle…
LH: Selina Kyle we decided was a kind of female version of Bruce Wayne, she is a cat burglar and an opportunist, so must, rather like James Bond, be able to ‘pass’ or be ‘hidden in plain sight’. My influences were La Femme Nikita, and Audrey Hepburn, with a medium dose of Thierry Mugler thrown in for theatricality. All her clothes were designed by me, and made by / in our workshops, including all her underwear which needed to be worn under the cat suit. Whatever event she decided to be at, she could invent a look that would work, from Maid at Wayne Manor, to Woman Going to a Funeral at the airport.
CoF: So what was the intention behind Selina Kyle’s blue dress in the final Florence cafe scene? Moving on?
LH: Yes, something like that. She is now, like Bruce Wayne, living in the ‘normal’ world, and should look like any other holidaymaker in Italy. To her (Anne Hathaway) and myself, that kind of blue signifies happiness and has good connotations. Wish we had seen more of it, but it’s a mysterious scene.
As with The Dark Knight all Bruce Wayne’s suits in the film are by made Armani, either two button glencheck or pinstripe with wide padded shoulders. The label is custom: ‘Giorgio Armani for Bruce Wayne’. Armani also provided selected garments for the characters of John Blake, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth, plus some accessories for Selina Kyle.
CoF: Again you drafted in Armani for Bruce Wayne’s suits. Fashion brands do not always combine well with costume design (Black Swan being a recent example), but presumably you experienced no such issues?
LH: No one prevailed upon me to use Armani either last time or this. It just seems the right choice for a man (Bruce Wayne) who is pretending to be a wealthy playboy. It would not be the kind of menswear for James Bond, for instance, but using designers for product placement in this way can benefit the costume budget, and providing they let you design the garment and choose the fabrics yourself, you are not compromising your character.
With thanks to Lindy Hemming.
The Dark Knight Rises is currently on general release.
© 2012 – 2013, Chris Laverty.