The Tourist: Colleen Atwood Talks Exclusively About Costumes

For contemporary set spy thriller The Tourist starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, Oscar winning costume designer Colleen Atwood took a break from historical and fantasy to create a modern yet playfully retro collection of gorgeous gowns and impeccable suits. We asked her a few questions about the film’s lavish look and how it evolves throughout.

Playing classy mystery woman Elise Ward, Angelina Jolie dons twelve outfits in total, most created from the ground up by Colleen Atwood and inspired by current or vintage pieces. The soft, fitted grey dress she wears was actually a Charles James original. Her shoes, towering heels mostly, were all Salvatore Ferragamo.

Floor length in draped silk, Elise’s sumptuous white evening dress was an original design. Jewellery was provided by Angelina’s personal jeweller Robert Procop (former CEO of Asprey); according to Colleen it is a ‘mixture of old and new’ and ‘part of Elise’s character’.

She viewed the change from period to contemporary design as a ‘fun way to explore what’s out there today’. Her overriding approach for The Tourist was timeless chic. ‘The idea was to create a world of quiet elegance, reflected in simplicity of line and colour’.

As school teacher Frank Tupelo, Johnny Depp’s costume subtly becomes more luxurious as he is pulled further and further into Elise’s seductive world. Frank’s style is relatively minimal at first, a classic grey suit and dark tie, though his white dinner jacket for the gala sequence was tailored on Savile Row. During the same sequence co-star Paul Bettany is seen in a full tuxedo – his own suit designed by Ozwald Boateng.

Having worked with Johnny Depp on, among other productions, Sleepy Hollow (1999), Public Enemies (2009) and Alice in Wonderland (2010), Colleen was well versed in the actor’s ability to transform from unassuming to whatever the part required as soon his costume came together. ‘Johnny is intuitive. He can sense when something feels right – that he can live in it’.

For her first ensemble, Angelina wears a cream silk dress and mocha wrap. Though the dress itself takes inspiration from an authentic Irene (costume designer, 1930s), the wrap was Colleen’s own addition. ‘I didn’t want a suit, so decided this was a sexy way to go’. Currently this stands as her favourite costume in the movie.

Despite The Tourist being compared to stylish Audrey Hepburn caper Charade (1963), Colleen maintains that she and director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck were informed more directly by Alfred Hitchcock.

Angelina’s black suit, a fifties-esque single breasted jacket and just below the knee skirt were tailored from a vintage find. Her natural cashmere sweater seen on board the speedboat in Venice was chosen because ‘the colour was amazing’. At the gala, Elise is devastating in a black silk tulle dress and antique diamond choker. Several versions of the dress were made for the proceeding action sequence.

Filming in Paris for one week and then Venice for the remainder of the shoot proved occasionally tricky for Colleen Atwood and her ten-strong team. ‘Logistically difficult, as Venice is a city full of rules. It was not always easy’. The results, however, are undeniably pretty. This is contemporary costume design at its most visible.

With thanks to Colleen Atwood.

The Tourist is released in the UK and U.S. on 10th December.

© 2010 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.