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Hanna: Interview with Costume Designer Lucie Bates

Director Joe Wright’s follow up to The Soloist (2009) is an eclectic action thriller featuring Saoirse Ronan as a sixteen year old trained killer searching for answers about her past.

Costume design by German born Lucie Bates is among some of the most fascinating of the year so far. Constructed as a live action fairytale, her ensembles actually form part of the narrative. Characters are identified, even enhanced, by what they wear.

Saoirse Ronan as Hanna. Her costumes are deliberately loose and not intended as gender specific.

Talking exclusively to Clothes on Film, Lucie Bates chats about her work on Hanna, inducing parody, subtext and working with Giorgio Armani:

Clothes on Film, Chris: Saoirse Ronan’s costumes as Hanna are often loose and shapeless. Was this to hide her form?

Lucie Bates: Yes, my intention was to create her costumes loose and shapeless on purpose to hide her form, show her like a “lost teenager”, a young girl with her personal history, in a world of unknown things and secrets.

Hanna with British teenager Sophie (Jessica Barden) before her 'fairytale' makeover.

CoF: What is the significance of the tutu worn over her jeans for the ‘date’ scene? Has she become the fairytale princess?

LB: This is right, the “date” scene is the first time she tries to appear like a woman. She faces feelings she never had before; she starts to connect with her inner female. At this moment in the story we’re not sure if it is show or a fairytale. She does become the fairytale princess.

CoF: Hanna’s difference in costume to British teenager Sophie (Jessica Barden) suggests how different they are…

LB: This was part of my intention; both girls are the same age, but the complete opposite.

Hanna's prison outfit is based on the infamous Guantanamo Bay orange jumpsuit.

CoF: The orange jumpsuit worn by Hanna features the initials ‘CG III’. What do they mean?

LB: The orange jumpsuit is inspired by prison uniforms in general, specific and similar to Guantanamo Bay. The initials mean ‘CAMP’; G is the name of the camp (her prison), while a fictitious number completes the design. I designed the jumpsuit and the initials.

CoF: In playing Marissa, Cate Blanchett’s colour palette towards the end of the story becomes mainly green and red (her hair). Was this to reflect her status as the story’s ‘wicked witch’?

LB: Yes, Marissa’s colour palette of green and red shows her status as a witch. At the end of the film we can see this wicked witch. The green shoes are a symbol of her obsessive nature and character.

Cate Blanchett as Marissa wearing a silk blouse designed by Lucie Bates.

CoF: Where were her shoes from?

LB: The high heels are from an Armani shop in Milano, the green shoes were specially made by Prada for colour and fabric.

CoF: Marissa is seen wearing calf-high boots at one point during the finale. Was this a continuity error?

LB: No, it wasn’t a continuity error. Marissa is wearing calf-high boots just one time in the flash back scene while wearing the trench coat, jeans and black turtle neck.

Marrisa with hitman Issacs (Tom Hollander). Only some of Cate Blanchett's costumes were provided by Giorgio Armani.

CoF: How involved was Giorgio Armani in making Marissa’s costumes? Presumably he worked under your guidance?

LB: Yes, that is right. I asked for suits and blouses and a coat from the current Armani collection, but it was not what I liked so they REDESIGNED pattern pieces in consultation with me in different fabrics, cuts and colours. Further blouses were designed in our own tailoring.

CoF: What was the idea behind Tom Hollander as Isaacs’ look? Eighties casuals..?

LB: I prepared the look for Issacs. Director Joe Wright specifically wanted tracksuits from 1980’s; the result is 1980’s ‘Casuals’.

Issacs sporting his 'on the terraces', eighties casual wear.

CoF: His gang of thugs are a parody of the nihilist movement in Germany, are they not?

LB: No, they are dressed like a parody of (German) neo-fascists – bad characters.

CoF: They seem to represent the ‘Trolls’ of Hanna’s fairytale…

LB: This was a decision of the director (Joe Wright) and me.

CoF: How hands on was Joe Wright with costume design?

LB: Since our first meeting he liked my vision to make costumes for a straight thriller mixed with fairytales. We talked about our ideas and I made drawings, pattern pieces and took photos. Our talks (synopses) were based on these.

Erik (Eric Bana) and Hanna. Fur costumes in the film pay homage to original Inuit fabrics and designs.

CoF: How about the fur costumes seen at the start of Hanna?

LB: The fur costumes were inspired by original cloths of Inuit and hunters. I designed them, we coloured the fur and made all the fur pieces; the trousers, waistcoat, caps and hoods, coat, gloves, etc.

CoF: Lastly, I notice Jacqueline Durran (Atonement) is listed as co-costume designer in the film’s end credits…

LB: The production team decided that because of time and money a separate wardrobe team was needed and Jacqueline Durran would replace us during the five day shoot in Morocco. We sent the costumes from Germany to Morocco and repeated the process for a reshoot in New York.

With thanks to Lucie Bates.

Hanna was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 29th August.

© 2011 – 2017, Lord Christopher Laverty.