That makes a lot of sense in retrospect, that you would want to use historical references as close as possible. Were you talking about 3D printing sir when you said you had to print the textiles?
No, we were printing it on material before we made the uniforms. In a funny way, even though it is a sort of off-contemporary film, it’s superior to things. It’s like doing a period movie or a World War II film or something about early conflicts in Iraq, and you’ve got soldiers and you need to get the uniform correct to make it feel authentic. You can’t just say “well, let’s just pretend that they didn’t need uniforms.” It doesn’t make any sense. And that becomes quite complicated because you don’t have original pieces of material to copy, so you’ll have to draw it, design it, keep reshaping it, recoloring it till you think you’ve got it absolutely right.
That’s true, and you talked about period pieces. You’ve done several period movies in the your career like The Last King of Scotland and The Invisible Woman, but what’s unique about A Private War is the director, Matthew Heineman, studied history in college. Did you notice this have any effect on his collaboration with you compared to past filmmakers who tackled historical projects?
Yeah, I think so. It was an enjoyable collaboration. He was interested in it. He’d done a documentary on Syria and so I watched that documentary and we would be talking constantly and I would find and share images. Then Rosamund got involved as well, and we would be discussing the real thing at the real time. There were so many aspects about it, like the religious divide in the Middle East and all that came into it. We would talk about the aspects of things and Matt would say “exactly like that.” I would offer some suggestion and he’d say “yeah, no, exactly, it should be like that.” About different characters.
Yeah, Marie Colvin’s life was so sprawling that having a helmer who was knowledgeable about everything must’ve definitely helped. And I’m happy the collaboration bore great fruit for you.
Now, she was of course an incredibly brave individual. There are parts of A Private War that take place in the war zones she reported in, and, as such, there’s a lot of action with explosions and dirt and pyrotechnics and fake blood. I’m wondering, as the costume designer, how responsible are you for things like safety? Like you need to make sure this textile won’t catch on fire, or this material won’t chafe the actors or the stunt performers if it gets wet?
Well, you have to be mindful of it. For example you spray them with a chemical before if there’s going to be any chance of fire. But I think we more work around that by trying to tell stories about the kind of things she would wear early on in her career, so you know it was period sensitive, and then other articles that would seem simple, like ordinary things like jeans, but it was trying to find the right pair of jeans before 2001 that were in the right shape and size and in the right quantities because obviously we couldn’t operate with just single items due to doubles and stunts and as you say things getting dirty, broken down, worn down, etc…
So one of the most important things became the actual jeans that Marie wears. There were a number of samples we went through, like originals and Levees, just to find the right jeans, and right up until the last minute, two days before shooting, Matt and the producer were at the fittings, really concentrating on the look of the jeans from all over- the back, the front. Cause they’re going to be something she wears quite a lot. And when you look at it and it’s finished you think it’s just a pair of jeans. But actually it took a lot of effort to get that right.
No, and that ties back to what you were saying earlier about the eyepatch and how it takes a lot to get stuff right.
The movie has gotten acclaim and I truly to believe the costume design had to do with that. So again thank you Mr. O’Connor for speaking with me. I wish you the best in your future career.
Okay, thank you very much!
Flickering Myth would like to thank Mr. O’Connor for sitting down with us. A Private War is out in theaters now.
Special thanks to Britney Thai and Charles M artin of Impact 24 PR for making this interview possible!