For Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” the story of a fur-trapper (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeking revenge on the man (Tom Hardy) who left him for dead after a bear mauling, costume designer Jacqueline West says she sifted through an extensive amount of research to recreate the period. Yet while historical accuracy was certainly a concern, it wasn’t her main one. “After that process,” she explains in our recent audio chat (listen below), “then you have to let your imagination take off.”
The veteran costumer often thought in metaphorical terms when creating her designs, giving each character a different symbol to work from. For Hardy’s character, a conniving villain, “his symbolic animals were the otter and the badger, who are so clever…and work out how to survive.”
DiCaprio's, on the other hand, “was in the wilderness for different reasons. He had a more spiritual take; that’s why he gravitated towards the Native Americans. He communed with animals, he used them only for food and for warmth, and he survived nature — which is kind of his cathedral — together. He was looking for something different from monetary gain in the wilderness. So I made his costume almost monk-like and Alejandro loved that.”
Further singing the director's praises, she adds, “Alejandro is a really metaphorical director. He relies on metaphors for the entire movie, and he drove me to do the same thing. All these costumes were in collaboration with Alejandro: first I would do an initial run of drawings with some choices for him of ideas I had, and then we responds very viscerally to things. His body language changes when he sees something that really sings to him.”
West received Oscar nominations for her work on “Quills” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
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"The Revenant" photo credit: Fox