In bringing the story of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) to the screen, Tom Hooper reunited with costume designer Paco Delgado and production designer Eve Stewart, both of whom received Oscar nominations for the director’s previous outing, “Les Miserables.” With “The Danish Girl,” the two are once again given the opportunity to meticulously recreate the styles and settings of a bygone era, and this time, their work could pay off in wins.
Delgado currently holds third place in our predictions with odds of 9/2. Known for his work with Pedro Almodovar (“Bad Education” in 2004 and “The Skin I Live In” in 2011) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Biutiful” in 2010), the costumer could benefit from the academy’s bias for period dramas in this category, which you could usually just call Best Costume Design in a Film Set Before 1940. Just look at recent victors “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), “The Great Gatsby” (2013), “Anna Karenina” (2012), and “The Artist” (2011), and you’ll notice a trend to reward films that most accurately and vibrantly recreate the past.
You have to go all the way back to “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (1994) to find a contemporary film that triumphed here. That win is of special significance to this race because Lizzie Gardiner and Tim Chappel transformed actor Terence Stamp into a transsexual character, much like Delgado does with Redmayne.
Charting Redmayne's transition from artist Einar Wegener to transgender woman Lili Elbe gives Delgado the opportunity to craft several exquisite garbs that display the character’s growing comfort within the wardrobe. As well, he shows the emotional journey of Wegener’s wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), who as the film progresses also becomes more confident in her clothing choices.
Stewart, who was previously nominated for Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” (2010) and Mike Leigh’s “Topsy-Turvy” (1999), is currently ranked fifth with odds of 10/1. Like Delgado, she will no doubt benefit from the academy’s fondness for period dramas. Even more than in Best Costume Design, voters seem to have their minds stuck in the past here. The last contemporary film to win Bet Production Design was “All That Jazz” in 1979, with period films like “Hugo” (2011), “Lincoln” (2012), “The Great Gatsby” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” dominating the field since.
Spanning several years in Copenhagen from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s, Stewart’s attention to detail is apparent in every set, from the Wegners' studio apartment to the hospital where Einar becomes Lili. Her recent nomination from the Art Directors Guild should only help (she previously won their award for Excellence in Period Design for “The King’s Speech,” and was nominated for the TV series “The Hour” and Hooper's “Les Miserables”).
Oftentimes, these two awards go hand-in-hand, which was the case with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Great Gatsby” and “Alice in Wonderland” (2010) in just the last five years. Also, even if “The Danish Girl” is left out of the Best Picture lineup, that shouldn’t hurt its chances in these two categories since the design awards have a long history of rewarding films not included in the academy's top race. So history, which seems to be one of the academy’s favorite subjects, may be on their side.
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"The Danish Girl" photo credit: Focus Features