“I was excited about showing another side of the 70s,” exclaims Ruth E. Carter about designing the costumes in “Dolemite is My Name.” In our recent chat about the Netflix film, she adds, “I hadn’t really seen a film about the 70s that represented what I remembered about living as a young teenager at that time. I wanted to put out there the look during a time that I think was visually explosive in fashion.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Carter above.
“Dolemite” is a biographical comedy starring Eddie Murphy as the real life Rudy Ray Moore who created the entertaining, profane persona, Dolemite. Carter says, “This was an opportunity to help Eddie Murphy realize a dream of 16 years. As an artist Eddie is very serious and always produces something magical. We made clear distinctions between Moore, who was a simpler dresser, and Dolemite who was curated and tailored. I was able to mix textures and patters and colors. I had a lot of fun with Dolemite.”
On creating the vivid world the designer reveals, “We wanted to show a slice of life and not make a mockery. If you go to a 70s themed party everyone wants to do an afro and wear big bell bottoms and look like Elton John. In this case I wanted the film to take a very broad view of a very broad time. We tempered everything. When you see the record store it looks like real people. Then you meet Dolemite and he’s larger than life in a time when fashion was larger than life.”
Carter, who was elected as an academy governor this year, has been working in films since she designed for Spike Lee’s film “School Daze” in 1988. Carter made history earlier this year by being to first African-American to win an Oscar for costume design. She won it for her work on the Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther,” and it meant even more winning on the same night Lee was able to win his first Oscar. She reflects, “I was so overwhelmed with joy and happiness to see Spike. He took a chance on me, when I was a theater costumer. Spike always reminded us that we had a voice. We could come up with new ideas and speak about our African-American culture in the way that we know it. I felt like when I stood there with the Oscar we were right. I never forgot what he told me on my first film: ‘Uplift the race, we should forerunners, we should be the first-timers.’ We were still doing it on the Oscar stage, and it all culminated for me when I stood there and I looked at him. The industry is changing and I am so excited to be part of that change.”
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