Arianne Phillips is now nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” a film she almost wasn’t a part of due to her involvement with another film. She was slated to do the costumes for a Patty Hearst biopic directed by James Mangold that ended up being canceled, which freed her up to do Quentin Tarantino‘s ode to 1960s Hollywood. “It was a twist of fate,” Phillips says in a new interview with Gold Derby, and it was certainly a delightful twist of fate for her as a major fan of Tarantino’s films. “To be in this position was something I didn’t imagine could actually happen.” Watch the exclusive video interview with Phillips above.
The film being Tarantino’s love letter to 1969 Los Angeles made it important for all involved to accurately reflect the sights and sounds of the time period. That was especially crucial for Phillips, who extensively researched this specific era in Hollywood. As she describes it, the research process involved “becoming fluent in that world and that time, pop culture, politically, socio-economically, everything that was going on in and around Los Angeles culture.” The costume designer also drew from her own experiences as a kid growing up in the area.
The costume design of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is somewhat unique in being recognized by the Academy because the men’s clothing is just as bold and flashy as the women’s in some ways. Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), as a fading Western movie star, often wears a brownish ensemble while Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), his workmanlike stunt man, wears all denim or a bright yellow Hawaiian button-down shirt. Phillips notes that the overall style details were present in Tarantino’s script and for her, it was all about “filling in the blanks” and having numerous discussions with the director. One of Phillips’ most key contributions was the footwear for Rick and Cliff. Rick is seen in cowboy boots to reflect the “machismo” of an aging actor still trying to give off a certain appearance, even if his true self doesn’t reflect that. On the flip side, Cliff wears moccasins to show he is “hip with the times” and also very comfortable in his own skin, with Phillips taking inspiration from photographs of actor Steve McQueen wearing soft shoes of this sort at the time.
Phillips also had the responsibility of accurately dressing real-life figures who were present in Hollywood at the time, namely Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Every scene with Tate is a showcase for the latest fashion of the time with standout pieces like the black turtleneck, the go-go boots and the striped shirt with jean shorts. Tate’s sister, Debra, lent some jewelry to the production that her late sister had worn at the time, also serving as a consultant on the film. Phillips was dedicated to not only designing the right clothing for all 140 speaking parts but also the right jewelry and the right belt buckles and the right pinky rings.
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is Phillips’ third Oscar nomination, previously earning bids for “Walk the Line” (2005) and “W.E.” (2011). This year she is nominated with multiple costume designers she has competed with before and she couldn’t be more thrilled to be nominated with friends like Sandy Powell, Mark Bridges and Jacqueline Durran. “I think the nominations this time are really excited because they are untraditional in a way,” she explains. “If you look at ‘The Irishman,’ ‘Joker,’ ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ and even ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ usually these big period costume films are nominated and we see them winning, or big fantasy films, and I absolutely love the costumes for ‘Little Women’ and actually, I think they have a modernism to them that they stand apart even from traditional period costume. So I think costume designers are getting more thoughtful about who they’re voting for.”
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