Mark Bridges interview: ‘Licorice Pizza’ costume designer
“Licorice Pizza” marks the ninth collaboration between Paul Thomas Anderson and costume designer Mark Bridges, and the third one set in the ’70s in the Los Angeles area after “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “Inherent Vice” (2014) — but all three films’ tones and styles could not be more dissimilar. A coming-of-age story, “Licorice Pizza” takes place in 1973 San Fernando Valley and follows the misadventures of Gary (Cooper Hoffman), an entrepreneurial 15-year-old who becomes infatuated with 25-year-old Alana (Alana Haim).
“When I work with Paul, I just try to be as specific as possible to the year, time and place,” Bridges tells Gold Derby (watch the exclusive video interview above). “And so other ’70s projects were different — 1970 for ‘Inherent Vice,’ so there were more references to ’60s fashion. In ‘Boogie Nights,’ that started in ’77, which was very different from ’70. [For ‘Licorice Pizza’] we looked at a lot of yearbooks, we looked at primary research from that period and tried to find what were the specifics of that period, whether it was the length of a skirt, width of a collar. You think of flares and bell bottoms as being ’70s, but actually in the early ’70s we’re still in a transitional stage where it was more common for women to wear the flares and men were a little slower to take up that fashion whereas in ‘Boogie Nights,’ it was all flares all the time.”
Much of “Licorice Pizza” is about Alana trying to find herself, and her eclectic looks throughout the film reflect the uncertainty of what she wants to do with her life. She’s a photographer’s assistant but soon starts working at Gary’s waterbed business, then goes on a film audition before joining the mayoral campaign for Joel Wachs (Benny Safdie). Bridges notes that Alana often did “occasion dressing” rather than adhere to one style.
SEE In honor of ‘Licorice Pizza,’ lets look back at 1973
“I tried to find things that looked good on her because hopefully we all have things in our closets that look good on us, but that doesn’t mean there’s a particular style. And then she was more like occasion-dressing and a bit of a chameleon as far as what her choices were,” he explains. “It lent to that kind of awkwardness in a way and she’s constantly putting on and trying on new vibes, new looks, new her. It seemed to work very well. You make X number of pair of pants for her that fit well … you make it the way we open our own closet and that way I can mix and match and I repeated a couple outfits in the film. It seemed like her important outfit was when she was Gary’s guardian on the airplane on the way to New York and she wears it again when she begins to work for Joel Wachs. It kind of became ‘I’ll wear my good conservative outfit.’ And what she chooses to wear when she meets Gary at the restaurant is interesting too. It looks good and it’s a short skirt, but she’s got the boots. It’s very much, I think, an example of how on the fence she is about the whole thing. But the minute she comes home, her sister asks, ‘Why are you dressed like that? Did you have a date?’ And she’s like, ‘Cut it.’ It was really fun to decide what that was gonna be too.”
A two-time Oscar winner, Bridges won his second Best Costume Design statuette for Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” four years ago (the first was for 2011’s “The Artist”). But the Oscar was not the only thing he took home that evening. As part of host Jimmy Kimmel‘s ceremony-long gag, Bridges won a jet ski for giving the shortest acceptance speech, at 36 seconds. Bridges no longer has the jet ski — he donated it to the Motion Picture & Television Fund to auction off — but he fondly remembers that night, riding out on stage on the jet ski in a life vest with Helen Mirren behind him.
“Whenever you think about doing a speech, you think, ‘Let’s make it quick, nobody wants to listen you yammer on.’ And so, did that, and all through the night, they kept saying, ‘Mark Bridges still has the shortest speech.’ And when they finally came to me at the end like, ‘Mark Bridges, come here.’ I was like, ‘Oh, no,'” he recalls. “So they took me to the green room, still waiting for other people’s speeches, and then they lead me backstage and there is a jet ski and there’s Helen Mirren. I remember talking to her, saying, ‘I keep thinking of Gene Kelly in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ saying, ‘Dignity, always dignity.’ And Helen Mirren said, ‘Sometimes I like to poke holes in dignity.’ So I was like, ‘I think you have something there.’ So I put on the life jacket over my tux, got up there, had my Oscar and then figure out how — you just go with it, you know what I mean? When we went out there and I’m waving or whatever and I see Paul Thomas Anderson in the audience cracking up, so I knew everything was OK. He was like hysterical. We knew it was fun, it was a joke, it was a gag.”