Marlene Stewart interview: ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ costume designer

“My favorite people to work with are people who respect my job and give me the time I need,” offers Marlene Stewart, the costume designer for “Top Gun: Maverick.” “That’s Tom (Cruise). He’s very demanding, but that’s fine. He gives you the time, and he’s 100 percent present. There’s always nerves, because it’s very high energy when Tom’s around. But he gives you his attention and focus. and he’s right there, so for me he’s the best there is to work with.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is the heralded Paramount Pictures sequel to the original “Top Gun” that became a career-defining blockbuster for Tom Cruise in 1986. It’s set 30 years after its predecessor, finding U.S. Navy Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell getting back in the saddle to train a group of younger pilots while at the same time confronting ghosts of his past. The challenge for Stewart – who didn’t work on the first film but has longtime connections to its producer Jerry Bruckheimer and late director Tony Scott – was to both retain the classic look of the original outfits and update it to a somewhat more contemporary style in its bomber jackets, flight suits, shoes, even Cruise’s blue jeans and aviator shades. “It had to look amazing but not noticeably different from the first one,” she explains.

Those somewhat contradictory marching orders meant reproducing the iconic G-1 hero jacket worn by Cruise in the first “Top Gun.” “I had to see it up-close and understand its history and how it was made for the original movie,” Stewart says. “We needed to change the silhouette a bit because, you know, the Eighties were about the shoulder pads. And Tom is a stickler for authenticity, so we had to order 40-plus vintage jackets from dealers around the world for the years 1947 to 1949.” Theoretical pieces of each of those jackets were incorporated into the recreated G-1 that Stewart dubbed the “Franken-jacket.”

But in fact every stitch of costume for “Maverick” was custom-made from scratch. Did that make this the toughest creative challenge of her costume design career? “Oh, I  can’t say one is more difficult than another,” she maintains. “Each genre and film has its own challenges. What’s most important is, what does the director want, and how does the lead actor relate to what the director wants? That’s where your challenges are. It’s not so much that costume designers can’t come up with amazing ideas. It’s more about how you get everybody on the same page.” Stewart has certainly worked with plenty of big-name directors in her more than four decades of designing costumes for film, including Oliver Stone for “The Doors” and “JFK,” James Cameron for “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “True Lies,” and Michael Mann for “Ali.”

With more than $700 million taken in, “Maverick” is the fifth highest-grossing movie ever in North America and has earned nearly $1.5 billion worldwide. “I was very grateful to be part of the team,” she says. “It was a privilege and an honor.”

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UPLOADED Dec 19, 2022 2:30 pm