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‘Magnificent Seven’ Costume Designer on History, Style & Research [EUR Exclusive]

magnificent seven cast
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*MGM and Sony’s “The Magnificent Seven” earned an impressive $35 million over its opening weekend — one of the biggest openings on record for a live-action western, and giving rise to the idea that western is a viable genre. Most recently, “The Revenant” earned Leonardo DiCaprio his first Oscar, and seven of the top eight debuts for a western, including “True Grit’s” $24 million debut, “The Lone Ranger’s” $29m debut and “Django Unchained’s” $30m Christmas opening, all occurred in the last six years, Forbes notes.

Academy Award nominated Costume Designer Sharen Davis worked on both ‘Django,’ and “Magnificent Seven,” and in addition to her frequent collaborations with Denzel on over five films, she is also best known for her work in “Ray” and “Dreamgirls.”

Sharen told EUR/Electronic Urban Report that part of her inspiration for this project came from “pieces of silhouettes and ideas from the 1960’s version,” she said.

Directed by Antoine Fuqua, “Magnificent Seven” stars Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke and Chris Pratt, and the story is a remake of the 1960 version, which is a westernized retelling of Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” (1954).

“I had already done Django, you can say that’s like a little fantasy mixed with a little 1850’s and 1870’s, but I already had a research book because there’s not that much photographs of this period. So it’s a lot of reading,” Davis said about her approach to the overall representation of the 1870s.

READ RELATED STORY: Denzel’s ‘The Magnificent Seven’ Brings in $35M at Box Office for Top Film

She added, “You’ll see a sample of fabric and there’s pictures of famous people of that time, or there’s pictures of cowboys. I dug around for two weeks, not so much on the Internet, but in the library to get some photos.”

magnificent-seven-cast
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Tell me how the colors and fabrics play a role with the film’s narrative. What story did you want to tell through the clothing?
DAVIS: Well, I went individually with each character. I didn’t really do them as a whole, as each character has their background story, so they’re all quite different. They subtly look the same but when you look at them closely they’re very different. So there is layers to their clothing and they utilize it in certain scenes. We had to make a small closet work for them because they only had the clothes on their back.

In a period film, how much of the costume is authentic to that time, and how much of it is recreated?
DAVIS: Well, because it’s an action film, and they wear the same clothes throughout the whole movie, everything has to be designed and made.

Did you collaborate with the cast on the costumes?
DAVIS: Yes, because they had also done background character searches on who they were. They always had a say in wardrobe so that they can bring their character to life. They definitely enhanced the wardrobe with their ideas.

Do the principal characters have a signature element on their wardrobe that tells you everything you need to know about their personality?
DAVIS: I think so. It’s very subtly done, but you definitely see something that will define their character in each of the costumes.

magnificent-seven-denzel
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How closely do set designers and costumers work together on period films?
DAVIS: Pretty close. Derek and I were always in communication. He was always sending me his research [because] we’ve always got to be on the same page, and plus, we’re desperate for more knowledge of the period, so we always share our information.

Often with westerns, some of the most powerful moments are wordless. This puts more emphasis on movement, glances and hesitations. Did such moments influence your style choices?
DAVIS: There were subtle times when someone would remove a piece of wardrobe, or place a hat specifically somewhere, or a gun or holster. Their wardrobe would answer a question sometimes.

What’s your professional philosophy?
DAVIS: Every project is so different. Every director is so different. Every crew is so different. My philosophy would be to stay open and hear the director. Its got to be his vision. Its got to come from him. So I have to clean slate and come fresh and new. I don’t like to repeat something I’ve already done in a film. My philosophy is to come fresh to each project.

 

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