One rain dripped Friday afternoon, the fine folks at Swarovksi hosted a luncheon with the perfectly sunny Lindy Hemming, following a BAFTA Masterclass where the Academy Award winning Costume Designer, chatted about the art, the business, the stars and stripes.
As the woman behind the seams of several James Bond films, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, as well as Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, this is a lady who has seen the best – and worst – of temperamental, fragile, gifted, insecure, brilliant, bossy and assured actors. Sometimes, all of the aforementioned in one package (“Jack Nicholson!”)
With the proliferation of political correctness corroding the fine art of a spicey interview, an unpretentious and uncensored chat with Hemming followed. For the record, this was pre, and post tumblers of the finest red wine hoisted upon us by the fine folks at The Peninsula, followed by a faultless lunch that one is now accustomed with at Gaddi’s. “This glass is far too big – its just an accident waiting to happen isn’t it?” she asked soon after we were escorted into a private room.
Between courses and amuse-bouches, she kept the collected audience of editors dreadfully amused and did not plead the fifth when questions were asked of a (mildly) indelicate kind.
Straight off the bat, someone asked who she’d rather not work with again. “Russell Crowe,” she said without batting an eye. “It was all just awful. And I’m not so sure about, what’s-his-name Seth [McFarlane - of Family Guy]. I find his films terrible. Ted was awful! I’ve wanted to work on a Western – which would be great fun – but no one makes those any more really. McFarlane did [A Million Ways to Die in the West, a critical flop but a box-office smash] but I couldn’t bear any of it.”
Who was surprisingly lovely? “Christian Bale!“ As jaws drop (Bale’s infamous raging rant on a movie set that was leaked online made him the definitive enfant terrible of ego-maniacal movie stars). “One incident does not define a character. We all have that one awful day – I’d be arrested for things I’ve said! He’s perfectly wonderful to work with, a fine gentleman.”
One of the surprising questions that arose often from fans of Batman was regarding not the costume of the titular character, but a hat worn by Catwoman ie Anne Hathaway. “Oh we found it in an old shop and we altered it with a bit of fabric and a few snips here and there. As in most superhero movies, it’s all about covering the face and not letting one on – so we had to twist and turn that thing to cover as much of lovely Anne as we could.”
And is she as saccharine as she appears? “Oh, such a lovely, sweet, sweet girl.”
Working in a movie franchise also meant collaborating with other designers and a costume that’s already in the subconscious of its fanatical following. “Well, the thing about designing Wonderwoman’s costume of course was that, well, its sort of already been designed. There’s already a template – the challenge was to showcase how the costume came about. I hadn’t worked with other designers before so this was a new experience. Was pretty good.”
Working with multiple Oscar-winner Jack Nichlson came with unexpected challenges as he didn’t want to meet the designer prior to the film’s shoot. “’Just give me what to wear and I’ll wear the damn thing’ he said, but of course before the movie begins, you’ve got to work with the actors, create a backstory – well I always do – as to why the person is who they are, and let the costume develop from there. But he – one of the greats of course – didn’t want to. But finally he was convinced and I met him – and he was wonderful. But, He just didn’t understand why I wanted to see him at his home! It was on a film that no one saw either by the way!”
When asked, as I would, if she’d ever work in a Bollywood film, she exclaimed, “Most definitely. All those gorgeous colours! And to bring it to life in a musical which is so rare in Hollywood these days. Two of my dearest designer friends are in Mumbai – Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla – and I’ve used several of their pieces in films and on red carpet. Dame Judi Dench is a great fan of their embroidered work. So one dinner, a while ago in Mumbai, I met this young film producer and I broached the subject. Charming fellow – Karan [Johar]. But he sort of swept me away. Was all too dismissive so I sort of gave up – but if you know of anyone interested in working – do send them my details.”
For more with Lindy Hemming, pick up a copy of the July issue of Prestige HK