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Award Contender-Costume Designer Jenny Beavan-Casanova

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Veteran costume designer Jenny Beavan has done her share of historical spectacles. But doing the clothes for director Lasse Hallström’s Casanova, a comedy broadly based on the 18th century figure whose name even today instantly connotes amorous adventurer, was especially daunting. “I loved every minute of it,” she says, “but this was quite a huge undertaking to do costumes for that time in history where many of the clothes were so elaborate.” On top of dressing stars Heath Ledger and Sienna Brown, Beavan was tasked with providing period outfits for numerous secondary characters and squads of soldiers in regimental dress. In addition, there was a multitude of extras that had to be costumed for the film’s crowd and ball scenes. “To get that many outfits,” she recalls, “we ransacked every costume house that exists in Italy, and most of the big ones in France, Spain, England and Austria.” The film was shot on location in Venice, where the story takes place. “Lasse wanted everything to be historically accurate,” says Beavan. Tapping visual references from the period wasn’t too hard. The look and dress of the Venice aristocracy and populace of that era is exceptionally well documented in paintings by artists like Canaletto, Francesco Guardi and Pietro Longhi, many of whose pictures hang in the town’s museums. Production designer David Gropman worked from the same references, so the overall color scheme in the settings and in the costumes was highlighted by the same rich palette of deep blues, rose pinks and golds from the era. In addition there were the deep blacks that pop up in the men’s tricorn hats and the masks that residents used to wear to further intrigues at balls and to hide their identities from administrators of the ongoing Inquisition.Costumes of the period were also created from scratch in London for the leads, but to make the outfits for many others in the cast, Beavan supervised a running work crew at Prato near Florence where many factories for the Italian fashion industry are located.Beavan’s past credits include Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004), an even more gargantuan effort, Gosford Park (2001), for which she received her most recent Oscar nomination, and 11 films for the team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. She recently finished doing the costumes for The Black Dahlia, a noir mystery set in 1940s Los Angeles, directed by Brian de Palma and has just started working on another film set in the 18th century, Amazing Grace, about English abolitionist William Wilberforce.

Written by Jack Egan

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