Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

Los Angeles, California

HomeAwardsAwards Portfolio: Francesca LoSchiavo/Aviator

Awards Portfolio: Francesca LoSchiavo/Aviator

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Ever since her acclaimed work on Elizabeth, Alexandra Byrne has become the go-to period costume designer. In fact, she has exclusively stuck with period pieces on features, preferring to lose herself in the past and even delving repeatedly in the same period from different perspectives. Last year, with Finding Neverland and The Phantom of the Opera, Byrne found herself in Edwardian England in 1904 and Paris in the 1870s. Both offered different challenges related to the theater.
“How I work is I completely refer to the period so I know it and understand it. And that’s kind of like the background from which I move. Because I have a secure knowledge of the period, it means that everything is informed by that, but it gives me the freedom to be more conceptual and to interpret the characters within the period.”
Byrne often eschews costume drawings in order to be more organic. “I like to be able to develop, so I do big reference boards of anything that I feel is relevant to the character… all kind of eclectic references. And then with the director and the actor, it means that you’re looking at something and things can develop and things can grow.”
In the case of Finding Neverland, which concerns JM Barrie’s inspiration for penning Peter Pan, Byrne needed a through line for all of the fantasy and theatrical productions. “In working with [director] Marc [Forster], we very much felt that it was from Barrie’s point of view. So even in the real life things, I tried to dress the character from Barrie’s perspective, how he was seeing them or how he felt about them. And also I wanted the characters to be accessible and identifiable, so I didn’t want to get into picture postcards. The way that fantasy and theater are interwoven, it’s almost as if a costume has its own development through the film, as worn or picked up by different people.”
Phantom, of course, was very much dictated by the Andrew Lloyd Webber music, and working with former costume designer Joel Schumacher freed Byrne on so many creative levels because the director understands costumes. “The challenge for me was finding a visual style that matches the scale of the story and lives with the music. And it’s a thundering, great love story, so I wanted to develop a world where the audience is just picked up and swept along and you roll with it. There are three characters. And the nearest that gets to reality, I suppose, is in the world of the backstage, the rehearsals and the orchestra, where there are a multitude of costumes that just keep coming at you.”

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