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Contender-Consolata Boyle-Costumes-The Queen

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Consolata Boyle had several needles to thread in designing the costumes for The Queen, about the English monarch’s conflicted response to the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997, which threatened to turn the public against the Royal Family.”There were two challenges,” says the Irish-born costume designer. “One involved duplicating reality because of the archival footage we used, and the other was the more imaginative secret world of Balmoral Castle where the Royals appear as we’ve never seen them, which allowed us to be more creative.”Director Stephen Frears’ decision to deftly interweave some original news footage with what was shot for the feature required Boyle to design some outfits that seamlessly matched the originals so there was no discrepancy.”Even in exact recreations there’s an alchemy that happens,” she says. “Though they are duplicates, they have an extra energy and intensity.”For much of the film, Queen Elizabeth, played flawlessly by Helen Mirren, and the rest of the Royal Family, are sequestered in their palatial Scottish retreat, dressed less formally. The Queen is seen in comfy sweater sets or traipsing around outdoors in weatherproof gear, with a Hermes scarf tied around her head like a babushka. She’s also seen in bed several times, in her nightware and curlers.”It’s almost natural the way it happens, you accept you’re seeing the Queen in bed, and this is probably how it is,” observes Boyle. “But the challenge in all cases was to make it completely effortless. It would be a fatal disaster if they looked like costumes. They have to completely belong to the characters.”What’s informal to the Royals is still pretty elaborate. Prince Charles and his father Prince Philip wander around indoors in their tartan kilts and highly-tailored tweed jackets. Boyle, an expert in textiles, had the fabrics custom woven to make the colors of the soft Harris tweeds subtly hint at the tints of the surrounding countryside.The film contrasts this world with that of the new and somewhat disheveled Prime Minister Tony Blair. “With his ill-fitting shirts and suits, he represents the world of energy and ideas—of political movement and excitement in contrast to the Royals who seem frozen in aspic,” she says.This is Boyle’s fourth collaboration with director Frears. Previously she was his costume designer on The Van, Mary Reilly and The Snapper. “He’s a most extraordinary director,” she declares. “He has the same effect on his key crew as he does on his actors. He draws the very best out of the center of you, but allows you the space to do your job.” Boyle, who earned a degree in archeology and history from University College Dublin, trained in set and costume design for the stage at the Abbey Theater in Dublin before moving into film. Motion pictures for which she did costumes include The Actor, Nora, The Winslow Boy and Angela’s Ashes.—Jack Egan

Written by Jack Egan

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