Director George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road is a post apocalyptic story where a woman (Charlize Theron) rebels against a tyrannical ruler and along for the journey of dressing the inhabitants of this world was costume designer Jenny Beavan, who is known for her work on The King’s Speech (2010), for which she received an Academy Award nomination. She has received many other nominations for her work and won once for A Room With A View (1985).
Beaven dived into the world of Mad Max: Fury Road by imagining a world after a major catastrophe and researching everything post apocalyptic. She looked at photos and books and searched the Internet for inspiration from real life people, art, fashion and just about everything else that was inspiring for a post apocalyptic world.
When it came to actually creating and implementing the looks, challenge abounded. Beaven found herself in Namibia, working with an Namibian crew who was talented but untried. There were logistical problems to overcome in every direction. “The desert with its non-stop sand getting into everything and blowing into the actors faces, the safety issues to build into the costumes but in such a way as wouldn’t compromise the looks, the replication of costumes as every stuntman played every different stunt role in the film plus doubling the actors,” Beaven said, listing some of the challenges that arose.
Even with the challenges, which Beaven faced with aplomb, she managed to create looks that were varied and fascinating for the characters. She loved the individuality of each character and she had many favorites.”I found Rictus Erectus pleased me a lot when all the elements of the costume came together. I think my entire team had a hand in making all his components. I made his dolls head necklace which brought back all my early career as a prop and model maker and the fun I used to have. And I loved the Vuvalini – the older women survivors from the ‘Green Place’ that no longer existed, on their motorbikes that had become their homes. But also the ‘Wives’ who were so totally inappropriately dressed for a road trip as they had been confined in a bubble in the Citadel and needed little clothing,” Beaven said.
The collaborative process was a wonderful experience for Beaven on this film. Working with Miller was an adventure. “Due to all the stunt work we had to test all the costumes to make sure the stunt performers could work in them so we were able to show George a lot of the costumes in action before we would shoot on them. Sometimes he would have a last-minute request in the middle of the desert, like asking if we could make two masks into one by sticking them together. We could and did but then had to double this new hybrid as we always had two units shooting,” Beaven explained.
Working with the rest of the crew was also adventurous and very positive. The project was filled with challenges in every way but the crew was superb. “I would just like to pay tribute to my amazing crew – my Namibians but also the Australians, British and South Africans who brought their special skills to this very unusual project in a very unusual place,” Beaven said.