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HomeAwardsContender – Costume Designer Mary Zophres, Interstellar

Contender – Costume Designer Mary Zophres, Interstellar

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GTBN: Fargo

Mary Zophres (Photo by Matt Petit/©AMPAS).
Mary Zophres (Photo by Matt Petit/©AMPAS).

Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar takes us on a journey through a wormhole to find a new habitable planet so humanity can survive. Bringing this story to life consisted of many significant elements, notably costume design. Enter Mary Zophres, who is best known for her work on No Country for Old Men (2007), The Big Lebowski (1998) and Fargo (1996). She was also nominated for an Academy Award in costume design in 2011 for her work in True Grit.

Zophres has always admired Nolan’s work so she was especially eager to read the script for Interstellar, which she loved immediately. “I remember weeping when I read the script,” said Zophres. “I found it to be really touching, and important and about something I felt really strongly.” She was also thrilled that there were spacesuits to design. “A space suit isn’t exactly something that I’m known for or have any experience in, but that was appealing to me. I love working on projects I’ve never tackled before.”

There were only 12 weeks of prep time, which is not much for a film with specialty costumes, so Zophres immersed herself in extensive research immediately. Nolan wanted the film and the costumes to have a NASA aesthetic instead of trying to predict the future by making everything sleek and new in a science fiction way. So Zophres began researching real NASA spacesuits. She took a few days to study the suits throughout the years, learned about the way they function and then sketched her own designs. The suits were developed immediately after the sketches. Everything was made in-house.

INTERSTELLARDeveloping the suits did not just involve getting the look right, it also meant they had to be functional. Many challenges had to be resolved. “We had to make sure an actor could breathe in the helmet so we had to have a fan system and an oxygen system that came through the backpack and came through tubes through the top of the helmet,” explained Zophres. Another issue was how the actors would be able to hear the director and communicate with each other in their spacesuits. “We then had to figure out how sound had to work in there.” One issue followed another. “The first time we established the suit it was going to be in Iceland and the actress was going to be up to her hips in water so then we had to take what we designed and try to make it waterproof.”

An aspect of Zophres’ work that she is particularly proud of is the naturalistic quality of the spacesuits. “I do think I know how to make clothes look real. If you can make clothes look real you can make a spacesuit look real.” The believability of the costumes in Interstellar is an achievement that helps create the suspension of disbelief necessary to make the film such a compelling story.

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