The despair and the glory in director Tom Hooper’s adaptation of Les Misérables is a spinning world of drama unfolding into redemption. To help spin this tale against the backdrop of France from the year 1815 to 1845, Hooper enlisted costume designer Paco Delgado. Delgado’s work so far has been primarily in Spain, collaborating with such notable directors as Alejandro González Iñárritu on Biutiful (2010) and Pedro Almodóvar on The Skin I Live In (2011). But this changed when he met Hooper working on an advertising campaign in 2011. The invitation to design for Les Misérables was an unexpected delight. “Hooper liked my work [on the advertising campaign] and told me that he was working in this project and he would like me to work in it,” Delgado said. “I thought that it was very kind of him but forgot all about it. It was my surprise when eight months later he called me to ask me if I was free to embark in the project.”
Conceptualizing the costumes took Delgado back to the original source: the 1862 book by Victor Hugo. He pursued more inspiration on a whirlwind museum tour. “The obvious was to look in the period paintings,” he explained. “Especially those of Delacroix, Goya, David and the amazing Ingres. I also researched at the Victoria and Albert in London, Le Musée du Louvre, and Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.”
It was a massive undertaking, not for the faint of heart, to adapt one of the most beloved stories in the world and the costume designer felt the weight of this. “[The challenge was in] the dimension of the film, the fact that the story covers 30 years of changing fashions from 1815-1845,” Delgado said. “And the fact that we have to put together a story that is full of grief and at the same time it is a musical that everyone knows has been one of the most successful musicals ever, having been seen by more than 60 million people.”
The scope and daring of the project was also what made the film a wonder for Delgado. Every day was filled with endearing memories for him. “The work with the director and actors was amazing,” he said. “Seeing all the stars singing live every day at the set – it was like a private concert every day.”
For Delgado, enjoying the design process as a collaborative effort translated to the stunning epic that is this new adaptation of Les Misérables. The film soars as the characters are unveiled in Delgado’s designs. “All this work was possible because I had an amazing team behind me working very hard every day and enjoying the fact that we were working in a unique experience,” Delgado said.