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Costumes for Faye Dunaway

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By Astrid Brucker
Faye Dunaway played Betty in Changing Hearts, the 2002 drama about two women who struggle with their health—physically, emotionally and spiritually. The film was directed by Martin Guigui. Below-the-line members included cinematographer Massimo Zeri, production designer C.J. Pyles, makeup artist Gloria Belz and editor John Axelrad. Dunaway’s character is a tough yet vulnerable hospital patient, whose offbeat sense of humor carries her through the unlikely reunion with the love of her life Johnny, played by Tom Skerritt.
As the film’s costume designer I visited hospitals, talked to patients and prepared extensive files of research. I amassed a collection of pictures for each character that mapped his or her story, continuity, and reflected each character arc, addressing the general themes of the story and specific dramatic scenes. I decided with Faye that we should go more muted in tone when she was ill, and as she recovers she would be more stylish and upbeat in silhouette and color.
My first fitting with her was in her hotel room in Nashville. I was prepared with both her breakdown and costumes for all of her 35 changes. We immediately fell into sync. As it happens, Faye also does her own extensive research and we saw eye to eye on many of the suggested choices. I felt like my preparation and research garnered a level of trust­—so important when creating and telling a story with sensitive yet demanding leading actors.
We had only a few days and were short on budget, time and staff to prepare for the second fitting. Due to our location, resources were limited. We found beautiful vintage coats and hats locally, and I also managed to enlist help from my contacts at the showrooms in New York and got some samples.
Our next meeting was spent fine-tuning our choices of colors and textures. Just as the cloud pajamas worked for her soft moment, the old red plaid robe worked in a more emotionally charged scene. By analyzing her scenes, we established a flow of moods that corresponded to her role and we were able to finalize the costume changes before the shoot began.
During the shoot I added certain accessories to subtly bring her character to life. I feel strongly that costume design takes place not only in the outer layers of a garment, but in the details. It determines what kind of posture, walk or mood is created. Some items may not even appear in front of the camera, but still help an actor feel the part.
For example, I had Amber, played by Lauren Holly, wear a necklace that Betty had given to her as a token of their friendship. Also, Betty had a sock filled with change pinned to the inside of her robe for her trips to the candy machine. The jingle of coins from that old white sock became one of Betty’s calling cards. Aging and distressed items, like a robe or a hat, completed the transformation and added realism to the scene.
I was happy that with preparation, research and planning before the shoot I gained Faye’s trust and stayed true to the director’s vision while maintaining the producer’s schedule and budget. It was a challenging project, not least because of the shortage of time and money. But comprehensive preproduction allowed us to take risks and experiment with solutions before and during the shoot.
The scenes with Faye touched us all. It was amazing to see Faye Dunaway, the legend, become Betty in front of the cameras and it was wonderful to have her input and to help her to feel comfortable and confident with her character and the story.By Astrid Brucker
Faye Dunaway played Betty in Changing Hearts, the 2002 drama about two women who struggle with their health—physically, emotionally and spiritually. The film was directed by Martin Guigui. Below-the-line members included cinematographer Massimo Zeri, production designer C.J. Pyles, makeup artist Gloria Belz and editor John Axelrad. Dunaway’s character is a tough yet vulnerable hospital patient, whose offbeat sense of humor carries her through the unlikely reunion with the love of her life Johnny, played by Tom Skerritt.
As the film’s costume designer I visited hospitals, talked to patients and prepared extensive files of research. I amassed a collection of pictures for each character that mapped his or her story, continuity, and reflected each character arc, addressing the general themes of the story and specific dramatic scenes. I decided with Faye that we should go more muted in tone when she was ill, and as she recovers she would be more stylish and upbeat in silhouette and color.
My first fitting with her was in her hotel room in Nashville. I was prepared with both her breakdown and costumes for all of her 35 changes. We immediately fell into sync. As it happens, Faye also does her own extensive research and we saw eye to eye on many of the suggested choices. I felt like my preparation and research garnered a level of trust­—so important when creating and telling a story with sensitive yet demanding leading actors.
We had only a few days and were short on budget, time and staff to prepare for the second fitting. Due to our location, resources were limited. We found beautiful vintage coats and hats locally, and I also managed to enlist help from my contacts at the showrooms in New York and got some samples.
Our next meeting was spent fine-tuning our choices of colors and textures. Just as the cloud pajamas worked for her soft moment, the old red plaid robe worked in a more emotionally charged scene. By analyzing her scenes, we established a flow of moods that corresponded to her role and we were able to finalize the costume changes before the shoot began.
During the shoot I added certain accessories to subtly bring her character to life. I feel strongly that costume design takes place not only in the outer layers of a garment, but in the details. It determines what kind of posture, walk or mood is created. Some items may not even appear in front of the camera, but still help an actor feel the part.
For example, I had Amber, played by Lauren Holly, wear a necklace that Betty had given to her as a token of their friendship. Also, Betty had a sock filled with change pinned to the inside of her robe for her trips to the candy machine. The jingle of coins from that old white sock became one of Betty’s calling cards. Aging and distressed items, like a robe or a hat, completed the transformation and added realism to the scene.
I was happy that with preparation, research and planning before the shoot I gained Faye’s trust and stayed true to the director’s vision while maintaining the producer’s schedule and budget. It was a challenging project, not least because of the shortage of time and money. But comprehensive preproduction allowed us to take risks and experiment with solutions before and during the shoot.
The scenes with Faye touched us all. It was amazing to see Faye Dunaway, the legend, become Betty in front of the cameras and it was wonderful to have her input and to help her to feel comfortable and confident with her character and the story.

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