Sun. Dec 15th, 2019

Interview: ‘Judy’ costume designer Jany Temime on turning Renée Zellweger into Judy Garland

Judy’s costume designer, Jany Temime, had her work cut out for her, dressing an Oscar-winner to play a legendary icon of stage, screen and fashion.  I met Temime at the Sunset Tower Hotel on the equally legendary Sunset Strip, where we talked about the creative process, fabrics, and how collaborating with Renée Zellweger on a small-budget movie was the joy of her professional life. 

AW: I just saw Judy for the second time, and I loved it as much as the first.

JT: I’m so happy you say that!  It’s wonderful, because I talk now to journalists who love the film.  Usually you talk to journalists who do their job, and now I’m talking to journalists who really love Judy.

AW: And that’s what great about seeing it a second time.  The first time, I was really caught up in Renée Zellweger’s performance, and the second time I was caught up in her story—it’s so tragic.

JT: Yes, but what I like is it’s a tragic story, but it’s also a story about a woman—and a very strong woman.  And that’s what the director, Rupert [Goold], wanted to show: a woman, even in the worst of situations, always tried to see the good side of things and laugh about it.  The sense of humor of Judy Garland was amazing.

AW:  Her optimism!

JT: Yes, her optimism.  Yes, she’s going to marry for the 5th time, to a young guy who’s a disaster, but she believed in him, she believed that it could happen, that life would be better.  He wanted to show the story of a broken woman who never gives up, and that’s what I like.  And I think Renée is playing that woman brilliantly.

AW:  I think it’s a feminist movie…

JT:  This is exactly why I’m telling you, and exactly why I wanted to do it.

AW:  She was not dependent on anyone, and all these people were dependent on her…

JT:  She’s using the men!  She picked them up, she’s using them!  But she wants to be the one to take care of the kids, she wants to take care of the career…her husband was gay, her father was gay, it’s something very modern about Judy Garland, and something eternal.  It’s a critical character, and why we were all so touched by her.  And when I read about the project, I really wanted to do it.  I called my agent to call the people—I had worked with Renée for Bridget Jones [Edge of Reason] and I knew her.  I had not seen her for almost 10 years.  I knew the director, I am a big fan of his work.  And when I had the opportunity, I had to do it.  I knew the film was going to be brilliant, I knew that, you know?  And I was right.  And Renée was in the right state of mind to do it.  She had been broken, she wanted to start again, she was completely ready to leave herself and be involved in something—there was a bit of her story. You can feel how much inside of it she is.  We had no money, very little budget, which is why I’m so proud of it!  I’m usually doing films of $200 million budget or more and this was a film of $10 million and we had to shoot it in 7 weeks, so the fact that this film is getting so much attention, it’s wonderful, and it means that other films like that will have the possibility to exist.

AW:  And that’s why I love doing what I’m doing, because we like to bring attention to small movies like this…

JT:  Promote it, yes!  It’s so easy to do a good job when you have so much money that you do 200 costumes and you just pick up one. 

AW:  My parents loved it, I wanted you to know I haven’t heard them rave about a movie like that in a long time.

JT:  Ohh, I’m so happy about that!  Because, you know, it was a work of love for all of us.  I had such a small budget that every single costume I was doing had to be the right thing.  Maybe it’s good not to think so much and to be so careful.

AW:  I was curious, because you costumed two of my favorite films recently, Skyfall and Gravity

JT:  Oh, thank you!

AW:  And all the Harry Potter films…I was very curious what it’s like to make that switch?

JT:  It’s not a question about switching.  I like very much to change genres, all the time, because I need the creative stimulation.  If you keep on doing the same thing, you don’t have the same cold bath when you dip in.  If I was now doing another movie set in 1969 in London, then I know how, you know?  But what I like in my job is the kick of constantly rediscovering something, recreating something, to get into a new period.  Now I’m doing an action film, and it’s just fantastic to get into something else, you know, I need that, I need to challenge myself all the time.

Photo: YouTube

AW:  How was your approach different?  It had to be different, didn’t it?

JT:  Completely different!  But that’s what I like.  I like to really work hard and to try to find inside of myself a new way of seeing things and a new way to recreate.  You know, it’s never a question of period, it’s the story you have to tell. You have to tell the story and you pick up from the period, whatever, if it’s now, in 2000, or, in the case of Passengers, 3000, or whatever, you pick up from that period what you need to tell your story.  There are elements.  I used the late ‘60s in Judy because I wanted to show how modern this woman was.  She would wear slacks when not one European woman wore trousers.  I wanted to show her in slacks.  It was a thing like—she’s the one wearing the trousers, so why not show that and that’s what I wanted her in to open the film.  And I also thought, yes, opening the film in orange, in a suit in orange, because she’s leaving the two kids, she has to work to feed those kids, let’s show that, let’s dress her up almost like a man would be, you know? 

AW:  And that outfit had to be so versatile…she wears it through the first few crucial scenes of the film. 

JT:  Exactly.  That’s why I put it there—it was a nightmare.  But I sort of felt it right away. You know, when you are very strong about something, when you think, “yes, this is what it should be.”  And you start being so sure about it…you know that it cannot be anything else.  As a designer, I know I found some fabric, I looked at the fabric and I knew it was the opening of the film, I was very strong about it. And then I thought, ok she has a swimming pool scene after that, so I’m going to give her a blouse with a very contrasting color—that green and orange, something that is so awful to wear when your lawyer tells you you’re broke, you want to be in black or brown, you don’t want to be in orange and green, but because you are Judy Garland, you are in orange and green, and you have to face the world in a show costume when you hear your world has been destroyed.  I think that, to have chosen something so strong worked out really well.

AW: It has to work on stage, then had to work playing on the floor with Mickey, to feel lived in, but also had to have that elegance.

JT:  Well, Judy Garland was always elegant.  You can say a lot of things, but she was always elegant.  

AW:  Never garish.

JT:  NEVER.  You could feel from this woman.  In every single picture, she posed.  This was her good, old Hollywood training, to be always perfect in her presentation.  This is why I love this hotel because of the pictures on the wall.  Every single woman is perfect.  You are not looking shabby.  Nobody was catching you in your training trousers and hood.  You were a STAR and Judy Garland always had that.  It was a discipline, especially when you were a show business woman.  The men were doing the same thing as us, but we were in heels.  Running around, how could they do that?  Now, when we don’t have our sneakers, we whine.  That was a discipline.  I am a feminist.  Not because I think a woman should wear makeup, which is good or bad.  I just think that they were working so hard to deliver an image of strength and composure, no matter what was happening in their life—it was an armor.

AW:  To get back to what you were saying about the creativity:  how much of the outfits were based on reality?

JT:  I looked back at everything she wore, every interview, every stage performance and then I picked up what I thought could be a good starting point in the film, for the script, what would be good, and I showed that to the director, and Rupert, who is a stage man, was very obsessed with what she should wear for every song.  He comes from theatre.  Every song, for him, was a stage show.  So he chose those first: what she would wear for opening night, for that song, for that song…  Then, for her real life, I used very strong colors, very strong shapes.  There are some Carnaby Street influences, the trousers, that’s unique, a very ‘60s influence.  I used Carnaby Street to define her affair with Mickey because she wants to be a silly young girl and she dressed up like swinging ‘60s to please him—a typical story of an older woman falling in love with a young man.  But every single song had an image, which was based on ideas.  Judy Garland was wearing a dress with big flowers, so I re-created a dress with big flowers, and that’s what the director wanted for the opening night.  They were all re-creations based on ideas of what Judy Garland was wearing. 

AW:  For the wedding dress, I noticed you said it was a “free interpretation,” what does that mean?

JT:  At the beginning, the only costume that was going to be a reconstitution was that wedding costume.  The director wanted to cut the film scene with real stock material, but finally he didn’t do it because he didn’t get authorization from the family to do it.  So we changed and, on the contrary I had to do a dress in spite of what she wore, because I thought what she wore was so absurd, you know?  It was my way, a free interpretation of what she wore.  I used the color, because I thought the color was, she’s thinking “I’m not marrying in white, because I’m marrying for the fifth time, and I’m marrying a bastard,” you know that sort of thing?  And then the stupid feathers…I just recreated that.

AW:  One costume that stands out to me is the one she wears during the two scenes where she fights with Sid and with Mickey, the off-white top with the pattern and the burgundy slacks.

JT:  These were both vintage pieces, the slacks I fit to her size and the sweater is an original sweater of the time.  She gets back, she’s more old-fashioned—she’s not a little girl anymore and she dresses like herself again.  She had just been seeing her husband, so she puts on a different face.  She’s an actress…she’s dressing for the part. 

Photo: David Hindley / Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

AW:  So the big final scene, we finally hear “Over the Rainbow” and she’s in all black.

JT:  That was Renée’s idea to be in black.  When she asked me to be in black, I said to her, “do you really want to finish the film in black?  It’s such a downer,” and she said yes, I want to finish the film in black.  At the beginning, I wasn’t too sure about it, especially when she asked me for the black stocking, but then suddenly, I saw her with it and I thought oh my god, she’s perfect.  It’s perfect.  I was lucky.  It was a work of love.  It was a completely different approach for me for a movie like I’m doing now, where we have the budget to make mistakes.  We had no budget to make mistakes on Judy.  It had to be “the one,” so you think twice. And maybe thinking twice is a very good process!  [laughing]

AW:  Tell me a little about dressing for Mickey…his big collars!

JT:  Mickey…he’s a gigolo, you know?  He’s a pretty boy and I dressed him in the latest fashion.  I took a lot of inspiration from what he was really wearing and then I redid it for the size and style of our actors.  I used a lot of flashy fabric, but not too flashy, because he was a cool guy, you know?  I had a work room in Hungary, because it was a better price, and then I had all those incredible fabrics from Angels, where I was based, which is a costume house in London, and then I was sending all those original fabrics to Hungary and they were making it and sending them back to me.  It was a lot of work.

AW:  Tell me about the flashbacks.  What was it like designing for the Wizard of Oz set?

JT: Well, we were not allowed to use anything from Wizard of Oz, so I had to redesign and create a costume which could have been what Judy Garland could have worn on a 1930 Hollywood film, keeping in mind, which I wanted to show, that they always wanted her to look younger than she was, and they wanted her to look thinner than she was, so I tried to find a waist that could be higher.  She was never the prettiest, but she was the most talented.  And that’s what I tried to show in the flashbacks—typical teenager!

AW:  You mention that you designed for Renée before. 

JT:  I love her.  She’s an incredible actress.  Very talented and SUCH a nice girl.  And it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had on a film—the wonderful collaboration I had with her.  It was a small film, again, you can see your actors—she was there all the time.  In a way, it was perfect.  It was very special and it doesn’t happen often. 

AW:  I didn’t realize how petite she is…

JT:  She’s like a little bird. 

AW:  And Judy Garland was petite as well.  So not only can Renée sing the role, she actually looks the part.

JT:  Well, we accentuated that with the costume.  She was holding herself like that [hunching her shoulders], and we did all the costumes into that shape.  Because she wanted to show the malnutrition and that sort of posture was what we did.  It was a huge tailoring job.

AW:  So the scarves, was that you or was that Judy?

JT:  Judy.  She had a problem with her throat and she always wanted to protect her throat, and Renée wanted to show that.  She wanted a scarf all the time, because that’s something about Judy Garland’s weakness, her throat.  Always protecting the throat, obsessed with the throat.  “I can’t sing as good as I used to sing.”  And the scarf is a presentation of that. 

AW:  Did you talk to anyone who knew Judy Garland?

JT:  No, not at all. I didn’t want to.  I wanted my interpretation.   We weren’t doing a documentary about Judy Garland, we were doing a film about 1969 in London, last year of a woman, last hope of a woman.  It had to be my interpretation.

AW:  I noticed there was a lot of shininess in her costumes.

JT:  I wanted that.  She was showy, but never tacky.  She loved fashion.

AW:  And lots of patterns.  Was that you?

JT:  That was me. You know that’s sort of her artificial happiness, that showing off, that’s what clothes were for her.

Photo: David Hindley / Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

AW:  Haver you ever dressed for showgirls before?

JT:  Yes, they were called “the feather girls,” you know there were so many feathers, I think they were frightening Judy.  [laughter]

AW:  I don’t need to ask your favorite costume, I assume it’s the orange and green suit from the beginning of the movie.

JT:  Exactly, you knew!  Yes, that is my favorite.

AW:  It sets the tone for the whole movie.  She takes ownership of her life.

JT:  It’s very symbolic. 

AW:  I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, it was a real pleasure.

JT:  Thank you so much!

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