Star Wars movies are known and loved for their spectacular visuals, achieved through a combination of elaborate sets, high-budget special effects, futuristic hair and make-up and – of course – innovative costumes. To celebrate today’s home entertainment release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, we spoke to the film’s costume designers Glyn Dillon and Dave Crossman and found out just how much work goes into dressing an entire galaxy…
How did you first get into costume design?
Dave: I got into it almost by accident when I was 16, about the same time they were filming the second series of Star Wars movies actually. I’ve worked on a number of big productions since (including three of the Harry Potter films) and now I’ve ended up working on Star Wars myself.
Glyn: I started writing comics when I first left school, so I ended up doing loads of storyboard work trying to get into the film industry. I wrote a comic book and a graphic novel and after that I really needed to make some money. My first job was doing the concept design on Jupiter Ascending, followed by Kingsman: The Secret Service. I then went from concept design to becoming the chief concept artist in the costume department on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
How does it feel to be a part of such a big franchise?
Glyn: We both first saw Star Wars when we were young and it had such a big impact on me as a kid. All the comics I drew as a kid were Star Wars-based and for Christmas I’d be getting Star Wars toys. It feels great to now be a part of the franchise myself, but it also just feels like being at home in a way, because it’s always been such a big part of my life.
Dave: It just feels really natural when you understand the whole world of it.
Is there a lot of pressure from the super-fans to get it right?
Glyn: I wouldn’t say so much pressure from other fans, but I feel the pressure from myself. You just want to get it right. Dave and I both have very similar taste, we work together as a team and are the same age, which is why I feel like we know and agree on what Star Wars is and what it should look like. It’s just a great job.
How did you approach the costume-making process for this movie?
Dave: The first thing we looked at was that Western vibe and Cowboys, whereas Rogue One had been more inspired by Vietnam. There was a lot to do with this one – a lot of costumes.
Glyn: About 98% of the things you see on screen in a Star Wars film are made from scratch. They’re always such big productions, so the prop and costume departments are really big. There even is a special ageing and dyeing department for the props and costumes!
How do the costumes differ from other films in the series?
Glyn: Solo: A Star Wars Story is a spin-off and set just before A New Hope (which was filmed in 1976), so we’re in the realm of the classic Stormtrooper. We wanted to fuse all the characters in the film with the universe that John Mollo, the costume designer on the original Star Wars films, had created. It had to feel like it was set in the same time, that was the challenge.
Dave: Qi’ra’s (Emilia Clarke) black dress had a film noir feel to it which hadn’t really been done in Star Wars before, but to me it still felt like something that John Mollo might have done. Then Dryden Vos’ (Paul Bettany) look was very Savile Row-inspired in its luxury fabrics and cuts. A New Hope actually managed to look timeless, it doesn’t look like the ’70s at all. If you watch other sci-fi films from that time they feel terribly dated. But here they kept the aesthetic generally very clean of current fashion at that time.
Glyn: Apart from Princess Leia’s make-up, that was very ’70s!
Was it easier or harder dressing characters like Han Solo and Lando Calrissian that have already appeared in the other films?
Glyn: It is exciting to dress new characters, but it’s also exciting to dress the classic characters.
Dave: Young Han Solo is basically like a new character, and we find out lots of new things about him in the film. And Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian) was just a joy to make clothing for, because he just looks great in everything.
Is it a key factor that the clothes have to be practical for the action scenes?
Dave: Yeah that’s always a struggle. Some costumes need backpads or kneepads and you sometimes have to make extra stunt and special effect versions of some costumes.
Glyn: The question of ‘what’s practical?’ is always there. You can get away with pretty much anything for one scene, but if it’s going to be in the whole film there are obviously parameters to consider. The main question is basically always ‘can you run in this?’
How do you guys work together?
Glyn: I’m the one with the pencil. I’ll draw something up and then me and Dave talk about it. We have very similar taste, so it’s great having those conversations together. When you’re on your own you can sometimes go off in a weird direction so you always need someone to bring you back.
Dave: I am the one who brings things back!
What were the key inspirations?
Dave: Mostly music. Especially for the young Han Solo, we were looking at The Clash, Blondie and other ’80s punk new-wave bands. For Lando, it was Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix.
Who was your favourite character to dress?
Glyn: It’s difficult to choose. There’s so many costumes that I really enjoyed. It was always great working with Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo), he’s a really nice guy. But Donald and Emilia are lovely too. It was great doing that dress she wore, because it was nice being able to make a fabulous dress for a change.
What’s the best outfit in the film?
Glyn: I loved Enfys Nest’s (Erin Kellyman) look and the droid L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge). What a lot of people don’t realise is that L3-37 is mostly costume. The head, the chest and the arms, that was all real. Phoebe was actually wearing those pieces. It was a really fun costume to make.
Dave: And Thandie Newton as Val! She was a great character with a great costume.
A sci-fi film hasn’t won a costume design Oscar since A New Hope in 1977. Does a sci-fi film finally deserve to win the costume Oscar again?
Dave: I think the problem is that sci-fi films just have a different aesthetic and the costume design Oscar generally tends to go to certain types of films that aren’t that. People often ignore larger budget and popular films. A lot of the presumption with Star Wars is that the costumes are just hanging there waiting to be used again. But everything is made from scratch each time.
Glyn: You’re right – we design so much and create so many new things each time around compared to the other films that ultimately win the Oscar. If it was all about how much work we do, we should definitely win.
Who would you say is the best-dressed Star Wars character ever?
Glyn: A lot of people would probably say Lando, because he takes such pride in the way he looks. But to me it’s Han Solo in the original films. It was such a simple and classic costume that told you so much about who he was by the way he had his shirt undone, with the belt and the boots. It just felt like a proper leading man costume, while being so simple. Iconic.
Which films does everyone need to see because of their costumes?
Dave: I don’t think you can ignore the influence Blade Runner has had. At the time it wasn’t a successful film, but it’s gone on to become so iconic. There are so many films actually, but I’d also mention the ’60s Bonnie and Clyde because it was trying to bring a period film to a new audience and made it cool. That’s kind of what we try to do too. Then there’s Lawrence of Arabia and The Red Shoes. There are so many.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to make it in costume design?
Glyn: I’d recommend to just keep drawing constantly. Draw all the time and you will get better. The only way you’ll get better if you keep practicing something, whatever it may be. Try get into college, or do any job that will bring you closer to your dream. Try and get in anywhere.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is available on DVD, Blu-Ray and On Demand from today.