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Behind the Blockbuster: Designing costumes for Harry Potter and James Bond

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Apr 6, 2018, 4:00 PM EDT

The costumes characters wear onscreen are in many ways as essential to the story as the characters themselves. Whether the story takes place in the future, the present, or in a whole new world, the way people are dressed draws us into the story's setting while giving us insight into the characters, too. Costume designers have a difficult task in trying to communicate so much through the apparel and accessories they design for actors in every film, but when they succeed, their work is unforgettable.

Such is the work of Jany Temime, who, for more than 40 years, has designed countless costumes for numerous films. Notably, she was the mastermind behind the looks of the wizards and muggles in the Harry Potter film franchise after joining the series for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She continued to dress Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the Potter gang through to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Temime also tackled the famous James Bond look as the costume designer for Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).

Temime spoke with SYFY WIRE about her career, working on such well-known films, and the ongoing challenges of costume design.

How did you get started in costume design and why was it a career you wanted to pursue?

I always wanted to do it [since I was] a little girl. I was always making costumes for my dolls, so it was a very early decision. Then after university I started working at Elle magazine in Paris and from fashion I went into film and the rest is history.

What is your costume design process like when working on a film?

In general, you get the script and then after reading it you decide if you want to do it or if you don't want to do it. If you want to do it, you talk with the director and you start bringing some ideas. Then you start collecting documentation and start sketching... when the style of the film is established, you can really work.

I'm always very influenced by the casting because I think the casting [determines] the way the film will go and every actress and actor is different... I always think that whoever is playing the part and who is cast is very important because you design the costume for one person and keep that person in mind. At the moment, I'm doing Judy — the Judy Garland film with Renee Zellweger — and how she's playing it and how she wants to change to be Judy Garland influenced me a lot about the way I design the costumes.

You joined the Harry Potter series with the third film, Prisoner of Azkaban. Did you have to find a balance between keeping some of the established looks from the previous films and then creating new designs?

Not at all. When I came on, I was asked to come over to actually jazz it up and change the style. The style was very classical and the design was very much Christmas Carol and we wanted to make it younger. The first thing I did was change Harry to make him the boy next door, to give him a personality and physical appearance that every single teenager could relate to. He was just a boy like them. I gave him a very urban style and then suddenly he was just one of them. He was just one of the kids on the block.

That was quite important and I did the same for every single wizard. The idea was that the wizard could be your neighbor. They are there. They are living there. They go to their world, but their world is very accessible for them from where they live. They live around you. It's like, okay, they are wizards but they could be black, white, Asian. It was very cosmopolitan. [Director] Alfonso Cuarón wanted to create a wizard world that was very social and cosmopolitan and interracial and that's what we established.

As the series progressed, the characters were growing up and the storylines were getting darker. How did that impact the costumes? How did they evolve?

It became more and more serious. The fourth film is very glamorous and then after the fifth, sixth, and seventh it [became] darker because they are living in darker situations — but I still kept the same concept. When they are on the road and they fight with each other, their clothes are more adapted to fight. They are on the road so their clothes are less glamorous. I still kept the same style, which was very down to earth and very realistic.

That was for the kids. For the Death Eaters, I made it very black, dark, and very conservative because I just wanted to show the two different worlds. The world they want is the very traditional wizard world with wizards in those long robes and against that you have all that's youthful, dressed up like every single other kid. It was really the new world against the traditional, old wizarding world and, of course, the new world wins.

Did the books impact the costume design at all?

I read the descriptions to find out the psychology of the characters. We got out of the books' descriptions very quickly because it was another world that we were filming. It was different, but I kept on reading the descriptions because that helped me a lot to understand the psychology of the characters.

You also worked on the James Bond franchise. What was it like designing for that iconic character?

I was so lucky to start with Sam Mendes. We worked very closely. He took me in and it was just a question of trying to make a very correct Bond. Making him much less pompous.

I gave him a very tight suit so he could move easily and we could see his body, that he was very flexible. The suits were so near the body, you could see his body moving. That was very important. They were more like a second skin.

[For] the women, what they were wearing was sexy but was something we would all like to wear. They were very feminist, as well. I try to do my best to bring a lot of feminism in the sexuality of those ladies by giving them things we could wear ourselves. I don't mind a show-stopper dress, but it was something that they would have liked to wear and that they were not wearing because it was a man watching them.

Over the years, what have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced in costume design?

Every single film is a new challenge. It's such an immense job. The scripts are all different. The directors are different. The situations are different and the casting is different. On top of that, you have an ideology that you have to follow. The world is changing and entertainment is following the world. You cannot design in 2018 like you were designing in 1968. I'm saying that now because I'm designing a film that is happening in 1968 and I see that what was used in 1968 is typical of women who don't exist anymore now. It was a different age…

Even when you are designing for a historical film, you have to update it because it has to be viewed by people now and not 20 years ago. You also want to have people watching it 10 years from now, so you always have to be ahead of everything else. I think that keeps you on your toes all the time. Every time I'm designing, I hope that what I do is up to date enough. Then, how will it be received in two years?

Technology has changed a lot in the film industry, as well. How has technology impacted costume design?

Before you used to design a thousand costumes and now you design 50 costumes and they are replicated in visual effects. You work so much with visual effects nowadays. You know your costume has to be replicated and photographed. You have to be simpler and use more contrast. You have to follow and adapt your design to the new technology. You are working differently. You cannot ignore the technology because it's there.