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Production sketch of Lando Calrissian's infamous "yellow" costume.

Solo costume designers explain why Lando looked so damn good

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Sep 26, 2018, 11:00 AM EDT

Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon have had a huge role in establishing this new era in Star Wars style, with prominent roles movies in the costume departments of each new film since J.J. Abrams re-ignited the series with The Force Awakens.

On the main Skywalker saga films Crossman and Dillon served as costume supervisors, while on the standalone films they've been the top bosses, the costume designers on Rogue One and Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story. After helping Jyn Erso, Saw Gerrera, and the wonderfully caped Orson Krennic come to life, they outfitted the young Han Solo, Lando, and Qi'ra (Chewbacca was pretty much the same).

We caught up with the duo to talk about their work on Solo making the rich costumes that populated every corner of the film.

What was the biggest challenge approaching Solo versus the other Star Wars movies you’ve worked on?

Crossman: I think it was the variety of the script; it traveled to a lot places. All the characters had a lot more costumes, and there were a lot more crowd environments to costume. When we first started thinking about it, I just felt like a big job.

Is it is easier to move forward in Star Wars? Or is it easier to take cues from the older stuff and treat these like period pieces?

Dillon: Dave and I are both the same age, and we both saw the original trilogy at what I think is exactly the right time, six or seven years old. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were really big influences. So for me, I definitely felt that being in that time zone was very comfortable, because I've been drawing comics of Star Wars characters since I was 6 years old.

When you see Star Wars at that age and then get to work on it later in life, what kind of things get you giddy about working on it?

Crossman: Well, you know. It’s Han Solo. He's pretty much everyone's favorite character from the original trilogy. It’s just too exciting. But we've done Episode VII and we’ve done Rogue One together, so there’s an element of you getting used to what’s going on, and every now and then you just have moments where you see something and you go, “Excellent. That’s Star Wars.” [Solo] gets that Star Wars feel. With Lando, or Han. They’re a really good pairing. When they were playing sabacc, that was something that was great to do. Really enjoyable. They were just doing their thing, going back and forth. That was one of the best scenes.

Dillon: It was an amazing set with hundreds of extras and amazing creatures, and everything in there was real. There wasn't any green screen anywhere, there weren't any visible puppeteers in green suits as you walked here to it was all real, and the way that Bradford [Young, director of photography] lit everything, he doesn't have loads of extra light hanging around, it's literally just all practical. Whatever is there is lighting the character. So you’re literally walking into a bar on Vandor, and all that stuff is amazing.

With Bradford Young’s cinematography style and that lighting in there, how much did you work with him beforehand to make sure that the costumes would look right in those situations?

Crossman: Every DP has a vision. You do extensive tests before you shoot. A part of that is in testing with the cast, so that’s always an opportunity to get palettes and things down. Different directors will have different requirements.

Dillon: Bradford Young was in on those early meetings and he would chip in now and again, and I think he was happy for us to do our thing. He liked it. It was a nice trusting relationship. Bradford stepped in and did a lovely job.

As you step in to work on a character like Lando, especially in this film, he wears his fashion sense on his sleeve. How did you approach him to set him apart from everyone else, aside from his capes?

Crossman: Well, he was kind of an aspiring dresser, and he hasn't quite made it yet. Lando is the same as Han, and they’re both just trying to get through, he’s trying to make something of himself or make some money. We projected most of his income into the clothing. It’s that idea that he's gonna dress as who he wants to be rather than where he’s actually at at that point in time. Some designs take out a long time for you to agree on a look, and that design was one of the first things I drew, with the yellow shirt and the cape, and everyone liked.

At what point in the process do you actually get to start costuming the actors?

Dillon: Sometimes we start and we don't know who the actor is. And so we might start with finding some reference and doing some drawings based roughly on what we imagine that character might look like. But then once we get the casting it’s always better, because you're designing to the person. Sometimes, early on, they know who the lead is going to be, so we start with an initial meet and greet of that person and put types and shapes on them, photograph them.

The process will go through probably eight to ten fittings for the main cast, and once you’re in a happy place, you would have shown photos and things to the director. Then you will do a kind of finished version, which you then show to the director. If they’re happy, then put it on camera just to test it, and then you will look at for other reactions from producers and along the conga line. And then changes will be made after that in case people have comments or any concerns.

Then you’ll put one on. We call it establishing it. Once you’ve shot in it, it’s “established.” By that point, you're making all the repeats the multiples of that costume. In Han’s case, that jacket and those trousers would have in the regions of 15 to 20 of that costume. Sometimes you’ll have 35 of the same costume, sometimes six. It all depends on what’s going to happen to them in the film.

How often do you get a curveball thrown at you? Say, when Woody Harrelson stepped in, it was in his contract to not use leather or fur.

Crossman: We knew that with Woody and made it all kind of a vegan costume. Like the hemp belt, which was nice, actually, 'cause it's about made it a little different. It looked quasi-Han Solo, but not all the way. I think in that case with his gun belt, if it hadn’t have been Woody, we probably would have gone for a leather belt, and I think it was quite nice that it brought about something different. The hemp was a lighter shade, and it was a really nice occurrence.

Is there any costume you liked best or thought worked best?

Dillon: It’s difficult to choose favorites, especially in this one. There’s a lot I’d choose as a favorite. I think it would be something like Enfys Nest and how the helmet came out. I really love L3-37. Lando. Han’s hero look. Qi’ra’s dress. The fighters on Mimban. I really liked Han’s teen look, because it was kind of based on old punk rockers with the painted jacket. Enfys Nest again. For us, it was a really rich variety of stuff to do. A lot of pressure, but a really nice job to do in that way.

Crossman: I loved the costumes at the party. We’ve got that really nice gold dress on the singer. All those things, they made me very happy.

Can you tell me more about Enfys Nest? It’s one of the most visually striking costumes in the film, maybe in all of Star Wars.

Dillon: Well, Thanks. Quite early on there was talk of possible bones on her mask, and I think we did a lot of different designs before coming back to some of the ones I did at the very beginning. It was nice to add elements like the poem engraved on the skull, there was good input from the directors and producers.

Crossman: It was one of the longest processes. There's always one on every film that takes longer, and I think Enfys was the longest. Elthree was long, but a lot of Elthree was long because we were kind of searching about for what her character should be. And once we had the character, it led the design. I think it’s slightly the same as Enfys as well. They were trying to come up with who was inside the mask, and that moved around a bit, but she was one of those that took a long. It was like Kylo Ren. Whenever it’s a mask, it does tend to take longer.

Dillon: There’s a pressure to produce something iconic because it’s Star Wars. You're going up against Darth Vader, the most iconic villain in cinema history. Sometimes you have to spend all the time on it. And even if it was the thing that you saw up at the beginning, you have to explore all of the options before coming back around to maybe where you started.

Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story is out now out on digital, DVD, and Blu-ray.