Penny Rose

Penny Rose

Penny Rose has enjoyed a long and illustrious career designing costumes for some of cinema's biggest films and stars.

More recently, we have seen her design costumes for 47 Ronin, which is released on DVD & Blu-Ray next week.

We caught up with Rose to chat about the film, working with director Carl Rinsch, and what lies ahead.

- You designed the costumes for 47 Ronin, so how did you get involved with the project?

I got involved with the project because I met director Carl Rinsch in Los Angeles about a year earlier, and we got on extremely well. He said that he had a filming up and asked me if I would do it, and I said 'yes'.

- This film is set in 18th century Japan, so can you tell me a little bit about the research that you did as you prepared for this film?

There is already ten Japanese versions of the movie and so I did take a look at the films that had already been made.

However, Carl wanted it lifted into a much more high-fashion and hip idea: he didn't just want to do what had already been done.

So I sent a couple of girls over to Tokyo, and they had a look around and found some Japanese cloth.

Unfortunately, the existing Japanese costume house did send me some things, but they were all in polyester and had to go back. We decided that we would make it all from scratch ourselves.

- You have mentioned director Cark Rinsch already and this movie saw you work with him for the first time. So how did you find working with him? What was he particularly looking for in the costumes you were going to design?

I loved working with him, as he is a very energised, imaginative, encouraging director who wants you to think out of the box and come up with something super original.

He was also very respectful to ideas. He is just a extremely good fun chap.

In terms of what he was looking for, we wanted some originality, some high fashion, just something new really.

- Was it Carl who set the colour tone for the film? Or was that something that you discussed between you?

I was very keen to encourage him to think in terms of colour because there were thirteen armies and I thought that there would be a point, when they were all fighting each other, that if they didn't have some definitive and distinctive separation, you wouldn't know who was who.

If we did it by colour, that would make it easy on the audience. Therefore, it was my idea but he was delighted with it.

- Can you talk a little bit about the process that you go through as you start work on a new film? Do you follow a similar process as you begin working on something new?

Pretty much. We start off by producing reference boards - the size of a movie poster. I have two research who just flood us with material: they find it all and they put it in front of us.

I work with someone called John Norster - we have worked together for thirty years - and we have a process of cherry picking the information that comes out way, and then deciding what we put on a board.

We do up to nineteen or twenty of these massive boards: they end up getting copied and going to the art department and to all the people who are involved with us. They become the bible, and helps us get inspired.

After we have done the research and made the posters, we go shopping: that is our thing. We go out and spend a couple of weeks just buying textiles. In my modus operandi, it is all about the fabric: particularly when you are doing something with kimonos, as there isn't a huge variation in the shape.

We also have shoppers who bring things in as well. So we end up with a room full of interesting things that we can work into the design.

- Keanu Reeves leads the cast of this film, so how hands on was he when it came to the development of his costume?

He was really interested. His mother was actually a seamstress and a tailor, and so he knew quite a bit about it.

The problem was, he was playing this peasant and so I could never really jazz him up much. Once we had decided on the peasant's look, he was terrific.

- There is also a fair bit of CGI in this movie - as well as the other projects that you have worked on - so how involved do you get in the designing of costumes for those types of characters?

A few years ago I fell foul of letting the computer boys do the costumes. At a certain point, there was an SOS saying 'could I make a live version of their costumes?'

That is incredibly difficult, as their drawings are not a million miles away from cartoons: they are not three dimensional.

What I say now is 'No, we will make the costumes and they can be real'. It never needs to be real, but it doesn't matter.

Someone will then put it on, and then they can draw off it: it is actually easier for them and easier for us. Therefore, in today's world we are covered.

When this mistake occurred eight years ago, I couldn't find the fabric that this CGI costume had it: I couldn't find anything like it. They wanted it yesterday, of course.

So that was my warning - always make a prototype and then you cannot get caught out.

- How did you get into costume design in the first place?

I was lucky enough to be in Soho in the early seventies, and by a series of happy of accidents found myself working on TV commercials with Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Alan Parker, and Hugh Hudson - the list goes on and on.

All those guys became film directors and swooped me along with them (laughs). I did ten years hard apprenticeship, as those commercials were hard work.

- You have enjoyed a career that has spanned over thirty years, so how have you seen things change in the way costumes are made in that time? How has 3D had an impact for example?

I am not sure it has changed that much. The process is an actor, a character, and me in front of a mirror. At the end of the trail session, my aim is for the actor to look into the mirror and see the character.

I don't believe in superimposing something on to an actor's body: I think that he has to help you evolve it because they have to wear it believably. I don't think that has changed.

Honestly, 3D doesn't really effect me: it is just a slower process because the camera is different and you often have to shoot it in 45 and 3D.

The CGI made a big difference. Also the amount of stunt work that is around these days, means that virtually every actor with a big speaking part has to have at least ten or twelve costumes, and replicas of.

If somebody changes ten times during the course of a film, I have to make a hundred costumes: that is the different.

Before, Johnny Depp would show up with one stuntman, and that stuntman would do all of the work: now he might have four or five.

- While you have worked on a wide range of films, we have seen you tackle a lot of period and fantasy projects. Why have you focused on these genres in particular?

Because I don't like shopping (laughs). The truth is, I don't have a great affinity for fashion.

I love the silhouette of it and I love the idea of it... when you see a catwalk show you think 'wow, that is absolutely brilliant' but is it going to translate to a woman walking into a restaurant? The reason I stick to period is because I can make it real.

- Finally, what is next for you?

I hope I am finding myself working on Pirate of the Caribbean 5

47 Ronin is released on DVD & Blu-Ray 12th May

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