Costume Designer Lindy Hemming Talks Catwoman, Redesigning Bane for Nolan’s Universe, and More on the Set of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

     July 10, 2012


As the costume designer of Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and now  The Dark Knight Rises (along with dozens of other movies and TV shows) Lindy Hemming has mastered the art of making costumed vigilantes look real.  In the final Christopher Nolan Batman movie, Hemming had to design two major new characters: Catwoman and Bane.  During a group interview on the Pittsburgh set last summer, Hemming revealed her decision making process on the practical costumes and so much more.  Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • The Batman suit has not changed between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.
  • The Catwoman suit functions a bit like a female version of the Batman Suit: technology built into the suit itself for her needs.  They wanted to make the suit a function sort of suit for burglary, so they stayed away from making it too shiny or binding.
  • The heels in the Catwoman suit can be used as weapons.  The ears in Catwoman’s suit have a specific function and purpose that works with the technology of her suit. When they are on top of her head they look like ears, but they drop down over her face to become goggles.  Catwoman’s goggles function as both night vision goggles and a jeweler’s loupe.
  • They modeled the Bane costume with nods towards the wrestling costume that exists in the comics, but centered it on the realistically grounded back-story that exists in the Nolan universe.
  • The Bane costume also leans heavily on the fact that it’s a less technological aspect of creation, unlike the Batman suit. It has a slightly clunky aspect of it as if parts of it were being made along the way during his travels.  The mask dispenses gas that Bane needs to survive.
  • Bane’s mask was built to express a more menacing animalistic and vicious element to the character; to give the audience a feeling of a snarling and dangerous aspect.
  • Chris Nolan is very involved in the designing of the costumes.

Hit the jump for more.

As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview:  you can either click here for the audio or the full transcript is below.  The Dark Knight Rises opens July 20.

lindy-hemming-the-dark-knight-risesQuestion:  Would you be changing the designs of the Batman suit? Between the first and second movie, it was difficult to move so you made it better.  What’s the next level for the Batman suit and please tell us about the Catwoman suit.

Lindy Hemming:  Well, the Batman suit is the same, apart from any adaptations from what the action is in this film.  It’s the same suit.  There’s no new technology to the actual suit, so that’s the answer to that.  And about the Catsuit.  It’s very, very simple, and as though she’s the kind of the opposite, the female version of Batman in a way, someone who produced a suit that has a technology of its own, which is in the fabric, and has her own items she needs, functional items for what she does.  I don’t know how much you know about what she does in the story.  She’s a cat burglar, so she has a custom-made belt with everything to do with burglary, looking at jewelry, she has a belt that’s full of those things, all miniaturized.

What’s the tech in the fabric?

Hemming:  Well, the tech in the fabric is our own creative tech.  It’s not a special fabric.  We made it ourselves by screenprinting the underlayer and putting a very thin silky overlayer on, because wanted to keep her very, very lithe, very, very creeping about, not robotic or anything like that, and we didn’t want it to be rubbery, shiny like the previous Michelle Pfeiffer suit, we didn’t want it to have any implication of it being a bondage or a sex kind of suit.  It was to be something functional that you wear when you’re trying to creep about in the dark and not be visible basically.

When it comes to translating characters, especially when it comes to Bane with his distinctive-looking mask.  What design elements do you look at specifically to try and translate? What helps you decide what to abandon?

dark-knight-rises-movie-image-tom-hardyHemming:  Well, the thing is when you look at the comic version of Bane, he’s this massive man and he’s wearing this wrestling suit and it’s a bit difficult to imagine how you can translate that into a Chris Nolan film, because everyone’s meant to have a real background and come from some real story reason.  So with Bane, maybe it’s whether people like it or not, you can see him with his mercenary men and you can know in the story where he’s come from an why he is like he is, so following that route, he is much more… he’s armored and the nod towards the straps of the wrestling suit we started with, and he’s got an injury, which is why in the comic, he has to have Venom, and in our story, it’s slightly different but it’s the same kind of idea.  So using all those things and using the fact that he doesn’t come from the same technology as Batman.

He doesn’t have Fox making all these things for him.  His stuff has been made on the move over the mountains of the world, maybe in training camps.  He’s kind of… I don’t want to say the word, you’ll say it yourself… but he’s the guy who has had his stuff made by different people along the way.  So there is a slightly clunky element to him and that’s part of his story.  But at the same time, the way he’s directed in the film, the menace is within him, it isn’t because he’s a wrestler, and he’s also an older character.  He’s not a young kid.  He’s an older man who as you see the film, you’ll know that he’s been around for a long time, so that’s as much as I can kind of tell you, but the reason he looks like he looks is he’s much more of a warrior/mercenary kind of man.

Does his outfit change over the course of the movie or does it stay pretty much the same?

Hemming:  It’s pretty much the same because the parameters of why he’s like that are the same from when you know him, obviously not when he was a baby, but he was injured early in his story, Bane, if you know his story, so his outfit is pretty much the same, but there is a different outfit for earlier in his history, yes.  But it’s still the same principal, that he’s suffering from pain and he needs gas to survive.  He can’t survive the pain without the mask, which is exactly the same as the comic book Bane.

dark-knight-rises-movie-image-anne-hathawayWe saw the photo of Anne as Catwoman with the mask but behind her head, she has something that looks like ears, but not ears.  Can you talk about where you’re drawing inspiration from?

Hemming:  (chuckles) Between Chris Nolan and I, we were trying to work out why that we think… how would a woman who is sort of modern and trendy and cool, why would she go around wearing ears.  (laughter) So there’s two nods to it in the film, one is that she is wearing ears, which you’ll see and is explained, but we said, “What is forming these ears? What’s the logic behind the ears?” And the logic you will see behind the ears is that when the goggles go up, the shape of the goggles make the ears, and we think it’s really cool.

We’re very, very pleased with it.  (laughs) But oh God, we went through so many incarnations of how to make it happen, but I don’t know if I you’ve seen jewelers when they have jewelers’ loop or when you go to the dentist—that was my inspiration.  When you’re at the dentist and they’re looking at you and they’ve got the thing that looks into your mouth and they’ve got magnification and everything, well just both of us looking at different versions of that and then we bought loads of sunglasses and we made them do things with cardboard and what we have you and we worked out what our principal was and then we got a product designer to come and work with us, so we then started making our version of a night vision goggle or magnification goggle that she uses when she’s doing her cat burgling and made it so that when it goes up, it forms the ears.   I like telling you that because it’s so long ago that we did it now.

Can you talk about redesigning Bane’s mask? The thing I liked about it is it almost looks like skeletal figures or a muzzle on a dog.

the-dark-knight-rises-tom-hardy-bane-imageHemming:  That’s exactly right.  I wanted it to be like an animal.  I wanted it to have an animalistic feeling, and I looked at things like Silverback Gorillas and snarling teeth and fangs coming up and fangs coming down.  You’re getting absolutely what it is, and I think it’s hard to see from the daylights unlit and un-photographed because when you see how it looks on film, I think often you’ll often get that ARRRGH feeling.  Also, I think we all decided early on that if you have a film where there are two people that are wearing a mask, or at least two people are wearing a mask, and we have always with Chris a thing with masks and disguises and what have you, but when they’re fighting together, we didn’t want Batman and him to look the same, and Bane’s mask in the comics is a sort of black wrestling mask thing.  I mean, you can’t see any of his face, so my first thing was animals and my second thing, with Chris—and it was his idea really more—was how on earth can we make this man not look the same as the other man when they’re fighting? So just between working and drawing and looking at reference pictures of animals and everything, we came up with the idea that the whole side’s out, so the mask is functioning, the painkiller if you like, is being fed down into here and that it could even be that his face is damaged, we don’t know.  I think we didn’t mind that the fact that it would limit his vocal abilities because it’s a film and we can put that in or do whatever we want with that afterwards, but it seemed to somehow make him more menacing, anyway not to be able to speak and this bit to be hidden.

Has there been any difficulty with him saying his lines? Is he going to have to loop all of that stuff later?

tom-hardy-christian-bale-the-dark-knight-risesHemming:  Well, I don’t know that to be honest with you, but I guess they will of course.  I mean they do everybody anyway on these films so I don’t think it matters.

So he’s never done it on the sides because we saw one photo they showed us that it really looked like he had something underneath the mask.

Hemming:  No, his mask is coming from the back here where there are two canisters of whatever it is, the anesthetic.  And then the pieces come forward from the back, they travel along here and then they enter his facebox, if you like, but there’s nothing on here, nothing here.

There was that shot of him, it looked at least…

Hemming:  No, it’s like his head only with scars and dirt on it, and then the pipes from the mask go back along his jawline and come feed back into the thing at the back.

What is going on with his right hand, the stuff that’s on his right hand?

Hemming:   An early injury (laughs).  I mean it’s just something that we did for character really.

How do you balance practicality with style? Obviously, these things gotta look cool but in this universe they have to be practical, but how practical are they really?

the-dark-knight-rises-christian-bale-imageHemming:  Well, I think both those actors suffer.  I mean it’s a horrible thing to be an actor and to have your face covered all the time, but he’s willing to do it.  I think when you’re designing them, you have to design the thing and then afterwards, you have to think, “Right, okay, how will he be able to have a cup of tea? Will he only be able to have a straw or will you make this part (which we have) completely magnetically removable.  You’ve not seen him like that but when we take him out the back, we don’t have to spend hours and hours taking it off and putting it back on again, because it’s sectional so it can come off.

What about Anne Hathaway? Did she have to be stitched into the suit?

Hemming:  Anne, no, Anne’s suit does up.  Anne’s suit is formed, it’s a formed suit, but it’s very lightweight.  It’s not a heavy suit and it’s very breathable, so she doesn’t get so hot, and zipped in.

Besides the three leads, what other sorts of outfits have you had to design? Obviously the football uniforms.

Hemming:  Well, actually, I haven’t had to design the football uniforms, thank God! (laughters)

What about Marion Cotillard’s outfit? We saw some photos of her.

the-dark-knight-rises-marion-cotillardHemming:  Marion is a much more… yeah, you’ve only seen the end of the story for Marion.  Marion’s story is a much more realistic person, a normal person, and in fact, you’ve seen her looking a bit Cosack-y but you’ll find out why in the end.  (chuckles) All of the people who are… there’s a whole movement of people in this film and I can’t really say why because she (the publicist) is watching me carefully now… who have another mountain of the world kind of feeling, a roof of the world kind of feeling to them, and so she’s not a Cosack in fact, but there is that sort of look to her.

Can you talk about how Chris Nolan is involved with the costumes?

Hemming:  Oh, absolutely involved in all elements of the film … ha! But no, he’s one of those directors… we start work long before we start making the costumes.  Nathan Crowley and I, we have to go work with him in his house really, drawing, talking, reference, looking at photographs, looking at books, and talking about the script and usually there isn’t really the whole script.  There’s the story then, not the script, and going into each piece and working out what we will do.  So “a lot” is the answer.

The bit we saw of the end in there was a great shot of Anne as Catwoman and there’s almost a nod back to the 60s, is that intentional?

Hemming:  Yeah, there is.  I wouldn’t say it’s a nod… that we like the silhouette of the 60s, I forgotten her name now…

Julie Newmar.

Hemming:  Thank you.  We like the silhouette of her a lot, we like that look a lot, and it seemed to suit Anne to go that way, and I was kind of keen to go with Thierry Mugler the designer and have much more of that shape in her costumes generally, which you haven’t seen any others of.  Just to give her… you’ll see when you see the whole scan of the thing that she’s got a look that goes through her day-clothes and into her Catsuit, and its all quite minimalist…

Did she have to lose weight for that suit?

Hemming:  Lose weight? Oh, no, no, no…

the-dark-knight-rises-anne-hathaway-catwoman-imageTell us about the heels.  We’ve been told that they can be used as weapons.

Hemming:  Yeah, her heels are weapons and I mean, there are fashion shoes like that, but they’re like knives, so she uses them.  That’s one of her things that she secretly…

And again, with the practicality vs. style….

Hemming:  Yeah, so we have to have rubber heels and we have to have metal heels, obviously, otherwise we’d kill.

Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character was a lawyer and she didn’t have much fashion going on…

Hemming:  No.

Did you get to play more with Anne and Marion’s character in terms of them being more fashionistas?

Hemming:  No, Anne is more fashionable but slightly retro looking, but in a different way, but I don’t want to give too much away about Anne because her whole character is that you don’t really know….  you have to learn who she is through the film, so the costumes nod towards these things all the way until you find out.  Is that right?

dark-knight-rises-catwoman-posterHow many costumes did you built for this film?

Hemming:  I don’t really know.  How many pieces? Built? All of the principal’s costumes are built.  Everything they wear as daywear and as suits are built and then lots of the smaller parts are bought.  I can’t tell you how many costumes.  There are 500 dressed people today and then there are thousands directed to what they should wear, but today’s the big day.  You have to watch it.  I can’t tell you, I don’t know.

What about Bruce Wayne’s housecoat look.

Hemming:  Oh, you’ve seen that?

Yeah, can you tell us about his relaxed look.  The housecoat’s a spoiler?

Hemming:  No, but it’s part of the. . .  you know how Chris Nolan tries to build from realistic… you get the realism from the story so that’s the sort of real part of the journey for Bruce Wayne again, and so yeah, you can assume…I’m sure you can assume what you’d like, but it’s part of the story.

For more from our The Dark Knight Rises set visit:

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