At the moment Anthony Powell arrived at our threshold, one of the dreams of my teenagehood turned to reality. I was facing one of the designers that had had the most influence on my imagination. And that was quite something.
Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom. Opening scene at Club Obi Wan (!), 505-30 Honan road in Shanghai. Wilhelmina « Willie » Scott leads the show in her superb red gold and silver lamée dress. Just the time for the film’s credit (on Anything Goes, a musical created by Cole Porter in 34, translated into mandarin for the occasion) and the camera focusses on Indy, Lao Che, his bodyguards and Nurhachi’s ashes.
It was in 1984 but I was very much in 1935. All I wanted was to be seated with them, wearing my cream tuxedo, and that I would never hear a “that’s a wrap!” coming from the back of the stage.
I had seen the movie 5 times within 10 days. These were the good old days when you could watch the film several times in a row and spend all your day at the movies (think about Mia Farrow in the Purple rose of Cairo, 1985).
On the screen, beyond “Indiana Ford” and the magical touch of Steven Spielbeg, I could see brilliant costumes created and selected by a master whose name I did not know. He had opened my eyes just by his Broadway revue and was about to impress me again, many years later, at Théâtre du Châtelet.
Amadeus, Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov. Pirates, Tess, Frantic or The ninth gate from Roman Polanski. Hook, Indiana Jones and the last crusade… that was him, again. He received his first Oscar in 1973 for his work on Travel with my aunt (George Cukor). That very year, he designed the costumes for Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in Papillon. Incidently, it was the year I was born. As for Anthony Powell, he was born in 1935, the year of Indiana Jones’ adventures in Shanghaï.
Before Singin’ in the Rain, Anthony Powell and Roberty Carsen had worked together for Théâtre du Châtelet. In December 2010, they were on board for the production of My Fair Lady. For the occasion, Monsieur Powell had dugged out old paterns from Raoul Dufy that had never been used. And he had them printed on silk by the famous maison Brochier in Lyon. A fine example of offering pieces of history back to the public. Hear all about it here...
2 QUESTIONS TO ANTHONY POWELL.
L.B. : When did you start getting interested in costumes?
“It all started when I was 5 years old. I was given a model theatre for Christmas. I enjoyed staging miniature shows with puppets.
Before too long I realized it was exactly what I wanted to do in life. Normally, when working on productions you cannot be in charge of set design and costumes at the same time. They have to be arranged by different teams. So I chose for costumes…”
L.B. What strikes you most about the way to work nowadays, compared with when you first began?
“Time for preparation, due to reduced budgets, is now ridiculous. I used to have about a year to prepare a film. I remember a few years ago being asked to work on a film project in France set in Maupassant’s 1880s. The period is very rich and spectacular regarding costumes. But when I enquired as to when the actual start date of filming, I was told I had only two weeks preparation.
How can anyone with passion and conviction work that way?”