Here’s What All the Absurd Costumes Mean in “Don’t Look Up”
Most of us have heard of acting method (i.e. when an actor refuses to break character during filming), but have you ever heard of acting costume design? method? That’s what Don’t look upSusan Matheson’s costume designer sees herself as such. And if you’ve seen the star-studded film since its December 24 release on Netflix, you might agree that its methods paid off.
In an interview with QG magazine, Matheson explains that she asked all the actors – Timothée Chalamet, Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and even Meryl Streep – to come to their in-character costume fittings. This helped her achieve what director Adam McKay called “gritty realism”, especially when it came to outfitting so many different characters.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Timothée Chalamet as Yule
Turns out we’re not the only ones obsessed with Chalamet—Matheson reveals she had the biggest fittings of her life with the star. To get Yule’s look, she rummaged through thrift store totes and bins for yarns that would bring “evangelical shoplifter skater punk” to life.
She also sewed a Christian camp patch onto her puffer jacket, invented a band called Noah’s Flood and asked a friend to create fake products to reference the apocalypse, and found a motocross tee from Du Quoin, Illinois after McKay revealed that was where Yule was from.
“The thing that obsessed him the most was having some sort of mule,” adds Matheson. “He told me he never, ever wanted to look like himself twice in a movie.”
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve probably noticed that Chalamet doesn’t always wash his hair and covers it with a camo cap. This hair obsession goes way back, and fans have always been into it. And yes, that means they even made the trip with him during his 2019, Henry V bowl cutting phase.
Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean
How do you outfit a fictional female president of the United States? With power suits, of course. But the prez’ penchant for red is much more than meets the eye. According to Matheson, the red was inspired by McKay’s note that the character took viewers on a journey through Hades, aka the Underworld.
Streep’s wardrobe was also accented with pops of blue (because Orleans is super patriotic), and her clothes were made by Armani (because the money). As for his watch? There is also a rather specific link.
“She wears a Piaget. I know it’s hard to believe, but that’s really the name of the watch: it’s an Extremely Lady watch. Piaget has reissued its Extremely Lady watch from the 1960s, and it’s the watch that Jackie Kennedy wore in the White House,” Matheson reveals.
At this time, McKay won’t reveal whether Streep is supposed to be a Democrat or a Republican, but even any specific costume choices couldn’t help him get back in the groove after the lockdown.
“I found it really difficult,” says Streep EO. “When I came to film my stuff, [I’d] get out of the car and hadn’t spoken to anyone for three weeks. [I’d] walk into the Worcester stadium, put on the wig and the nails and the suit, and give a speech to all these people.”
Jonah Hill as Jason Orleans
McKay may not want to reveal who inspired the film’s President, but Jonah Hill, who plays President Orlean’s son, had some ideas. In an interview with Squire he reveals that he turned to the Trumps for inspiration. He also decided that as first son (and chief of staff) he would constantly carry a Birkin bag.
“Since I was a son and adored my mother, the first thing I said to Susan Matheson, the costume designer, was ‘I want to have a Birkin bag,'” Hill explains. “Because he worships the feminine, right?” Her idol is the feminine.
In the QG article, Matheson agrees with many fans who believe Hill is a “style maven” and reveals that for the film, they both agreed that the superficial character must be obsessed with logos. “So he’s wearing Ferragamo: the Gancini logo buckle shoes and the Gancini logo buckle belt. We had to add an element of obsessive grip from the designer’s logo. And his ties, he wears Hermès, Zegna, Armani,” she explains.
As for the character’s watch, which was a replica of Richard Mille? Fans immediately noticed it was fake, but there was a good reason for it. “It’s no problem to get one [watches]. The problem is if the watch were to be stolen while we were filming. I think these watches are worth north of $600,000,” she adds.
For those who haven’t noticed, that’s why the Birkin is also a fake – a US$38 Amazon product, to be exact.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy
Matheson reveals to QG that she was able to develop Leo’s wardrobe the most in Don’t look up. Indeed, while he starts out as a professor who wears purely vintage clothes and doesn’t care much about his wardrobe, he ends up becoming a spokesperson for the White House during this giant crisis.
“So Leo is finally starting to change. First they start by shaving off their beards a bit, and then he starts wearing Canali and Brunello Cucinelli suits,” says Matheson. “He even wears a Valentino tuxedo then. Then he realizes he has to go home and that’s when he goes back to wearing his old clothes.
Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky
Like Leo, J-Law’s character Kate also gets a style makeover in the film. While she begins with clothing inspired by typical college students, she begins to dress to impress more than she is in the public eye. Then, as she is shunned by the public and returns home, her wardrobe becomes infused with more gothic elements.
“She’s really starting to wear clothes that look like they’re from a thrift store that takes her completely away from the White House world,” Matheson says. (Who didn’t take the opportunity to address Lawrence’s epic bangs.)
Lawrence also opened up about this look, revealing to vanity lounge that after talking with a female astronomer, she wanted Kate to be more in front of you. “Kate is one to be fierce and ‘notice me, hear me roar, rat-tat-tat,'” she says.
Part of this look featured a magnetic nose ring, which Lawrence kept accidentally inhaling. “Several times I accidentally inhaled said magnet and had to spit it out in front of Leonardo DiCaprio,” she adds.
Kid Cudi as DJ Chello
As for Kid Cudi’s outfit, Matheson says she had a great gig. The rapper makes an appearance alongside Ariana Grande as the collaborating performers on the love song-turned-comets-welcoming song “Just Look Up.” As such, Matheson wanted him to wear a chic piece from Giorgio Armani’s ski line which she said came straight from a photo shoot in the mountains.
“Because I was desperate to get it right away, it arrived with alpine dirt still on the boots [from the photoshoot]adds Matheson. “If I had taken a sample to a lab, I could have told which mountain range they had fired at.”
Don’t look up is available to stream now on Netflix.
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