Costume designer Colleen Atwood has dressed gangsters and geishas, and a kid with bad hair and no hands. She's won two Academy Awards -- for "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" -- while giving filmmaker Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" characters their decidedly off-kilter signature look.
She's one of those artists who's proven that in cinema, at least, clothes really do make -- if not the man -- the character. It's a quality very much on display in the two films she's done this season, "Public Enemies" and "Nine."
Fellini's films have such a distinctive look. Can you give us a hint of what your costumes look like in "Nine"?
I think it's going to be a wonderful blend of flash images of Daniel Day-Lewis' character mixed with real life and fantasy. There's a flashback to the '30s with Sophia Loren, and there's a great showgirl number lead by Judi Dench. Most of the movie is set in the early '60s. There's a go-go number with Kate Hudson and her costumes are very mod. Then there's the scene with Penélope Cruz and the call from the Vatican.
Oh, what was Penélope wearing?
Not much. (She laughs.)
"Nine" sounds like the ultimate costume designer fantasy, yes?
What I like about what I do is that I get to do all different kinds of things. I enjoy the variety and the learning curve on every job. With a movie like "Nine," there was a lot that went into the dance costumes that was unseen. They really had to function for the dancers. The shoes in "Nine" are a movie in themselves. Since people had to dance, the shoes were all custom made in Italy by a dance shoe specialist. But it's very technical. You have to make sure they fit properly. The actresses did an amazing amount of rehearsal and hard work to be able to do those musical numbers.
And the clothes?
There's a lot of work that goes into them that's unseen. I did "Chicago" right after I did "Planet of the Apes," and they really weren't that different in a weird way. The costumes really had to work in a certain way for movement. It was nice to revisit that in "Nine."