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The Wrestler: Interview with costume designer AMY WESTCOTT

I recently spoke with costume designer Amy Westcott to get her perspective on the fabulous costumes of The Wrestler.  Here’s what she had to say:

1)    What was the conversation that you had with Aronofsky about these characters – where did you start, and what did you talk about?

AW: I think the design collaboration started when I came in to interview for the job.  I brought in books and reference on the 80’s – focusing on Heavy Metal and its influence on wrestling gear.  After that, in the prep stages, we talked about each character, Ram, Cassidy and Stephanie in particular – about their lifestyle – where they were for the last 20 years.

2)    Did the actors have ideas of their own that made it into their costumes?  What were some of these ideas?

AW: Mickey and Marisa had ideas, which were very welcome from actors who really try to get into character, and not just trying to look good, or like “themselves”.  Mickey had some great ideas about his coat (he had seen one in a store on Bleeker street), and it was a really nice high-end coat…which was a worry to me, because it felt way too nice for his character.  But everyone in the department took turns beating the crap out of it, until it looked like something you found in a dumpster.  We beat up everything.

3)    What kinds of discussions did you have with hair and makeup?  (It seems like you guys worked in great harmony – the overall “look” of these characters is pitch-perfect!)

AW: The hair and make-up team, Mandy Lyons and Judy Chin are terrific, and we had the advantage of working together in the past, so there was already loose communication there.  We had direction meetings with Darren as we were starting out, and just kept a very open dialog about where the characters were going.

4)    Tell me about the research that you did for this film –

AW: I researched every wrestler from this time period, as well as (and especially) the 80’s.  We went to several (every weekend) wrestling events – ranging from low budget to big pro shows.  A terrific documentary was made called Beyond The Mat that was very informative on getting into the wrestling mindset.  No wrestling rock was left unturned.  I probably know far too much about the sport now…  I have also been in a lot of strip clubs, for better or worse.  It’s important to get a feel for what’s real.

5)    Regarding the background, or day-player wrestlers – are these guys legit wrestlers?  Did they come with their own gear and costumes?

AW: All day-players and BG are legit wrestlers.  We dressed a lot of day-players, but most BG came with their own.  Sometimes we tweaked them a bit.

6)    Among those wrestlers, who was cast (actors) and who was real (pro wrestler)?  It’s hard to tell the difference; you guys did a great job.  I love the guy with the cut-off jean shorts.  Love.

AW: Most of the actors were real wrestlers, but as I mentioned above, we redressed some, so it wasn’t the “schtick” that they were used to being in. For instance, Necro Butcher was cast as the fictitious wrestler called Hillbilly Cannibal, but when Necro was cast, we used his motto t-shirt (Choose Death), with the Hillbilly cutoff shorts.  Tommy Rotten and The Ayatollah were completely made up.

7)    Cassidy’s necklace that she wears with the blue top in the strip bar – what exactly is that – I noticed that Randy wears the “ram” necklace, and this necklace on Cassidy looked to be significant, but I couldn’t tell what it was.  Did you have to have the “ram” necklace made, or did you find it somewhere?  If so, who made it, and how did that go?

AW: The idea with Cassidy’s jewelry was that she has things that mean something to her.  She was had another side to her, that had nothing to do with the strip club.  Mickey found a jewelry maker to have his necklace made.  We worked on the design together. I designed the Ram logo and he chose the turquoise eyes.

8)    The Motley Crue t-shirt on Cassidy – how hard was it to get that cleared?  Was it vintage, new, or something you guys created?

AW: Funny you should ask….I altered a vintage concert t-shirt, so the art work isn’t the same as the famous album cover.  But you have to look very closely to see what I did to it.

9)    I was looking at the colors and patterns worn by Randy, and it occurred to me that he transitions from white (buying drugs) into plaids/patterns (confusion, loneliness, poor health) into dark blue at the strip club (resolve), and then back to white (epiphany) at the deli.  Was this transition to mimic his arc, or am I just nuts?  If it was about his arc, can you elaborate?

AW: The important thing (and no, you are not nuts, and thank you for noticing!) about Randy’s arc is that he tries very hard to stay hopeful.  You have this guy who is falling apart, but he is hanging on, in his way.  The dark denim in the strip club was actually his attempt to straighten up and make a good impression – a more somber tone and his most “decent” attire.

10)    Cassidy’s jewelry (particularly her earrings) was powerful: feathers, leaves (in the beginning) to big “C”s at the end – can you describe your thoughts about her costume transition? (not just earrings, but the whole look)

AW: Cassidy was like a peacock, showing her colors and shining to the public.  As she began to question her existence at the club more, she became more vulnerable, and that is where we focused more on the jewelry and accoutrement.  She was the most naked then, in terms of wardrobe, and emotions.

11)     The hideous green satin jacket – I am assuming it was scripted, but did you make it, or order it or find it somewhere?

AW: The jacket was scripted to be satin, but I used the Ram’s wrestling colors (why it would catch his eye), and had the whole thing made (4 times, since it was also used as a prop).

12)    The Ram’s wrestling costume – what was your inspiration?

AW: I worked a lot with Mickey, who is very hands-on with his costume.  I wanted to design his costume with a very 80’s upbeat feel to it, especially to contrast his somber life, where I used mostly off white, grey, navy and brown.  I researched so many old school wrestlers that I really got a feel for what would work and look legitimate.  We tried many different incarnations of the ram head (even tried one across his butt), and many color combos (I did a tremendous amount of sketches).  But when Mickey sees something he likes, it sticks, and we finally all (Mickey, Darren and myself) agreed on an 80’s pair, and a contemporary pair, which we made 5 of each.

Glad you liked the movie!
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More than liked, LOVED.  Great work, Amy Westcott!!  I loved it!!

-KMB

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