Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Interview with Designer Trish Summerville!

Happy 2012, Frocktalkers! I am delighted to be able to share some insight with you from the costume designer of David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Trish Summerville! Fresh from the launch of the movie as well as the launch of The Dragon Tattoo Collection (exclusively at retailer H & M), Ms. Summerville tells us all about her experience making the film in Sweden, and why she didn’t sample the reindeer meatballs… read on!!

photo courtesy Trish Summerville

Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, photo courtesy Trish Summerville

How did you come to be involved on this project?

I have worked with David Fincher in the past, on commercials. The producer on the film, Ceán Chaffin, contacted me.

I understand that you come from a music/live performance background – what kind of boost did that give you, coming in to this project? How did your background inform your work on this film?

I come from a varied costume background, meaning I’ve worked on films, commercials, editorial, videos, tours, and custom pieces. This all became helpful during this project, though it’s all costume related, each serves you differently.

Working on music/live performances helped with figuring things out on the spot! Very quick problem solving. When it’s live, you don’t get another take.

Had you read any of the Stieg Larsson books before becoming involved with the movie? What did you think of them?

Ironically I got the first book a week before receiving the phone call about working on the film. Now that we have completed the film, I am revisiting the second and third books.

Had you seen any of the original movies before reading this script? How did they influence you (or make you want to do things differently)?

I read the first book, then saw the Swedish film, then received our script. It was important to us (Fincher, Rooney, myself) to keep Lisbeth very close to the book. Stieg Larsson describes her as small, a tiny thin frame, you could mistake her for a teenage boy. I wanted her to have an androgynous feel, and that you are afraid of her, but also oddly drawn to her.

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander

What were your discussions like with Fincher about the tone of the film – what was he looking for, specifically? And did he mention if there was anything he wanted to change from the original look and feel of the Swedish movies?

I was lucky enough to have our costume department in a building across the street from Fincher’s office, so I had many discussions with him, in regards to all the characters in the film and the over all look and feel. We never used the Swedish film as a reference point. David (Fincher) is very specific about color, tone and complete feel of his films.

What was the collaboration like with the Art Department? It was a really good, solid design aesthetic, and I would love to know more about how you worked together –

I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work with Don Burt, the production designer. He is extremely talented and extremely hard working. He was very generous with including me in his world, which really helped marry the characters into their environments.

Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and Robin Wright as Erika Berger

Daniel Craig as Blomkvist and Robin Wright as Erika Berger

The color palette of the film – how did it come about? It was so tightly controlled in those cold neutrals. Was there discussion about the difference between the colors in the contemporary storyline and in the flashbacks?

It was important to show the seasons of Sweden: the extreme cold and long darkness of the winter vs. the welcoming of the sun in the spring. We wanted to show the difference from the 1960’s scenes and the contemporary scenes, to give the flashbacks a more dream-like quality. Still keeping everything muted and toned down but introducing colors of the 1960s: mustard, greens, and blues. In my research, prints were not as common in Sweden as they were in the US & UK, so we used very little pattern and prints.

1960s Vanger Family Dinner

1960s Vanger Family Dinner

Some of the shooting locations in the film looked exactly like those in the original Swedish film – how much crossover was there, if any, between locations, and even crew or actors?

Some places in the books, such as Hedestad, do not really exist. We shot in many locations north and south of Stockholm. We did not share any of the same actors. We did have some crew that had worked on the Swedish films.

Given the large amount of supporting material for this film (books and movies), did the actors come to the table with new ideas for the characters, and if so, how did you implement them?

I feel any committed actor lives with their character a bit, and has certain specific ideas for their roles. I tried to offer what ideas I had for each character, eager to hear each actors views and ideas for clothing and props.

Blomkvist - sans gloves - takes notes from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer)

Blomkvist - sans gloves - takes notes from Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer)

Blomkvist seemed to be forever without a pair of gloves. Was this something from the book, or a character note that came about in your prep?

Good observation!!! No one else has brought that up! It was for a few reasons.

He arrives in Hedestad from the city of Stockholm, unprepared for the cold, extreme weather. Even his beautiful coats are for short city walks and popping into taxis, not for snow blizzards in the middle of nowhere.

Secondly he is a journalist, and although he uses a computer, he is more old-school and still writes things down. As opposed to Lisbeth, who notes things to memory and only on her computer – calling for her fingerless wool gloves. It’s not until later, while still staying at the Vanger cottage, that he acquires gloves.

Mmmm, a good shawl collar cardigan.

Mmmm, a good shawl collar cardigan.

And I must say, I loved all of the shawl-collar sweaters on Blomkvist. Loved. Was that something that came together in the fitting, or was it something that you discussed and wanted to carry through the film?

My goal was to add a bit of weight to Daniel (Craig, playing Blomkvist), giving him layers, creating a type of unconventional uniform of dress: wrinkled shirts, vest, cardigans, and jeans as opposed to casual trousers. I wanted him to appear approachable, safe, welcoming, cozy – through the fluffiness of the cardigans and scarves he wears.

Lisbeth’s pants were particularly interesting to me – they appeared to be men’s pants, but the shape of them was very unusual. Did you make those pants or find them in a store?

Lisbeth’s pants range from distressed very slim jeans to drop crotch utility pants. I would use that same shape of pant, and cut them into a long short and layer thermal pants underneath. Her clothing needed to be for function and comfort rather than fashion.

photo courtesy Trish Summerville

How much prep time did you have? Did you prep here in LA or somewhere else? Did you get to take any crew with you?

Our prep time was very limited. We began prep in LA, collecting the period clothing for all the flashbacks. I went to Sweden with a supervisor. I was budgeted to take one person for 6 weeks. The remainder of prep was done in Sweden and we had things continually shipped from the States.

What was it like to work with the Swedish crew? Can you tell us a little about what their work methodology was that is different from the way we do it here?

It was very challenging. People do things differently all over the world. The Swedes work eight hour days, and do not work on the weekends. I had a wonderful team, but some of my team had never worked on set or on a film before. In the end, we all learned a lot and taught a lot. I was very lucky, in that my department wanted to learn and wanted to do their very best. I hope to work with them all again! My great team of costume gnomes!!

photo courtesy Trish Summerville

What was your overall budget, and how did you make it work, given all of the stunts and action in the film?

We had a good budget. I feel it’s important for me to constantly be aware of where we are with our spending, knowing what characters or scenes I want to put money aside for. The bigger challenges were finding the multiples we needed in a small city like Stockholm, aging and distressing clothing in a timely fashion (we did it all ourselves, in-house), and the constant rotation of wardrobe from our way-too-small trailer to our offices, as needed.

How many of these costumes did you make? Rent? Purchase? Borrow? The film has a very eclectic look (with people from so many different economic classes), so sourcing must have been interesting – how did it come together?

We had a mix of everything – purchases, rentals, built pieces, showroom loans, my own clothing and jewelry. I shopped every store in Stockholm, from high end to second hand. There are only two small rental houses in Stockholm, so shopping and building was a must. I wanted to stay true to Swedish styles and fashion and use Scandinavian labels, when possible.

Photo courtesy Trish Summerville

Photo courtesy Trish Summerville

What was the most challenging aspect of making this film?

A film crew who works differently in every way, the language barrier in using “on set” or “film terms”… No overnight laundry service, lack of supplies we are used to using. Challenges daily!

How did you become involved with Swedish–based retailer H & M for their line of Lisbeth Salander clothing?

It came about through Sony and our producer being contacted by H & M. It was a collaboration that seem to make sense. Since H & M is Swedish, we used their clothing for Lisbeth in the film and in Book two (of the trilogy), The Girl Who Played with Fire, Lisbeth shops at H & M.

photo courtesy Trish Summerville

photo courtesy Trish Summerville

What were they (H & M) specifically looking for to put in their collection, and what was your level of input – i.e.: did you oversee sample making, etc.?

I was extremely lucky with H & M and the entire process. I was involved on all levels and decisions. I have a degree in fashion design, so I able to understand construction, fabrication and fit of the garments. I worked with a small team of three, from sketches to fabric swatches, selecting findings, to fitting samples, production and shooting the campaign, to the POP UP store in New York. I was very fortunate to have an amazing marketing person from Sony, George Leon, who made sure I was involved in all thing related to The Dragon Tattoo Collection.

What do you take away from the experience of making The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo?

This project has truly been the best experience in my life. I was so fortunate to work with such talented and creatively collaborative people. I felt honored to be working with David and his team. Every job you learn something, and on this one, I learned a lot, taught a lot, made some dear friends and slept very little!

One last question (and I have to ask, because I am Swedish): How did you like the food? Did you ever get sick of fish? What was the catering like?

Haha!! Catering was interesting. More interesting was “craft service”… every single morning for breakfast – cold open face sandwiches (just like the book). Not so great when they are frozen solid on a tray. I still can’t eat boiled or au gratin potatoes, and I’m not a big fan of herring! I don’t eat meat or foul so I didn’t try the reindeer meatballs or suckling pig – yikes. Though I did find a few restaurants that I LOVED: PA & Co – delicious food and great cozy atmosphere, and Akkurat – great mussels and the best bread you have ever had!

THANK YOU TRISH!! Great job with the film and all the best to you. Happy New Year everyone!!

-KMB

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