July 15, 2016
Costume Designer Courtney Hoffman had an unusual reaction to director Matt Ross’ script for the feature film Captain Fantastic. “I fell in love with the world. I completely understood Matt’s vision,” says Hoffman, “But even though Matt’s script is utterly brilliant, I felt everything he wrote about costumes didn’t actually honor the characters he created.” In a bold turn Hoffman let Ross know in her interview she had a different concept, which became the foundation of their collaboration.
The story follows a widowed father (Viggo Mortensen) and his six children who are living off the grid in a forest as they travel for the first time into society to attend their mother’s funeral. The clothing throughout the film is purposeful. Hoffman didn’t set out with specific colors in mind, but allowed the children to help pick and decorate different pieces of clothing. Often they gravitated to bright items and Hoffman organically let these choices define the palette of the film. She considered the fantastical side of what they might wear when they didn’t have to fit into societal norms. The twins trade pieces, the young children wear hand-me-downs, the little boy sometimes wears worn girl’s clothing. Many of the garments have a touch of the handmade and a feeling of whimsy.
When the family enters the funeral they are dressed in clothes that seem incongruous. Hoffman and ACD Anastasia Magoutas, carefully considered and planned each detail of their costumes to make sense on a psychological level. Hoffman explains, “This family is not doing this to make a scene. Everything they’re wearing means something to them that celebrates their mother.”
In order to arrive at Ben’s funeral suit, Hoffman asked herself what would this man wear to get married. Coincidentally Mortensen wore the geometric red shirt to his personal wedding, Hoffman scoured the country to find the perfect cherry red suit to match. She felt that Ben’s clothing choice was done to honor the relationship the clothing had to his wife.
Hoffman integrated the world they were in, from the wildflowers by the side of the road, to patchwork from all of the children’s costumes. “We were hand sewing for weeks on end to create the perfect pieces the way the kids would, Matt let me integrate this on camera too,” Hoffman explains. “We wanted to be sure that the kids could all wear the clothes and the clothes were never wearing the kids. When a 9 year-old girl giggles with excitement about wearing a gas mask while she reads by a fire, you know you’ve found it. They would come spend time with us and we would find clothes for them to draw on, teach them to darn, knit, paint, make flower crowns or quilt.
The locations were beautiful, we drove hours everyday to get to them, we jumped into the rivers at the end of the day and became a family. It was as special a filmmaking experience as it is a movie. It’s the best film I’ve ever worked on because every inch of it has heart.”
Captain Fantastic by Bleecker Street Films is in theatres now.