“Exodus: Gods and Kings”
December 19, 2014
When Janty Yates signed on as Costume Designer for director Ridley Scott’s $140 million Biblical epic, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” she came prepared to dress armies. After all, she won a Best Costume Design Oscar for Scott’s massive “Gladiator” set in ancient Rome and brought all of her knowledge to bear on “Exodus,” the story of Moses and the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses.
She had an army of her own: nearly 70 people worked in the production’s costume department, building between 6,000 and 7,000 costumes. From Rome’s costume houses, she rented the distressed linens that circulate through Italian religious dramas. A factory of shoe makers, leather workers, embroiderers, cutters and sewers produced thousands of pieces in a factory Yates established in Morrocco.
Unlike Ramses, who Yates saw as “flamboyant, vain and very arrogant,” Moses needed to reflect humanity, not glory.
“For Moses, we wanted someone more earnest, serious and solidier-like, more of a general and a leader,” Yates said. His earth tone clothing stands in complete contrast to Ramses, who is drenched in gold fabric and jewelry.
For key battle scenes, Yates needed to create a historically accurate, lightweight and flexible armor for Moses (Christian Bale) to wear as he leads thousands of slaves out of Egypt. Yates recreated the era’s flexible, scale-like lamellar armor in a mix of modern and historic materials–urethane and leather.
The urethane worked like a charm for the scales. “They can ride and gallop away,” Yates said. “It was quite groundbreaking. No one has been able to make lamellar without it breaking off.”
The cuirass, or breastplate, that Moses wears over the lamellar was sculpted in smooth leather and decorated with eagles and other symbols that were produced in urethane. For the correct battle-hardened finish, every piece was hand-painted and distressed–the better to look realistic as audiences take in every detail. The 20th Century Fox film is available in high-definition, 3-D–the better to appreciate every bit of armor and gold.
“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is now in theaters.