“Little Boy”

April 24, 2015

Valli Herman

Take a ‘40s war-era period piece, mix in 300 extras, armies of warriors, a foreign set and lots and lots of creativity and you have “Little Boy.”

The comedy-drama stars Jakob Salvati as Pepper, the 8-year-old boy who will stop at nothing to end World War II so that he can bring his father home. The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson and Kevin James.

Laura Jean Shannon and Rebecca Gregg shared the Costume Design title and the work of dressing characters in vintage American work wear, Mongolian warrior uniforms, Samurai costumes and more.

Writer-director Alejandro Monteverde shot the movie in coastal Mexico, where Shannon built many of the costumes from vintage and period-correct fabric that she sourced from warehouses and backrooms of suppliers such as International Silks and Woolens in Los Angeles.

“The most difficult fabric for us to find was denim, because denim was very different back then. We had to use the actual period denim we found very sparingly,” Shannon said.

The designers also scoured vintage stores and costume rental houses, where they found deadstock multiples of important basic items such as shorts.

Dressing the lead child actor required careful planning. His slightly larger older brother played his body double, as did a local child who was smaller. “So we built everything in three different sizes, and sometimes multiples of them. The tailors and seamstresses would write 1, 2, or 3 in them to know it would fit the corresponding child,” Shannon said. A little person stunt man also was dressed to mimick Salvati’s costumes.

If the floppy caps, coveralls and plaid shirts seem like spot-on copies of archetypal American characters, that’s because they are.

“Our director and writer were very inspired by Norman Rockwell,” Shannon said. “If you watch the movie, there are certain scenes that are literally frame-by-frame works of Norman Rockwell that we brought to life.”

The designers took calculated risks to achieve that level of authenticity.

“He had one vintage, plaid shirt that we were so in love with. It was so frail and worn and the elbows just kept blowing out more and more. We used it in the scene that was supposed to evoke a destructive and sad moment, so it was kind of OK that it was starting to fall apart,” Shannon said.

“We also had a one-of-a-kind vintage hat. As soon as we put it on his head he became Little Boy,” Shannon said. “It was terrifying because I had nightmares that we lost it. Luckily we made it through without losing the hat.”

“Little Boy” is now playing in select theaters.

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