January 24, 2014
Universal Pictures war drama “Lone Survivor” is a depiction of real-life elite Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his comrades who embarked on a dangerous and ultimately doomed mission in Afghanistan in 2005. Luttrell (portrayed by Mark Wahlberg) and his three comrades, Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Matt Axelson (Ben Foster) and Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) move stealthily through unforgiving mountain terrain, on a mission to bring down Taliban commander Ahmad Shah (Yousuf Azami) and his fighters.
A chance encounter with three unarmed shepherds (who may or may not be linked the Taliban) puts the team in a predicament and poor a signal to their HQ communications team makes them extremely vulnerable. Shortly after releasing the shepherds on good faith, the team is confronted by a horde of Taliban fighters. Well outnumbered and essentially cutoff from rescue forces, the team falls under siege. Despite their counterattack and unrelenting courage, only one survives.
Working on the film had an emotional impact on Costume Designer Amy Stofsky. “It is both a passionate and heartbreaking story of which I am proud to have been a part of. It never leaves you,” she says.
Stofsky and her colleagues took pains to be authentic and true to the original SEAL team, compiling research as well as consulting with the team’s families and real-life Navy SEALS. She and her team worked with Western Costume to find the right fabric for their uniforms (which, according to Stofsky, the U.S. stopped manufacturing in 2006 in the Dominican Republic). All of the uniforms featured in the film, including the leads, their stunt and photo doubles, and the rest of the squad were manufactured by Stofsky and her team. A testament to the intense action scenes, the designer says” 36 cookie cutter uniforms” were produced for Wahlberg’s character alone. Each team member’s uniform featured a respective, personal insignia. “We were able to duplicate Michael Murphy’s treasured NYC firehouse patch, an homage to 9/11, and the men he also embraced as heroes,” Stofsky says.
One of her favorite elements of the design process was creating a visual distinction between the Pashtun people (noncombatant villagers residing at the base of the mountains where the team’s mission took place) from the Taliban. Stofksy says Afghani advisors helped her team to procure Taliban costumes. Western Costume’s work room manufactured a lot of the Taliban leaders, while Stofsky utilized North Hollywood-based Afghani vendor Moe Noorzai for traditional Afghani garb including vests, pants, dresses and Kashmir scarves, and had a New Mexico-based tailor produce all of the turbans featured in the film.
“Luttrell survived because of the age old tradition of the Pashtun culture in providing hospitality and safety to those that enter their home. We dyed the Taliban’s costumes black, charcoal, wine, and indigo and kept the villagers light,” she explains. “Their humanity prevails. This is what we hoped to get across.”
“Lone Survivor” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.