“The Nice Guys”
May 13, 2016
When veteran Costume Designer Kym Barrett set out to create the year 1977 in Los Angeles for the film The Nice Guys, she paid close attention to the collision of cultures. At the cusp of the 70s and 80s, the story is set during a transitional time in fashion when influences ranged from hippie culture and Jackie Brown, to the American Punk Scene and the music industry—shaped by British performers like David Bowie and the Rolling Stones. “It was a whirlpool,” says Barrett, “I worked from the character outward to give each person the twist of the 70s which suited them best.” Also, she avoided the extremes of high fashion choosing to view the period with a lens grounded in reality.
Ryan Gosling plays Holland March, a down-on-his-luck private investigator. Barrett captured his personality by dressing him in snappy suits and ties with short-sleeved shirts hidden underneath. March’s counterpoint is Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy. A strong personal narrative informs his costumes. Barrett drew upon Healy’s unsuccessful background in the Navy to underscore all of his looks. She took military shapes and transposed them into his everyday clothing. As is evidenced by the strong palette throughout the film, Barrett doesn’t shy from color. Playing homage to movies of the period, she also gave Healy bright Hawaiian shirts and built him a quintessential blue leather jacket that became his touchstone.
Barrett feels the script is crucial in comedy. While her process is always basically the same, in this genre she waits until the script and casting are in place to see the type of dynamic actors have together before finalizing the looks. “In comedy costumes can add a little flourish to the humor,” she explains. “But until you see the joke you don’t have the whole picture. I work up until the day of shooting because so much can change during the rehearsal process. The immediacy of the moment is what is really fun, but you want to have prepped well in order to have room to be spontaneous.”
The Nice Guys from Warner Brothers Pictures is in theatres now.