March 23, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

The film Wilson follows a lonely, surly, middle-aged man (Woody Harrelson) who learns from his estranged wife (Laura Dern) that he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara). Creating the title character was a daunting prospect for Costume Designer Christopher Peterson. “One of the challenges of this project was transforming lithe, handsome, sinewy, dangerous Woody Harrelson into this softer lump of a guy.” When Harrelson donned a pair of black, 60s, horn-rimmed glasses during a fitting, they knew they were on to something special. Peterson notes, “It was at that moment in front of the mirror where the contract between the actor and the Costume Designer was sealed.”

The film is based on a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, which directly influenced the color palette Peterson used. The pages of the book are filled with faded pastels to convey the tenuous life of the characters. “I kept the costumes pale because the production designer, Ethan Tobman, used a lot of color. I wanted Wilson to be this kind of lumbering curmudgeon through all of these different environments and not have him be adaptive to any particular mood.”

In contrast, designing Laura Dern’s character, Pippi, was about exploring the history of the character. “If she’s a woman who had addiction issues, and she never really found her way, who were her heroes before life didn’t turn out exactly as she thought it might?” Peterson asked himself. His answer was to put her in contemporary clothing with 80s nods inspired by Debbie Harry and Pat Benatar.

Having collaborated with director Craig Johnson several times made for the elegant shorthand of an established working relationship. “The big challenge of most projects is developing that language. He would cue me in subtle ways. Craig really lets you walk away from conversations about the background of the character and create something in that exchange in front of the mirror with the actor.”

Wilson opens March 24th 2017.

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