February 5, 2016
It’s been 15 years since director Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson spoofed the world of high fashion in “Zoolander.” With next week’s sequel, “Zoolander 2,” the duo returns to the runways, in ever-more spectacular fashion.
To give her characters an authentic, high-style wardrobe, Costume Designer Leesa Evans directly sourced couture and archival fashion from a host of top labels, such as Valentino, Balmain and Costume National. For the longtime fashion fan, that opportunity was thrilling. The harder part? Coordinating the build of a complex prosthetic muscle suit for Will Ferrell, who returns as evil fashion mogul Mugatu.
“You see Mugatu for the first time in prison. You see how he’s really been working out and gotten buff during the time he was incarcerated,” she said. Now the menacing Mugatu is a beast, who is tattooed–hilariously–with zippers, scissors, his signature keyboard-pattern necktie and a broken heart inscribed for “Donatella.”
A few seconds in the movie trailer show Mugatu literally bursting out of his skin. To make the scene effective, Evans and a prosthetic makeup artist had to craft dozens of costume parts, more of which are revealed in the film.
“The technical challenge was he has an outfit on–a straightjacket, but it’s an elegant and fashionable straightjacket made from silver metallic pleated leather. He breaks that away and you see his muscular body and tattoos,” Evans said. “And then he breaks the tattoo muscle suit away and he’s got what is known as his classic M-monogrammed Mugatu jumpsuit on.”
The fast-moving scene required an international collaboration between Evans’ Rome-based costume department and that of special-effects costume builder Mark Coulier, of London’s Coulier Creatures FX.
“They did a lot of [Ferrell’s] measurements, then we did measurements of the jumpsuit, so that Mark’s team could make the muscle suit that would fit over Will. Then we measured the muscle suit so we could build the straightjacket on top. We wanted everything to fit together seamlessly,” Evans said.
Coulier designed the prosthetic muscle suit with a skin-like finish that gets the most screen time. Evans also built muscle suit portions to fill out parts of the costume that get ripped away. The design teams aimed to create neat layers of clothing and muscles that also ripped away cleanly and quickly.
“From our end during shooting, we needed to make it look as flawless as possible so that there wasn’t an elaborate post-visual FX requirement to clean it up,” she said.
The complex bit required more than one muscle suit combination. Evans and Coulier crafted multiples that performed different functions for different shots. Evans estimated that the scene required half-a-dozen straightjackets and four breakaway muscle suits. Her department also built muscles of a heavy foam directly into the straightjackets.
As Mugatu rips off his prison-buffed body, he reveals a blue jumpsuit inset with a patchwork M across the shoulders and chest.
“He gets on a helicopter as he breaks out, so there was a parallel to the flight suit idea,” Evans said. It’s a new look for the ever-fashionable fashion madman.
“I felt that as much as people wanted to see the quintessential Mugatu, they also wanted to see something new,” Evans said. “We were trying to stay true to the lovable character from the first film.”