(Above and below) - Will Ferrell as James in Warner Bros. Pictures’ comedy “Get Hard,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photos by Patti Perret.

“Get Hard”

March 27, 2015

Valli Herman

You know that with a movie title like “Get Hard,” and with comic stars Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart, the laughs are likely to not be subtle at all.

Etan Cohen directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Roberts and Jay Martel. Their comic survey of racial stereotypes pits Ferrell as James, an enormously wealthy financier, against Hart as Darnell, a carwash owner. James is facing a 10-year prison sentence for fraud and embezzlement and hires Darnell to teach him how to be tough in prison because in this satire, James assumes Darnell, a black man, must know everything about surviving in prison.

With so many clichés woven into the story, Costume Designer Shay Cunliffe had to choose whether to go with the low-brow flow, or play it straight.

“Both of them were willing to just go for it,” Cunliffe said. “Will was going for a ridiculously wealthy man in every detail–French cuffs and silk bathrobes and everything matching in his life. He’s a man who gets a manicure. He’s meant to be this multi-millionaire, fabulous stock trader, but he doesn’t break a sweat over any of the day.” That’s why, dressed in Tom Ford, he never removes his jacket in the office; he’s not sitting or concentrating long enough to require comfort.

She played up the contrast with Hart, who is more than a head shorter than Ferrell. “Darnell is obviously a middle-class guy, so he himself has to come up with the clichés of how to present himself as a gangster,” Cunliffe said.

Just as the movie is a reflection on portrayals and stereotypes about race, the characters’ clothing illustrates how identity and race exist in a complex web.

When James is to visit Darnell’s cousin, he takes it upon himself to dress as he imagines he’s to look in an urban neighborhood.

“He researches black culture and finds Lil Wayne,” Cunliffe said. James arrives looking like a parody of the rapper: camouflage sagging pants, a puffy orange vest, an abstract animal print hoodie, mirrored amber-lens glasses and a ball cap with the sticker still on the brim. The taxi yellow hoodie is from Lil Wayne’s clothing collection, Trukfit, a line inspired by skate culture, which originated with white beach kids.

Cunliffe didn’t have to search the far reaches of urban America to locate the essential elements of the costume.

“I found the bright orange puffer vest late one night at Macy’s at the Glendale Galleria,” she said. The Trukfit clothing line is sold at such suburban American clothiers as Tilly’s and Macy’s.

The $1,200, bright blue Giuseppe Zanotti high-tops, adorned with a denim photo print and chains at the ankle, were another matter.

“The shoes are the most expensive pair of sneakers I’ve ever bought,” said Cunliffe, who found them at Saks Fifth Avenue. As with so many accessories, they helped put the finishing touch on the character.

“Will was very gung ho. We put together a rack of different ways he could go with the outfit. He is very collaborative, but very sweetly expresses his preferences. I had leopard print sneakers that in my mind looked good,” she said. But the comic actor picked the look less pleasing to the eye. “As a costume designer,” said Cunliffe, “you always want to make things look good.”

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