Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

L-R: RJ Cyler as Earl, Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad, and Thomas Mann as Greg in “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. Copyright 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”

June 12, 2015

Valli Herman

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” may sound like a tear-jerker, but it’s also about a quirky teen who loves movies.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon directed the film, based on the novel by Jesse Andrews. Thomas Mann stars as Greg, the high school-age son of the character known only as Greg’s dad and played by Nick Offerman. RJ Cyler is the title’s Earl, Connie Britton is Greg’s mom and Olivia Cooke is Rachel, aka, the dying girl.

In a memorable scene, Offerman and the two teens eat pig’s feet while standing on the porch, a moment that captures the personalities of each character. Offerman is in a belted kimono; Greg is in a Film Forum T-shirt and Earl wears vintage poly-blend coveralls, a kind favored by mechanics.

Costume Designer Jennifer Eve dug elbows deep into thrift store bins, scoured online vintage sources and haunted the racks of costume houses to find the most perfect elements to illuminate the characters.

“Dad is a sociology professor and is kind of an amalgamation of all of these world influences,” she said. “He wears different ethnic clothing from disparate cultures. He lives in Pittsburgh and is fascinated with global culture and anthropological study. He dresses in all these pieces that are a mix of international travel without any consistency. The anchor of it all is a desire to explore the culture. It also stretches to food. He eats all these random world-culture oddities, hence the pig’s feet.”

Earl spends a lot of time at Greg’s house, where the boys have absorbed Greg’s dad’s eclectic interests. “He’s the one who has introduced them to cult, indie film. Because of the father’s taste in obscurity in all walks of everything, he also sparked…their interest in making home movies by recreating indie cult films,” Eve said.

Offerman’s kimono came from the Warner Bros. costume house, Eve said. “The belt was from a very weird kind of junk shop in Pittsburgh that was kind of all oddities. Pittsburgh was a treasure trove of thrift shops. We cleared them out.”

Greg’s vintage Film Forum T-shirt from the legendary New York art theater’s 1979 3-D, sci-fi festival, reflects a backstory that Eve and the director created. They imagined that Greg’s father from early age started driving Greg around to different film festivals. “Film Forum is the mecca for art house, indie, art school, film school movies — it’s a nesting ground for film students in general,” she said. The other film-related T-shirts weren’t just lucky finds.

“Alfonso really pushed on us to find pieces that might have been Dad’s that Greg is now wearing. We did a lot of work online, digging on eBay,” she said. She also contacted film festivals across the world, requesting to borrow or buy archival items.

And of course, Eve couldn’t have a film-loving native of Pittsburgh who didn’t honor local lore. Look closely at his costumes for references to that shot-in-Pittsburgh cult classic, “Dawn of the Dead.”

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