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'The Host' Costume Designer Brings Stephenie Meyer's Seekers, Souls and Humans to Life

Costume designer Erin Benach outfitted Stephenie Meyer's latest characters in a mix of Theory, Zara and custom white suits.

The Host, Stephenie Meyer’s post-Twilight  novel, is about an alien race that takes over the Earth by occupying human’s bodies. But one Soul named Wanda, played by Saoirse Ronan, has a real problem when the mind of Melanie, her human host, refuses to leave her body.

Because Meyer's book is basically a long conversation that takes place in one person's head, the author had doubts it would ever be made.

But made it is. The film hits theaters on Friday and is directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) and starring Ronan (Atonement, The Lovely Bones), Diane Kruger, Max Irons (Red Riding Hood), Frances Fisher  and William Hurt .

And it fell costume designer Erin Benach to outfit the story's humans, seekers and souls for the big screen.

"The alien occupation had been going on for about ten years,” Benach of her initial costume conception.. “There’s a paramilitary feel  to the humans hiding in the desert. They wear muted colors and lots of textures which acts as camouflage in their environment. Most of the clothing is form-fitting to allow for quick movement The clothing helps keep them alive. They become a part of the desert they are living off in order to survive the alien take over.”

By contrast, the seekers hunting the humans in order to implant an alien soul, wear white. Fans of Meyer’s book will recall that in the book, they wear black. Benach thought that was too obvious. And Meyer agreed to the change.

“I pitched the idea of white costumes for the Seekers. I liked the idea that this group you assume to be evil would not be in black. I like the idea that they visually peaceful and calming. And Stephenie was very receptive to the white vs. black change,” says Benach.

Head seeker Diane Kruger has a kind of modern Diana Rigg in The Avengers feel, wearing a white Armani double breasted blazer over slacks much of the time. “We built (made) all her pants, including the motorcycle jodhpurs. She also wore a Theory white leather jacket that had a honeycomb texture."

When the alien souls occupy human bodies, the actors wear what Benach calls “a stylized hybrid look of vintage and modern.” The men wear vintage T-shirts and ties with narrow suits and slim pants from H&M, Zara and Club Monaco." The women all look like pretty, perfect Stepford Wives in retro ‘50s silhouettes in soft pastels.

Ronan, who appears as a host for a soul and as part of the human resistance, had many costume changes.  “Saoirse liked that Melanie’s clothes were a dirtied down version of something she might wear in her real life.  But she also loved Wanda’s hyper-realized looks vintage pieces and the sweaters we made for her with cropped pants. She was really into the contrast. “

Benach, a frequent Ryan Gosling collaborator who has worked with the actor on Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines, Half Nelson and Drive (which earned her a Costume Designer's Guild Award nod in 2011), is currently heading to Detroit to costume Gosling's directorial debut, How To Catch a Monster, which he co-wrote and produces. Coincidentally, Ronan is also starring in the film. 

Just don’t ask her what Monster about. “I’m so bad at giving a synopsis. I just know is that it will be very creative."

 

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