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This story first appeared in the March 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Like many successful women in Hollywood, Colleen Atwood sure knows how to build an army -- literally. Earning her 10th Oscar nomination this year for Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman, the costume design visionary constructed 600 suits of armor for the dark adaptation of the classic fairy tale.
"The whole process from the starting concept to the time you get your first suit is about four months," says the 64-year-old Atwood, who visited a handful of armories while researching. "After that, it's like an assembly line." Once that process was under way, Atwood could focus on the film's leads, like Charlize Theron's evil queen Ravenna, whose handmade chain mail, boned leather and horsehair battle costume took weeks to create. "I call it the porcupine," says Atwood.
The veteran designer is no stranger to abundance or opulence, having partnered with fantasy master Tim Burton on nine films, including 2010's Alice in Wonderland, for which she earned her third Oscar. (That film included Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter costume. "I always try to give Johnny a great pair of shoes," she says of her frequent muse. "When he got bored, he wrote on them with ink, which is a nod to Tim because he does that.")
Atwood's first Oscar came in 2003 for Rob Marshall's Chicago and her second in 2006 for Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha (which included a costume for Gong Li's antagonist, Hatsumomo). "Like all of us in the industry, if we get nominated for an Oscar, we get up and go to work the next day," shrugs Atwood. "It compliments your work, and that's a great feeling."