'Batman v. Superman' Costume Designer on Wonder Woman's Suit, Bruce Wayne's Custom Gucci Looks
Michael Wilkinson, who also worked on 'Man of Steel,' gives us the 411 on each superhero's look.
After months of anticipation, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice finally hit theaters worldwide on Friday. And already it has earned $424 million globally at the weekend box office. While it was easy to get caught up on all the action on the big screen (Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck are easy on the eyes, after all), it was the muscle-defining superhero suits that had our full attention.
The genius behind the costumes? Michael Wilkinson, who also served as costume designer for Man of Steel (2013). Director Zack Snyder enlisted the designer once again to create looks that were fit for fighting, as well as staying incognito.
"He just wanted to make sure sure we did our research," Wilkinson, who recently designed the looks in the Golden Globe-nominated film Joy, tells Pret-a-Reporter of the direction that Snyder wanted him to pursue with the film’s costumes. "This is the fifth film I’ve done with him. He really helps me be very fearless and committed with my ideas."
Speaking with us over the phone from London, where filming for The Justice League: Part One will soon start, Wilkinson breaks down each look from the action-packed flick.
You previously dressed Henry Cavill in Man of Steel. What you did you do differently or similarly for his costume in Batman v. Superman?
One of the great things about doing these films is that you get the chance to, each time, keep developing and evolving, tweaking the costumes and making them even more nuance and hopefully authentic. What we did this time around — there were a few developments to the details and materials of the Superman suit. We found a fantastic new fabric for the cape that looks beautifully with the material and rest of the costume. We found a new way of applying the "S" glyph, and a much more streamlined and kind of modern-looking way of detailing the suit, but I think one of the biggest differences is that Zack had an idea of having a quote from one of his favorite writers, Joseph Campbell, and we had that translated into Kryptonian. Then once we got the script, we sort of ran it through the biceps, belts, wrists and even through the "S" glyph in the front of the costume so it’s sort of this fantastic complexity of texture on the suit.
How about for Ben Affleck — how did his costume help elevate his character as Batman?
That was an amazing opportunity as a costume designer to be able to contribute to the legacy of Batman costumes. I remember growing up and being so excited upon the launch of each Batman film, wondering what the new actor was going to look like. But Zack was quite clear about the direction he wanted to take. He really wanted our Batman to look more like he does in the comic books, so when he was drawn in 2D, he’s just a solid ball of muscle — but he’s more of a boorish brawler than an armor-and-high-tech figure. So we kind of went back to his roots and portrayed some of it through his massive strength and fighting technique, more than armor.
We created a fabric in our costume work room. We created a digital file of the texture that we liked, and then it was printed with dimensional ink to give the impression that it was this strong carbon fiber tri-weave, but in fact it was quite a thin fabric that stretched to show underneath, so it showed his incredible anatomy. That was important, to show our Batman really battle-worn and a little older than Batmans from recent films, so he’s fighting crime in Gotham for a long time now and he has the scars to show it.
As for Bruce Wayne, what led you to work with Gucci?
It’s a really exciting partnership. I drew up and designed all the clothes for Bruce Wayne. I met a bunch of people from Gucci and they showed me some fantastic suits from their line and we picked fabrics together and tweaked a lot of details, according to the proportions I needed for the film. It was all made by their amazing tailors in Milan. They have a very beautiful high-end feel needed for Bruce Wayne, who’s extremely wealthy and has a very refined sensibility. Zack wanted him to be that sort of person who’s closet has eight white shirts, five bespoke navy suits, 10 bespoke black suits — he had a very austere approach to fashion. Everything is just the highest quality.
How about for Clark Kent?
It’s a very different Clark Kent you see in this film than Man of Steel. He’s moved from the Midwest to the big city, working as a journalist, so his look really had to evolve. I created a look for him that was kind of classic all-American, with plaid shirts, corduroys, chinos. He wears a suit at one stage, and then I had Henry in this sort of iconic journalist trench coat that you kind of see in the early Superman comics, so it was kind of nice to have a nod to the comic book legacy. We made a lot of his clothes in our work room because he has a very unique shape — he has extremely wide shoulders and a small waist and strong legs, so a lot of it had to be tailor made. We used a few Gitman shirts for him, but I think everything we pretty much made.
And who designed his glasses?
He wears glasses by a fantastic British eyewear designer called Tom Davies. He created some custom pairs of frames for Henry. He has such an amazing square, beautifully formed face, and to do something to soften those lines and make him a shy, meeker version was an interesting challenge. So we put a lot of work into line and proportion.
Let's talk about Gal Gadot — her outfit for Wonder Woman is both strong and sexy. Can you break down the design process in achieving the modernized look?
We knew we really wanted to create our very own look for Wonder Woman to how she’s portrayed in TV shows and graphic novels, so we went back to her roots and where she came from. We wanted to creates something incredibly strong and portray her as a legitimate fighter, so we looked back … because we wanted her to look like she’s been wearing the same costume, in a sense, for thousands of years — since she’s immortal, after all. We were inspired by the metal armor of Greek and Roman warriors and gladiators. It seemed like a good fit for her. We created a costume that looks like metal armor, but of course, in these films the fight scenes are very intense and challenging so I had to come up with a solution that would allow her to move and breathe, but also to have this very iconic, sort of hourglass shape in a modern and interesting way. We used a combination of old and new technology. With scans of Gal, we created her breastplate on the computer — we drew it all in 3D. Then we applied all these fantastic finishes and we ended up making it with a current paint over the top and with many layers of glazes to give it a really ancient, warm feel. Zack wanted it to be full of battle scars and dents.There was a lot of love that went into all the details, making her really look like a powerful, legitimate warrior.
How did you design the tiara differently? And how about the boots?
The tiara was an interesting challenge. We thought, there’s something sort of girly and princess-y about the word "tiara," so we thought we should use the word "headdress," which sounds much more tough and warrior-like. So, for the headdress, traditionally it’s been a classic five-pointed red star. I looked more into her legacy and I chose a gold pointed star, based on an iconic Greek star. I thought that would be appropriate knowing her background, and so I created a different shape for the star. Of course there’s all sorts of things she has such as the eagle and WW motif throughout the costume, so I tried to use that WW motif through the belt and the gauntlets and across the breastplate. There’s WW throughout the costume. I think someone tried to count them and they got to 40.
Our solution to the boots was to make them armor as well. We loved the sense of the practicality of covering her legs for fighting and protection. I designed a boot that was actually a segmented leg armor with strapping and articulation for movement. I incorporated a white stripe down the front of her boots, so I created a striped detail down the front of the armor to honor that legacy.
When Gal isn't in uniform, Diana Prince is someone who comes off as being very well-dressed. What types of brands did you choose for her?
I designed all of her clothes, from head to toe. I really wanted to capture something very unique for her. In the film, she’s a very intelligent and educated antiquities expert that works in museums throughout Europe, so she has a very cosmopolitan, high-end feel, a very different sort of feel to the other characters in the film. She has her own flavor, a very confident sort of way of dressing with lots of interesting, strong silhouettes. There’s a backless dress, a one-shoulder dress that’s sort of a nod to her Grecian background. In fact, I sort of liked to have a few references to ancient Greece in terms of her accessories. The bracelets and jewelry that I chose for her had a bit of an ancient Grecian feel for her, and combined with her modern silhouettes, it had kind of a wonderful effect. That was wonderful, being able to create her style.
Of the all the pieces you designed for Diana, which was your favorite?
I think the red cocktail dress that she wears; it’s backless and has a very low plunge in the front, with the gold jewelry collar. I think that’s the one I’m most proud of.