Academy Award-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan has a zeal for the extraordinary. At the helm of Disney’s new film Cruella – the origin story of how Cruella de Vil came to be the notoriously fashionable villain we know – Beavan, a woman who doesn’t do things by halves, created numerous devastatingly vampy gowns scene after scene after scene.
Set in 1970s London during the punk revolution, the incredible avant-garde creations form a character unto themselves. Emma Stone plays the titular character, a young seamstress desperate to make a name for herself in the fashion world, and who wages a sartorial war against the established designer Baroness von Hellman (played by a scene-stealing Emma Thompson). And thus, after many an event hijacking, Stone’s Cruella is born.
“This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” says Beavan. “The amount of looks for Emma Stone is more than I’ve ever done. She had a total of 47 costume changes, and Emma Thompson had a total of 33.”
One scene in particular sees Cruella march atop of a silver car with the Baroness riding inside. As the paparazzi swarm around the woman determined to steal the Baroness’ limelight, Stone pulls Cruella’s metres-long skirt – and its cascading ruffles – across the windows of the car. It’s a moment Stone herself will never forget.
“Trying to walk up onto a car and then cover an entire car with a switch of the skirt was just fantastic,” says Stone in a recent global press conference. “It was really is the moment where you’re like, ‘I am in a movie right now.’”
“And those are the moments that they were real, weren’t they, Em?” Thompson chimes in, as Stone nods. “None of it is CGI. It’s all real. You actually walked onto the car and pulled the material around, and you did it about a million times…it was hard!”
Stone cited another scene in the film where Cruella pulls up to another one of the Baroness’ events in a garbage truck. (Be on the look out for this scene!)
“My very, very favourite outfit was absolutely ludicrous [and it] was the dress that I wear on the garbage truck, because there was a 40-foot train,” says Stone. “[The train] wasn’t attached to the dress, because obviously I wouldn’t be able to move anywhere, so they added that onto the dress at the last minute when I get onto the garbage truck to shoot that part.”
“It was just phenomenal. It’s nothing you would ever be able to even remotely wear in real life.”
“And then as the garbage truck drove off, the material became an amazing sort of snakelike thing,” says Thompson. “That actually happens. That wasn’t the CGI.”
For Thompson, who plays the stiff-lipped Baroness, her costumes – which included a lot of corsets – weren’t so comfortable.
“I spent decades playing what my mother used to call, ‘Good women in frocks,’ says Thompson. “And now I got to play a really evil woman in frocks. But oh boy, the frocks. I mean, they wore me!”
“I had just the best, best time,” Thompson continued. “Every time Em and I would come on set, we’d just look at each other and walk around each other, like we were sculptures or works of art or something.”
“[The corsets] are not fantastically comfortable. But our wonderful tailors and designers have such a good time just pulling in the corset, tightly enough so that bits of me would squish out of the top of the costume,” continued Thompson likening the experience to squeezing a tube of toothpaste. “And then they’d squish a bit back down and then pull the corset in again. And oh my goodness, it was some kind of cookery.”
While the fashion scenes didn’t adopt CGI technology, some ones with the Dalmatians did.
The dogs were very sweet. So they have CGI’d them to be a bit-a bit nasty,” says Stone. “They had little crosses [on the ground], and they were sent back to their marks like little canine actors. They would just go back and stand on their marks and wait, and then get a little treat.”
Cruella is in cinemas and on Disney+ on May 27.