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Immersed in Movies: Paco Delgado Talks 'Les Miserables' Costumes

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 9, 2013 at 12:16PM

For Paco Delgado, "Les Misérables" moves like a breathless action movie the way it combines gritty drama with musical fantasy. That was director Tom Hooper's cinematic vision for the operatic sing-through...
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Hugh Jackman, Les Mis

For Paco Delgado, "Les Misérables" moves like a breathless action movie in the way it combines gritty drama with musical fantasy. That was director Tom Hooper's cinematic vision for the operatic sing-through. So for the Spanish costume designer ("The Skin I Live In," "Biutiful"), it's all about capturing emotional states during this revolutionary epoch. From the Christ-like Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) to the oppressive Javert (Russell Crowe) to the doomed Fantine (Anne Hathaway) to the hopeful Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), he uses color to convey their dramatic arcs, particularly the clash of red and blue. In fact, it's a movie in which characters ultimately mirror themselves as well as one another.

"I read the Victor Hugo book, which is full of amazing references," Delgado recalls. "He's so realistic and so descriptive about how people lived and dressed and their environments. Then we looked at paintings of the period, especially Delacroix, Goya, and Ingres. I also researched at the Victoria and Albert in London, Le Musée du Louvre, and Le Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. At the Victoria and Albert they have collections of clothes as well as printed materials from the period.

"Then I discussed color and material with Eve Stewart, the production designer. She had a realistic approach along with a fantastic one. She created the basis for my work with a palette of brown and gray. But it's about so many people suffering that I had to battle against the darkness of what I was thinking in terms of clothing. At the same time, because it was a musical, I had to do something with color. And I think that was the most challenging thing, really, to be honest."

Yet for an epic production spanning more than 30 years (1815-1848) and requiring 2,200 outfits for nearly 4,000 performers, it begins and ends with Valjean. He rises from poverty to prosperity as part of a redemptive journey. Yet Jackman requested that he retain a bourgeois look throughout. "At the beginning, when he's a convict, we used a lot of rough material for him," Delgado explains. "And little by little, making him more sophisticated and more tailored using more color.

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Les Miserables, Costume Design, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.