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Interview: Costume Designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux on Creating the Worlds of ‘Last Night in Soho’

(l-r.) Actors Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith with director Edgar Wright on the set of their film LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho takes audiences on a wild, constantly transforming ride through the past and present of the Soho area in London. One of its protagonists, Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), is an aspiring fashion designer who arrives in the big city only to be transported back to the 1960s, where she is treated to a visually striking buffet of incredible wardrobes.

The woman responsible for creating those stunning outfits, and the signature dress worn by Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) is Odile Dicks-Mireaux, an Emmy- and BAFTA-winning artist whose past work includes Brooklyn and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Awards Radar had the opportunity to speak with Dicks-Mireaux about the challenges of designing two time periods at once and the benefits of working with great collaborators like Wright, McKenzie, and Taylor-Joy.

Focus Features

Q: How did you become involved in this project? And was there anything that was already set by the time you joined?

A: Well, I had an interview with Edgar, of course, and I did some preparation for that interview. And I think it was obviously a successful interview, because he offered me the job. But we both really enjoyed talking about the sixties together, very much so. I grew up in London, and so the sixties in London kind of interests me. And that whole world of Soho interests me as well. And I live, we both live quite near each other, near Soho. So we giggled about walking into work. So there was definitely an interest there. And then I found the project quite challenging in a way because I had to create this dress that then had to inspire a whole fashion show. So that but make the dress also very believable to the character who was going to wear it, so that was quite a challenge. Partly because that period we chose, 1965, is mainly looking at original costumes, mainly just a shift dress. So I was thinking, well, that’s quite hard if you’ve just got one simple silhouette, how would you then expand that into an interesting fashion show? It’s strange, isn’t it, because the fashion show was a very small part of the film, but you knew that she was eventually going to be inspired by this dress. So it was a big major part of the story to get that dress right in many ways. And so we then met again with the production designer, and I did some boards, and we started very much solving Sandie’s stories, and the newspaper dress, mainly the period things we started with, before we then told Eloise’s journey and her own clothes.

Q: There’s a very strong impression made in the first scene because you see this dress that really helps to define who Eloise is. What was your approach to the clothing that she was wearing, and also the clothing that she was making?

A:Well, the newspaper dress was slightly inspired by, obviously, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and what Marcus was going to put in the room and show her passion for the sixties. And so again, the challenge was to create a dress that moved well, that could start off in that silhouette and look really good. So I thought she would look at magazines of the time. It’s amazing, when I grew up being a costume designer, I didn’t have access to the internet. But obviously our character Louise has access to the internet, so she’s got a lot more reference straight in front of her. So I could kind of benefit from that as well. So I used a lot of imagery of Jean Shrimpton and some of the iconic models of the period in the late fifties so that there was a little difference between what she ends up seeing and dreaming about in ’65. So I’ve backdated that slightly, because she wasn’t in London yet, she wasn’t in that room, which was obviously going to set the tone. So that’s what was slightly different, and then we had to create something a little bit homemade, so we bought a dress and then adapted it to make it more homemade in comparison to the other gang, Synnove’s character Jocasta, which was fun to do.

Q: I’m sure. And then of course, Eloise has a rather unglamorous outfit that she wears in a very glamorous setting.

A:Yeah, yeah. I mean, you don’t really think about it too much. You just do what you think is correct for the story. I chose, because she was needed to be in sleepwear, I put up different options of sleepwear. But we chose to go for something quite neutral, so that when she goes into this dream world, she looks so different to everybody else, and also, to try and repeat it, so that it felt that they were real clothes when she gets there. Right at the beginning, he wanted her to take something off, when she arrives at the Cafe de Paris, that was part of the story. So there are quite a lot of specific demands from the script that Edgar wanted in terms of the action that then made the clothing work for that as well. And then we tried to repeat a little bit in her clothing at the beginning. Some of the reflections found that vintage, pinkish shirt, so I thought that was kind of great. She has just seen the pink dress, so she was all into pink. And then when she has the transformation, it’s slightly different.

Q: Was it a challenge, working with two actresses who have different body types and different heights?

A:Well, that was one of the things we did straight away was to do a prototype of the dress, where we did it in white, in fact, and tried it on both the girls. So there was a dress made for Thomasin, because originally she was going to have that dress, the iconic dress. But then quite rightly, I think Edgar thought that would confuse us. So we did start making and then we made the red dress as well, which matched as well. So we did start with those two. And similarly, we were doing the hair at the same time with Lucy, that was really important to work with the hair at the same time. And I think people forget, it’s not just a costume. It’s a whole look. It was really good that the two of us had worked together before and got on really well. We were working together as a team.

Q: There are also men in this film, and they have a very different sort of clothing. What was your approach to starting with Jack and then with the other many, many men?

A: Well, I think the thing is that Edgar is a fantastically thorough director, which was really fantastic to work for. The minute you start on a project with him, he has given you huge amounts of reference. He said, right, okay, I really think these fifteen films really have inspired me and mean a lot towards this film. And then he did a short little film from ’93, films with him and Paul. It’s amazing, you’ve got this little film before we just set the tone of what he wanted. Then you’re going to explore more films. So of the films that were quite strong for me was Beat Girl and Darling, and some of these ’70s films, funnily enough, those horror films, because I hadn’t done horror films. So already, I was looking at celebrities. So when I came to do Matt, I put Lawrence Harvey and Albert Finney down on my boards, and then we looked at it, and he liked a bit of both, and then Lizzie wanted to make him a little bit more stylized with the hairs. So we didn’t exactly recreate something, but we created something that was very particular to the character Jack, because also again, they’re in a dream. So that was always in the back of our minds, not to entirely recreate a real place. Marcus made the Café de Paris much bigger, so there was a lot of little things we could get away with because she was dreaming it. Well, we all know, you never dream things exactly correctly, do we? So that was nice. And Matt really liked that and then tried to get a little story there so by the time we get to the basement club ’68 he’s slightly different, and then do the parity between the coat that he wears similar to the coat that Terence Stamp wears. At one point, we were going to have the same color, but then Edgar thought that was too close. Because they cast the shadow men so well, they really went for unusual casting, that dictated the clothes a little bit. Some were quite backdated to the fifties, some were a little bit snazzier, so it was great. We’ve got a kind of variety of characters there, though I think I would have liked, perhaps a little bit more time in retrospect. I think I could have maybe done a little bit more time to give them more a bit more of a backstory. But in the end, you know, we were busy.

Q: I think it works pretty well. You mentioned that Edgar had a lot of inspiration for what he wanted. Do you think that this film was anything like other projects you’ve worked on?

A:No, no. I mean, I read it on an iPhone while I was on holiday, and I thought, do I really understand this film? What’s going on? And then, as I got involved in the film, I thought, wow, this is really a fantastic film, because it covers quite a few different areas. It covers some fashion design challenges, past dreams, mental health. And I wondered if Edgar really knew what he’d written. It was very layered, plus also it goes into all his wonderful homages to past filmmaking that he’s so knowledgeable about. So, for instance, the basement club scene, I was a bit anxious about because I felt I knew ’68 quite well, and I thought, how do we make it look a bit different, yet the men going to those clubs haven’t really changed, they wouldn’t be like, The Beatles going into those clubs. They’re still these seedy men. And then I thought the way he edited that, and the little effects he puts in, were brilliant. I thought it really made that seem so much more interesting and kind of slightly depressing in a way, what was happening to her, even though the clothes were very different to what she’d been wearing before. Because I can remember going to a couple of nightclubs in the 70s, and thinking, yeah, this is what happens. It was nice to do a film that you feel you belong to, and I had a very particularly great team and a great crowd team that created all the big crowd scenes. And I think they are really effective. And they look really, really good. And so I was very chuffed with that. It’s much harder now, with COVID, to do. You can’t just try things on and say, oh, I don’t like them, and then put them on someone else. You have to put it aside and it’s just, oh my god, it’s completely different.

Q: I bet. I see that you do have a few films in post-production that you’ve worked on. Can you share anything about your upcoming projects?

A:Oh my goodness. See How They Run, that was a real challenge because it was one of the very first films made under COVID. I think it’s a kind of pastiche built around Agatha Christie and the Mousetrap play, with two incredible leads, Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan. Saoirse’s never done comedy, and I’ve worked with her before, and I think she’s really brilliant in it. She will be very funny, playing this kind of kooky police woman. And again, that was fascinating because it’s ’53. I love postwar Britain, I find it really interesting. The thing is, you always learn something, and then I went straight onto the 19th century, which I hadn’t done for about ten years. So I was really pleased to do something different, and to work with a director I’d worked with before, Sebastián Lelio, who brings something completely different to a film. And it was nice, because it was working class rural Ireland, all about dirt and tough. Tough on that bog, I tell you, but with Florence, who’s brilliant, of course, as always. But anyway, so that’s it really. I’ve been I’ve been enjoying everybody really enjoying Last Night in Soho. It’s rather pleasurable, because the last time that happened was with Brooklyn, when everybody really enjoyed Brooklyn. So it doesn’t come that often, you get films that really seem to appeal to a very wide majority of people, for different reasons, don’t you think? The horror, the end, some people like the beginning more, some people really get attached to her character and feel her all the way.

Q: I did appreciate your work on Disobedience and High-Rise. Those are two films that I liked of yours.

A: Yeah, High-Rise was great. I really enjoyed it, another period I really like, ’75. That’s funny, isn’t it? Yeah, Ben and Amy, his wife, are great to work for his wife. They respond to your work, which is really nice and you feel you’re making their film, not imposing your own. That’s what was nice with Edgar, I really felt I’d made a film for him, which I thought was such a brave choice from his last film to go for an all-female cast. Anya and Thomasin were so easy to work for, so responsive to a film that’s been quite heavily storyboard and has got quite a strong structure already set into it.

Focus Features

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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