Inherent Vice costume designer Mark Bridges already has one Oscar on his mantel, for 2012 best picture winner The Artist. In his latest Oscar-nominated work, which also marks his seventh collaboration with director Paul Thomas Anderson, Bridges made 1970s Los Angeles garb look funky and chic. Not an easy feat. Bridges, who also has worked frequently with David O. Russell, spoke recently about working with P.T.A., his favorites of the filmmaker’s canon, and capturing Anderson’s specific aesthetic.
How are you feeling about receiving your second Oscar nomination?
It’s really exciting and came as a bit of a surprise, actually. I have been part of the discussion during the season but was always on the second-string list, so I didn’t even get up in the morning to hear the announcements. I found out about it once I got up and saw that my phone had blown up. It’s a big honor—look at the lineup that I’m with.
You’ve been working with Paul Thomas Anderson since his first film, Hard Eight. What was that first experience like?
It was your classic “friend of a friend” scenario. We hit it off really well at a breakfast and then a couple nights later, I took him to a screening of a small film that I had done with Vincent D’Onofrio and Anne Heche. He liked the way it looked, he liked my work, and he hired me to do (Hard Eight), which was probably like a $3 million feature. It was myself and one other person in the wardrobe department—I think I had a $10,000 costume budget for it. We lived in the casino that we shot in and we shot mostly nights… I think it was a 24-day shoot, and 22 of them were shot at night.
Do you have a favorite among his filmography?
Each film is so unique. Being young and eager and living in a casino, being exposed to that world in Hard Eight, which I had never been exposed to, and of course, those great actors was fun. It was the first time that I’d sit and watch dailies and get emotional. What was going on onscreen…some of the acting was so great, even in uncut form, you could tell it was really something special. Boogie Nights was one wild ride… I loved the period and the amazing actors. I loved putting that together and the research as much as the actual doing of it. There Will Be Blood was a very difficult environment to shoot in—in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere—to make this incredibly beautiful film. The Master was just so exciting, with Joaquin Phoenix’s and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s performances. Then this one, Inherent Vice—we’re at home, we’re with family, we’re with friends, and Paul’s adapting someone else’s material, which was a whole new ballgame. Trying to get the flavor of not only Paul, but also trying to get the flavor of Thomas Pynchon, was an interesting challenge and very different from the preceding projects.
Paul looked at us very early on and said, “Read the book.” Pynchon, as with most authors, you know, gives you a flavor, but he’s not going to tell you what the garments are. Doc Sportello had his case that he was a detective on, and I had to be a bit of a detective myself as to what we were actually going to use, in the language of that time. We’re trying, first of all, to get the period down…find out the language of the clothes, figure what I wanted it to look like. Paul was giving me influences of Laurel Canyon musicians. I spent my misspent youth in front of the television watching things like Mod Squad and Adam-12, and so, I had a feeling of what that look was.
How would you describe Anderson’s aesthetic, in terms of his selection of costumes?
For Paul, the more slept-in the look, the happier he is. He has a real wrinkle radar there, and he doesn’t want anything to look too “costumey” or fake.
Can you describe your collaboration with the actors?
Paul and I discuss ideas, I gather, I get options for myself and for Paul, and it’s all been chosen. So by the time a garment gets on an actor—we get to the fitting—I’m cool with any way that we want it to go. The actors and I have a back and forth, and we look together in the mirror at who this person is, and I’m very concerned that they’re comfortable in front of that camera. We all need to be on the same page. A lot of times, what they work out and what we talk about convinces Paul that this is the right direction. Usually he is OK because he knows it’s thoughtful… we’re just not throwing something out there.
What’s next on the horizon?
You know, I designed a movie called Fifty Shades of Grey.
Ah, yes. I’ve heard of that.
Then there’s a couple of other things in the wind… I don’t want to talk about them yet until we sign things, that’s my little Hollywood juju. I’m always looking for something that I haven’t done before or something that maybe challenges me. I’m always looking for that.