Paul Tazewell, a first-time Oscar nominee for Costume Design, sat with Best Supporting Actress nominee Ariana DeBose (who won the SAG Award earlier this week) in Disney’s panel for Deadline’s Contenders Film: The Nominees. The two have worked together on other projects, notably on Hamilton, before getting a call from Steven Spielberg about West Side Story that was too good to pass up.
Tazewell described how he likes to approach the job. “Ariana wears the clothes so well and knows how to control a skirt definitely. I just really dove into doing what it is I do which is dressing actors to the character and then highlighting the body that I have,” he said. “It is designing to the function of the clothes and then what needs to happen with choreography. Ariana and I spent a lot of time in the fitting room working things out and making sure everything fits the way it should fit.”
Debose felt a comfort level. “It is a true collaboration. My way of working as an actor to get into characters starts with clothing. I find clothing and costumes to be incredibly informative and having worked with Paul a couple of different times before, what I love about this job is the back and forth of this collaboration,” she said.
For both it was necessary to separate their work from the memories of the Oscar-winning 1961 original.
“I was up against the original image of Anita, and I needed to find some design and look that would look great on Ari but also be as iconic or at least stand up to the memory of what that purple dress and seeing it in that film.” Tazewell said, referring to the dress choice for the key song “America.” “Because it was a day scene I thought why don’t I use the metaphor of the sun and how hot it was… I thought yellow was the perfect color to choose.”
Added DeBose: “It projects her life force, passion and charisma and love. She always looks like she is on fire. There is always something simmering there.”
Check out the panel video above.