Film Craft: Dressing Nobles, Warriors And Mystics for The Bastard Executioner
One of an occasional series on the artists and craftspeople working behind the scenes to bring movies to life.
The costumes of The Bastard Executioner, most as appropriately bleak as the storyline, were as important to the authenticity of the Kurt Sutter series as the accents and the set design. Costume designer Guy Speranza (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) was responsible for the myriad different looks and attire worn by the cast which comprises nobles and knights at one end of the spectrum, poor peasants at the other.
On set in Cardiff, Wales, Speranza recently talked about the challenges in nailing the specificity of the period. “We’re trying to recreate a world that is medieval so we researched a lot. We found fabrics and either dyed them or broke them down and made them into the costumes. The clothing really becomes part of the character.”
Naturally, there are precise challenges when creating costumes to believably resemble pieces that could have been made several hundred years ago.
“We try to keep everything as authentic as possible and not try and do something that is made up. It’s the medieval times and we are trying to keep the linens and cottons as real as possible. They need to look worn because in those times they wore one garment until it was completely broken.”
The costumes not only had to look lived-in but due to the consistently rainy weather in Wales, as well as the many stunts performed in the show, the clothes need to be durable.
“If we have a stunt double, we make three or four of the same garment. But some costumes you only have to do one of which is great, like for Lady Love [Flora Spencer-Longhurst], she has many outfits.”
Her wealth is represented by seemingly endless elaborate gowns. Speranza notes,“Nobles had a lot of money and the way they displayed it was with fabrics and colors. Color was money and the more sumptuous and the more fabric you used, the more noble you were. And the poorer you were, the less fabric and the less color was used, plus you owned less pieces.”
Speranza enjoyed making the more intricate garments. “The noble women’s clothing is more intensive because there’s a standard rule we are trying to adhere to, as well as finding the fabrics that fit the period. If they have gold threads in the fabric we would have to interweave it, so per piece, it’s more laborious. The tricky part of the job is just finding the fabrics.”
With an extensive cast, costuming for this project was a daunting challenge. “We made about 200 costumes and that’s just for the principals and doesn’t include the crowds and the armies,” he says.
One of the pivotal characters in the piece, the mystical healer, Annora of the Alders, is played by Sutter’s wife, Katey Sagal. Says Sagal, “The costume really informs the performance. And Guy is incredible. Annora has little bits of fabric that she wears on her dress which she’s collected from around the world.”
Although Sagal spends much of her screen time sloshing around in the mud, the job is still somewhat easier than her previous role as a biker in Sons of Anarchy (another Sutter series). “The conditions can be difficult in the rain and mud in Wales but I’m very relieved I’m not in North Hollywood in the blistering summer wearing leather,” she laughs. “And I love not wearing heels. And another thing, peasant garb is really comfortable when I want to eat lunch.”