CDG - The Costume Designer

Winter 2019

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Winter 2019 The Costume Designer 19 By Anna Wyckoff Buster Scruggs Museum of the Moving Image The OSCAR ® nominated film, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six- part Western anthology told with the Coen brothers' characteristic wit and wry brutalism. This marks Costume Designer Mary Zophres' 14th movie with the duo, which has also included Oscar nods for True Grit and La La Land, the cult film The Big Lebowski, and the iconic Fargo, among others. Zophres says, "I am very grateful and never take our collaboration for granted. If we haven't done a movie together for a while, I always check with them first before taking on another project." Unique to the directorial team is their ability to write and storyboard all of their films. Zophres says, "Because their scripts are so evocative, I can already start to imagine how the film is going to look before I even have one discussion with them." She uses their storyboards as a roadmap, a priceless guide to what the focal point of each scene will be. In Buster Scruggs, the costumes hearken back to a time when the West was lawless, unkempt, and wild. Stylistically inspired by N.C. Wyeth's classic illustrations, Zophres sought to flesh out familiar archetypes, concentrating on the late 19th century—the actual time the stories took place. The results are extraordinary—aged dusters, matted furs and hats, which are a character unto themselves. The costumes have a vitality and realism with a note of nostalgia. In keep- ing with the Coen brothers' direction, there are no ancillary roles and every costume is vital. Zophres says, "Their beautifully written scripts are driven by distinct, interesting and specific characters. It is my job to take these characters from page to screen. It is a fulfilling and creative process—and I love every minute of it." On Nov. 26, 2018, in celebration of this collaboration, the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, opened an exhibition of the costumes, sketches, and storyboards from the movie. Zophres was deeply honored by the recognition. Also, she was delighted that every garment displayed lists each person who worked on it, from the builders, to the ager and dyers, and the com- pany they represent. She says, "I'm indebted to my crew, the artists who helped physically make this movie happen for me and I'm so happy that the museum acknowledged their participation in such a tangible way." A special screening and discussion of the film followed with Zophres, moderated by Senior Curator of Collections and Exhibitions Barbara Miller. Miller says, "Mary Zophres' costumes for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs embody a deep understanding of each character and the real or imagined history of the American West. Her exquisitely detailed, evocative costumes are a visual feast for our visitors, and the idea boards allow us to demonstrate the meticulous research process that informed every design decision." Mary Zophres and curator Barbara Miller Ethan Coen, Zoe Kazan, and Bill Heck

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