Costume Designer Kasia Walicka Maimone Talks Bridge Of Spies

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Costume Designer Kasia Walicka Maimone Talks Bridge Of Spies

Kasia Walicka Maimone (Costume Designer) received an excellence in period film nomination from the Costume Designers Guild for her work on Bennett Miller’s acclaimed “Capote” in 2006.

In 2013, she was again nominated for her designs for Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.”

Walicka Maimone reteamed with Miller on “Foxcatcher,” starring Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as well as on the award-winning “Moneyball.”  Recent credits include “A Most Violent Year,” directed by J.C. Chandor; “St. Vincent,” directed by Theodore Melfi; and “Deepwater Horizon,” directed by Peter Berg.

Additional credits include: “Infinitely Polar Bear”; “The Adjustment Bureau”; “The Switch,” with Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston; “Little Manhattan”; “Jesus’ Son”; “The Opportunists”; HBO’s “Hysterical Blindness”; and “Songcatcher.” She also designed costumes for Ang Lee’s BMW short, “Chosen,” Mira Nair’s segment “India,” from “September 11” and “Amelia,” a look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart.

Walicka Maimone has also been involved with several opera projects, including Philip Glass’ “Les Enfants Terribles” and “The Sound of a Voice,” and has participated in elaborate experimental theater pieces by Robert Woodruff (“Oedipus Rex”) and Richard Foreman (“Maria del Bosco” and “King Cowboy Rufus Rules the Universe”). She has also collaborated with choreographers Susan Marshall, Twyla Tharp, Donald Byrd and David Dorfman.

Tell us what drew you to the project.

This film was an amazing opportunity to work with the master storyteller Steven Spielberg, which was very satisfying emotionally, as well as intellectually. On a project like this, my job is to listen and find the underlying design of the characters, and this is such a great story and the characters are portrayed in such a clear way, which helped make it a great experience. There was a good deal of photographic research from that time period available and I was given such clear direction from Steven, which helped me to find the proper skin for each character.

Can you explain your process when beginning a new film?

I start by doing very thorough research on all the real characters in the story, and we were able to locate hundreds of pictures of James Donovan, Rudolf Abel, the New York streets and the building of the Berlin Wall. From there, I put together a book of images vital to the telling of the story and which showed how I was envisioning the treatment of colors in the film, and presented it to Steven Spielberg. I was very excited to see that we were both speaking the same language and had a similar visual understanding of the story. Working closely with Steven, the production designer, Adam Stockhausen, and the director of photography, Janusz Kaminski, we immerse ourselves in the worlds in which the characters exist, hoping to find a glimpse into the truth about them, which makes dressing them much easier. It’s also important to effectively represent the period and the colors of the period, so Adam and I mapped out the balance of colors to figure out how everything was going to match. We absorb as much of the vocabulary from that time period as we can, choose whatever is needed for the particular frame of the film, and then construct those realities so they are strong enough to resonate the period, while not overwhelming the story.

Tell us about the looks of the time period in which the story takes place.

The story takes place in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s when fashions were somewhat different and people tended to dress up more. Men and women, for the most part, were more formally-attired, meaning suits and hats for the men and dresses, suits and skirts for the women. When we started comparing the street looks between New York and Germany, between West Germany and what was becoming East Germany, we found actually very few differences.  In fact, the fashions of the East Germans were surprisingly very up-to-date. We were quite selective about representing reality to support the story.

What was the color palette for the film?

There were two different color palettes in the film.  New York was much more color-driven, as it represented the successful, commercial world of America in the ‘50s, with women wearing predominantly green, maroon and yellow and the men, brown, gray and navy. In Berlin, colors were scarce and muted, when used, as most everything was black and/or dull gray to reflect the city’s dismal atmosphere at the time.

Tell us about working with Tom Hanks and shaping the look of his character, James Donovan.

There wasn’t too much of a journey to find the look for his character, as we knew he was a lawyer and had to look professional.  The biggest challenge was finding a tailor who could create a very precise period suit, as the suits at that time had different sleeves, a different body shape, and more loose-fitting trousers, so to find a tailor who could actually recreate a correct period suit was of utmost importance. Fortunately, we found a great one in New York. The fabrics at that time were made from a much thicker weave, and the way those materials carried the body of the suit were quite different.

How was it collaborating with Amy Ryan as Mary Donovan?  

We had a lot of good information about the real Mary Donovan, most of which came from Amy Ryan, including some amazing photographs from the family’s personal collection. Looking at those photos helped us understand the essence of who this woman was. We created a lot of pieces for her, like the green coat she wears in the courtroom, which seemed to represent the era and, subliminally, provide the audience with a better feeling of that time.

Tell us about working with Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel.

I actually started working with Mark when I was in New York and he was in London, and when we finally met, we were both full of ideas as to how we pictured Abel. The pieces that Abel was wearing in his life before he was arrested were very simple, very classic, but it took a while to find exactly what we were looking for. We abandoned the herringbone look and switched to brownish tweed so as to separate the look of his character from that of the lawyers, and found this beautiful straw hat with a porcupine shape that was a bit unusual for the period, but gives the audience a glimpse as to who this man really was, both in the style of the hat and the unique way in which he chose to wear it. We also found these great, late ‘50s khaki pants which were beautifully distressed, which also went well with his character.

Can you talk about dressing the extras?

On somedays we had more than 300 extras on set, and we couldn’t put them all in suits or it would look as if they were attending an insurance convention. So it was our job to deliver a sense of reality in those scenes. We discussed every single extra that needed to be dressed because in order to represent a crowd effectively, you need to have a good mix of people. When having to present a crowd which represents the humanity and the streets of New York, the collaboration starts with the extras casting director, because it’s much easier to dress people when they have great faces.

What was your biggest challenge during production?

The biggest challenge, on every film, is to be a really good and careful listener, because with each project we have to come up with new ways to truly understand what the story is telling us. To really grasp the color of the period and represent it in a subtle way that helps to portray the story and not overpower it, was an enormous challenge.  And when you’re invited to work with amazing filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski, it’s really important that everyone speak the same language.

Do you have a costume that stands out as a favorite?

It’s hard to choose a favorite because as we dive into discovering each character, we end up falling in love with each one of their costumes. But I did love seeing Tom Hanks as James Donovan in a suit that fit him perfectly and the flight suit for Francis Gary Powers, played by Austin Stowell, which was beautiful because of all its details and its beautiful execution. It was also incredibly powerful to see hundreds of extras dressed in period clothing. But truly, just being part of each frame of this film brought me enormous satisfaction, because every moment of each scene just became bigger, richer, and deeper than it was initially on the page.

What was the most complicated scene to film?

The building of the wall was the most complicated scene, crowd-wise, as we had such a variety of people on set, including crowds of civilians and children, construction workers and several layers of uniforms from both the East and the West, and we had the most extras on those days. Plus, we were filming in Poland, which was not where production was based, which made things somewhat more difficult.


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