Sandy Powell on dressing Queen Victoria
The Young Victoria's Oscar nominations could have arisen from any aspect of its production, but costume designer Sandy Powell is in the spotlight, earning her eighth Oscar nomination for Achievement in Costuming. This story of Queen Victoria's rise to reign and her lifelong love of Prince Albert is one of the best films of 2009.
Powell won her first Academy Award for her work on Shakespeare in Love, and her second for The Aviator.
Already a BAFTA winner in 2010, SheKnows predicts Oscar will honor Powell with her third Oscar for her stunning work on The Young Victoria. Yes, the movie heralds the star power of Emily Blunt, but it also serves as a modern lesson in professional costuming design.
Powell is also Martin Scorsese's go-to costumer and speaks to her current effort of dressing actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio for Shutter Island, but also her outfitting characters in other Oscar-winning Scorsese flicks such as Gangs of New York, The Aviator and The Departed.
Here, Powell -- a self-described anti-royalist -- shares exclusive insight into her wins and how the task of costuming Queen Victoria challenged her creative passions.
Powell's Oscar power
SheKnows: Were there any particular challenges to this picture that you saw from the outset versus some of your other work?
Sandy Powell: I've done biopics before, but this was different because it is based in reality. It isn't just a version of somebody's life. It is about a real piece of history. From that aspect, it is more realistic than anything I have done in the recent past.
SheKnows: Did you have to look at old Queen Victoria paintings?
Sandy Powell: That's generally what we do anyway. We do you research looking at paintings and photographs (if there are any) from the period, but this is pre-photography, obviously. I look at potraits, of which there are plenty, plus I also looked that original clothing that is archived here at Kensington Palace in London.
British costumer on dressing a royal
SheKnows: With your background, was there an extra sense of personal responsibility to tackle the task of costuming a British monarch?
Sandy Powell: No! I'm a bit anti-royalist.
SheKnows: (Laughing) When you see a finished project such as The Young Victoria, is it more an appreciation of what you've done or are you still in work mode, thinking about things you could do?
Sandy Powell: The first time you see it, you have to be objective. You're just looking at everything you've done. Usually, and what happened in this case, you're usually noticing all the stuff you can't see. The hundreds of things you did that never make it into the final cut, which is always depressing. Of course, the audience won't know that. They don't notice what's missing. There are quite a lot of things that were great work but didn't get seen for one reason or another. That's always a disappointment. But, having said that, I think the film is beautiful, and I'm really happy with it.
SheKnows: Where were you when you heard the news that you were nominated?
Sandy Powell: I was in Rome at the Pagoda Gardens... at a sweat lodge sitting on a bench.
Up next...Sandy talks about what inspires her.