With Snow White and the Huntsman‘s arrival on Blu-ray and DVD, we’re taking a look back at the film through the eyes of Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood in an unpublished interview conducted shortly before the film’s release. During the course of this conversation, Atwood (who also handled costumes on this summer’s Dark Shadows) shares her thoughts on what went into the designs of the outfits for the three lead characters, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Ravanna (Charlize Theron).
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: How would you describe the approach that was taken with the film?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: Well, it was sort of a fairy tale fantasy set against a medieval backdrop. There’s a certain nod towards the animated Snow White, but not really much.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: We’re not going to see Kristen in the little blue dress?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: Never, that isn’t where we went. Snow White becomes a warrior princess for her people,; it’s definitely got more of a vibe to it that will connect with young people, and especially girls in Kristen’s case.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: It definitely gives off the vibe of Lord of the Rings.
COLLEEN ATWOOD: Yes, similar vibe to Lord of the Rings. It’s more dark and grown-up then the other Snow White.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: I don’t think the two Snow White’s [Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror] could be more different from each other.
COLLEEN ATWOOD: I knew they would be, because I know both directors. I don’t even think the same people will go to see both of them,; there’s such a different audience for each.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: When you’re creating something from a fairy tale, what sparks the imagination for you?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: Well, it sort of comes from the writing of it, initially the script, and then thinking about it and seeing what world we’re setting it in. So I’d say the starting point is always the screenplay, teamed with the director’s vision of what they’re thinking for the movie. It’s the tone, the way the story is told and who the characters are in it. The fact that Snow White isn’t an 8-year-old girl running around with little people, right away we know what she has to do in the costume, so you want to do something that feels functional, but it still works that she was once upon a time a princess. It kind of goes down the line from there with each character, and knowing who is cast comes into play, too, because you see what those people would look good in, and what works for what they’re doing in the movie.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: This is Rupert Sanders’ first movie?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: It’s his first feature, yes. But I did commercials with Rupert ,so I knew him – it wasn’t like I’d never worked with him before, so I knew his process. And I think he’s a bright guy and I knew he’d be creative and have a lot of great ideas, so I was excited to be able to work with him. It’s always exciting for me to work with some of these young guys who have a very keen sense of what the digital world can do, and how to use it, so it brings me knowledge. It changes things up a little.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: What sort of conversation did you have about costumes?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: In general, I kind of went by character, and we felt the Huntsman needed to live in the woods; that he lived in the woods but still looked great. He had to be able to move and perform action in his costume, but still be wearing something iconic. Ravenna would have death elements to her costume, so that would be part of her, with material used inspired from insects and a strange creepy crawly world. And then Snow White was sort of like a modern take, a Snow White who moved through the world and kicked ass, basically, and wanted to fight the good fight. We felt that her costume should be feminine and look good, but still be something that worked for Kristen and for all the work she had to do in the costume, because she had to do a lot of things in it. Her costume, again, was almost iconic in the sense that it was one look, but it breaks down as she goes along and goes through changes. It’s still basically the same costume, which makes sense in the story rather than having a bunch of superfluous wardrobe changes, just cause it’s Kristen and it’s a girl. It can be very distracting to the story to have too many clothes.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: Is it more enjoyable to do these kinds of movies compared to others?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: I work on a wait and see basis, and I’m always happy to take on a project and see where it leads me, because I think it keeps it fresh and alive for me. Since it changes all the time, you’re not going back to the same well all the time, which is what I like about my work. It’s a fun job.
THE FAIRY TALE SITE: I wonder about this whole fairy tale thing – any thoughts on why we seem to be embracing them so much at the moment?
COLLEEN ATWOOD: When you break it down, it’s about the story and fairy tales are good stories; they’re good tales that can be mounted in different ways which can serve as the basis of good movies. I think the fairy tales are such a rich place to draw from, the stories and the visual imagination, and I think they’ll come back again and again in our lifetimes. And the ability of the digital world and where that’s at now, can really help bring the story into a whole new place, too.