101 Dalmatians: The Look of Cruella Deville

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As Glenn Close herself says, "The look of the character is everything," and who better to entrust this enormous task than the Academy Award® winning costume designer Anthony Powell.

This is of course a huge responsibility, as Powell explains: "I asked Glenn how she was going to play the character and she said she wouldn't know until she put on the clothes, wig and make-up and then 'I will look in the mirror and see the person I've become.' It's really scary because I was in effect helping to shape the character. One can easily influence an actor to give the wrong performance."

But, Close has total faith in Powell's talents and with a trio of Oscars® and many other awards to his credit, her faith is justified. "One of the reasons that you want to work with the best is that you know you won't have to worry about anything. I know that whatever Anthony comes up with will be magnificent which leaves me free to originate the character," Close says.

The look of Cruella is unlike anything seen before. Her eight costumes, complete with intricate and outlandish accessories are each in themselves, a work of art. As Powell explains: "Cruella is a total monster, a force of nature. If it's too realistic it becomes unpleasant. So I needed to make her unlike anybody you would bump into walking down the street, I needed to make her larger than life."

Cruella differs from the original animated character, in that rather than just being Anita's old school friend, she is Anita's boss and the owner of the very stylish House De Vil. This gave Powell more freedom.

"In the cartoon we only ever see her in one outfit, but it seemed inconceivable that the head of a fashion house would wear the same thing throughout. So I agreed with Steve Herek that we would never see her in the same thing twice. It was also very important that the very first time we see her she is wearing black. It took me a lifetime to realize that you should never be afraid of being obvious. Black spells villain. Once you establish that with an audience you can do whatever you like."

And indeed, we soon learn that Cruella De Vil is the villain of the piece and a woman obsessed with fur and animals. Each outfit has an animal motif whether it be fur, feathers or a snake skin print. As the head of a fashion house we could perhaps expect Cruella to be tied to current fashion trends. But it was decided that she should be a timeless icon, who, although obsessed with clothes and fashion, should not be datable.

"Directors often ask you to 'do no period,' which is extremely hard to do as there's always something which dates it. So with Cruella I had to create a very original look. I started with her silhouette. She's such a spiky and forceful person that I wanted her silhouette to be striking and exaggerated-in at the waist, out at the hips, with shoulders you could impale somebody on. You'll also notice that you never see her hands. There's something about pink skin which is softening, so she wears gloves with finger nails which both extends the length of her fingers and makes her hands seem like claws."

Everything about Cruella is exaggerated, whether it be the tiny corseted waist, her ghoulish and 'chainmail' jewelry or the extremely high stilettos. This was a look that did not go without a price tag, as Glenn Close discovered:

"The corset was very confining and I really was quite uncomfortable during all the hours I had to spend in it. I couldn't sit down and so had to use a leaning board, and the four and half inch heels were often unbearable especially as all these shoes were new. But that is Cruella."

Close took it all in good spirit, maintains Powell: "Glenn is marvelous to work with as she's a total pro. She'll have a go at anything and is absolutely fearless, although sometimes I wouldn't be surprised if she thought I was a sadist."

The look of Cruella isn't just about the clothes she wears, it's her total appearance including hair and make-up. To complete the ensemble Close relied upon make-up artist Jean-Luc Russier and hairdresser Martial Corneville.

As she explains: "Everything is a cooperative process. Jean-Luc has worked with me on eight movies. Both he and Martial are consummate artists whose opinions I respect. Martial took the wigs and made them into something

quite distinctive. I can't imagine anybody being able to achieve what he has done and Jean-Luc is always coming up with new ideas."

Many might expect the monstrous figure of Cruella to have severe if not grotesque make-up, yet this was not Close's intention. "We tried many hours experimenting with different looks, but I felt strongly that Cruella should act evil rather than look it, and it would have been too much of a caricature to paint her face evil or weird. She is after all, the head of a fashion house who is obsessed with her image."

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