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Esther Williams

Costume designer Mary Zophres on the inspirations behind the Coen brothers' meta-movie 'Hail, Caesar!'

Costume designer Mary Zophres on the inspirations behind the Coen brothers' meta-movie 'Hail, Caesar!'

In the latest Joel and Ethan Coen movie, “Hail, Caesar!,” a comedic ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood filmmaking, hundreds of extras dressed as Roman soldiers led by George Clooney (playing a movie star playing a general) march across the screen, their presence marked with a striking shade of crimson bedazzling the ornamentation on their helmets and the capes that hang on their backs.

How that particular shade of red became the red for the Roman epic – one of several movies-within-the-movie – illustrates the happenstance that occasionally influences the filmmaking process. Two years ago, the brothers Coen were with their longtime costume designer Mary...

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