Oscars 2012: ‘Hugo’ costume designer on her 10th Oscar nom


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The Oscar nominations were announced early Tuesday morning, but the day was heading into night in England, where costume designer Sandy Powell ended up learning the news of her Academy Award nod for Martin Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ while she was stuck in traffic.

“I was in a car being driven by a friend in a traffic jam on a rainy London afternoon,” Powell said. “David [Davenport], my [costume] supervisor, sent me a message saying, ‘You better start looking for a dress!’”


This is Powell’s 10th Oscar nomination. She has won the costume design award three times, including for Scorsese’s Howard Hughes biopic,“The Aviator.” The opportunity to work again with the director, a frequent collaborator, was a major motivation for her to sign on to the lavish 3-D family movie, but so was its source material, the illustrated children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.”

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“We used the book as a starting point and a reference point,’ Powell said. ‘I think everyone on the movie captured the essence of the illustrations in the book without just re-creating it.”

Allegiance to “Hugo” aside, Powell is “convinced” that “The Artist” is going to take home the best picture award come Oscar night next month. In a noteworthy coincidence, both movies pay homage to silent filmmaking.

“It’s the exact same period [as ‘Hugo’], and they’re both films about film, but they couldn’t be more different. But I’m really happy that they’re so different,” Powell said.

Speaking to 24 Frames on her cellphone from a London store, she said the exciting news hadn’t kept her from “trying to do my normal working day,” she said. There hasn’t been time yet to talk with fellow “Hugo” filmmakers -– the film earned 11 nominations, more than that of any other film for the year -– but she’s eager to celebrate with them later.


“I’m only disappointed that it didn’t get a makeup nomination. That would have been nice. Costumes and makeup -– it’s all part of the same thing,” Powell said.

The London native will be celebrating her own nomination during dinner tonight.

“I already had dinner plans with a good girlfriend,” she said. “So now we have a nice excuse to order a bottle of champagne.”


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–- Emily Rome

Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times; Powell’s sketch for Sasha Baron Cohen’s ‘Hugo’ costume. Credit: Paramount Pictures