‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ intro - Scarlett Johansson
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SCENE STEALER: ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’

By Ron Magid, Special to The Times

Costume designer Sandy Powell’s secret to creating a period wardrobe that appears old and new?

“It’s making something look believable for the period yet attractive and accessible to the contemporary eye,” says Powell, who most recently dressed Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson for “The Other Boleyn Girl.” “I try to get the silhouette that sums up the period, then the rest is quite a bit of artistic license. I just do what I think looks best.”

Her challenge for “The Other Boleyn Girl,” in which Portman and Johansson play sisters vying for the affections of Eric Bana’s King Henry VIII, was imparting a sexiness to the heavy Tudor garments, with as many as 20 changes for each character. “I didn’t do anything special to make [Portman and Johansson] look beautiful -- they just do,” says Powell. (Alex Bailey / Focus Features)
She did have to fight to preserve the elaborate headdresses the actresses wear. “I had to convince [the studio] that the crazy box headdresses made them look beautiful and not weird,” Powell says. “I think they’re very flattering because they focus all the attention on the face.” (Alex Bailey / Focus Features)
Then there was the problem of making a man in a dress look virile. Powell resisted frilly colors and fanciful textures and transformed Bana into a glam rock king with fur culled from old coats.

“The shoulders [on his jackets] are so massive they exaggerate his masculinity,” Powell says. (Alex Bailey / Focus Features)
But with a run of projects set in the period -- specifically Showtime’s rival miniseries, “The Tudors” -- costumes proved hard to come by, and Powell was forced to build every single outfit for the film’s crowd scenes. “We had to make everything,” she says. “It was excruciating.” (Alex Bailey / Focus Features)