When costume designer James Acheson came to Ohio State’s campus this weekend he brought behind-the-scenes stories and secrets about superhero blockbusters, science fiction films and period dramas.
Acheson visited the Wexner Center for the Arts on Saturday to speak about his work on various films throughout his career. The event marked the first time a costume designer has spoken at the venue, said David Filipi, director of Film/Video at the Wexner Center.
Filipi joined Acheson onstage for the event that shied away from lecture format to more of a conversation between the two men. As conversations go, this one was full of Hollywood gossip and behind-the-scenes secrets.
“Here’s a bit of gossip for you: We didn’t realize until we put the outfit on (Tobey Maguire) for the first time that he was claustrophobic,” Acheson said of his work on the “Spider-Man” trilogy. “He couldn’t wear the whole suit. It was only him when you could take a look at his face.”
Clips of films featuring Acheson’s designs were shown throughout the evening, and included “The Last Emperor,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Restoration,” all of which earned him Academy Awards for best costume design.
Filipi remembered seeing “Dangerous Liaisons” for very different reasons when he was younger but now recognizes it as one of Acheson’s best works.
“Now I have a completely different appreciation for it,” Filipi said. “The opening was just astonishing, and the costumes are so front and center in this film.”
Acheson told the audience about his thought process when it comes to working on a new film, and how he makes sure to work alongside the actors for whom he designs.
“I never show an actor a drawing the first time I meet them,” Acheson said. “I want their input. You want them to wear the clothes, you don’t want the clothes to wear them.”
Acheson also acknowledged that he has had an unorthodox level of celebrity in his profession, especially because “unless the thing is storyboarded, you never know how much of your work will be seen,” he said.
“I’m one of the people that has been very fortunate, because I get those kind of flashy movies to do, and you notice they kind of become Oscar fodder,” Acheson said. “But a lot of the work of the costume designer isn’t visible, and it should be invisible, because it’s about supporting the character.”
Although the event was open to the general public, it proved to be especially enjoyable for Ashton Montgomery, a fourth-year in art and theater, with a focus in costume design.
“It was fun getting to hear from someone who has won so many Academy Awards,” Montgomery said.
Acheson’s most recent work with costume design is “Man of Steel,” set to be released June 14.