Experienced feature film heads of departments tend to be discreet about the productions they have worked on prior to their world premieres out of respect for the directors, even when they are not bound by NDAs.
The Revenant and Dune: Part One costume designer Jacqueline West could not resist giving a shout-out to Martin Scorsese’s upcoming feature Killers Of The Flower Moon, however, at the end of a masterclass for the Doha Film Institute on Tuesday.
Moderator Columbia University professor Richard Peña was about to move on to taking questions from the floor when West interjected, requesting one last word on her career trajectory.
“After Dune: Part One, I had the most incredible experience of my film career. I went to work with Martin Scorsese. I can’t talk about that film yet because nothing has been released but I just have to say it’s the combination of someone I always wanted to work with and my absolute dream project. It’s called Killers Of The Flower Moon and it was brilliantly done not just on my part but by everybody.”
Quizzed by Deadline about what compelled her to make the shout-out in a brief interview after the masterclass, West said: My husband said after I worked with Scorsese, ‘Okay, now you can quit. That’s the pinnacle.”
“It follows the book, and the book was totally captivating. The native cast was incredible and the acting, Lily Gladstone is incredible. The images were thrilling. It looks amazing. I watched it all being shot but I haven’t seen any of it,” she said.
She noted that the film’s star Leonardo DiCaprio had seen the film and told her it was a masterpiece.
“I was talking to Leo about it. We had lunch before I came here. He said, ‘Jackie, I think we worked on a masterpiece’. I thought for Leo to say that, was something. He doesn’t say that lightly. He has been in the business since he was a little boy,” she said.
West is one of the most respected costume designers in the business.
Alongside scoring Oscar nominations for Philip Kaufman Quills, David Fincher’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant and Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One, her other credits include Stephen Norrington’s The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Ben Affleck’s Argo, Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, To The Wonder and Knight Of Cups.
Her comments will further stoke growing anticipation around Scorsese’s $200M, Apple-backed adaptation of David Grann’s best-selling book, Killers of the Flower Moon depicting the serial murder of members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation in 1920s Oklahoma.
Expectations are high that the film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this May but West said she did not know whether “Marty had released the film to the festival.”
West also talked about Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part Two, which is now in post-production, in the masterclass.
She revealed she had initially turned Villeneuve down when he first contacted her agent for Dune: Part One, on the back of her work on The Revenant.
“I said, ‘I don’t do sci-fi. It’s not my thing.’ I said no. He hired someone else, and I guess he wasn’t happy because he called my agent a second time and said, ‘Can I just talk to her’. Mary Parent, who produced The Revenant and was producing Dune, got me in her office and put me on Facetime with him on a big screen,” recounted West.
“He was so compelling. He said, ‘I want you because I do not want it to look like sci-fi. I want it to be classical. I don’t want it to look like a video game.’”
West revealed she had felt she had a personal connection with the Dune novels linked to the fact she lived on a houseboat with her first husband in Sausalito harbor in California, close to the houseboat of English writer and philosopher Alan Watts, where Dune creator Frank Herbert would sometimes go to write.
“I am showing my age,” she said. “Our houseboat was about 30 feet away from Alan Watts’s boat. He would give all-weekend psychedelic parties… it was quite a scene back then in the Bay area.”
West said Dune: Part Two was a lot more labor intensive than Dune: Part One.
“We made a lot of costumes,” she said.
“In Part Two, you really dive into the different worlds of Dune. We see what the emperor’s world looks like. We go to his planet. We spend a lot of time on Giedi Prime, the Harkonnen planet. We spend a lot of time in Stellan Skarsgård’s [Vladimir Harkonnen] world. Feyd-Rautha [Harkonnen] also comes into this one, brilliantly played by Austin Butler, Elvis. He is pretty fabulous in it,” she said
“All the worlds get expanded. It was about creating three separate different-looking worlds and also revisiting the Bene Gesserits, the age-old ones with these costumes that almost look like Egyptian mummies. I think it’s visually stunning, the sets, the cinematography and the concepts.”