Costume designer Maria Livingstone joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about her work on the film, Champions.
The sports comedy follows a former minor-league basketball coach (played by Woody Harrelson), who is ordered by the court to manage a team of players with intellectual disabilities. He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, this team can go further than they ever imagined.
Hi Maria, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Champions looks to be one of the most fun films of the year. What drew you to this project?
Hi! Thanks for having me! I agree Champions is a fun movie. I was drawn to this movie immediately. When I first read the script, I laughed out loud, and it was easy to imagine the characters. It’s a sweet, feel-good movie. I really felt audiences needed a movie like this, and I wanted to be part of it. I am a huge fan of comedy, so I was very familiar with the director Bobby Farrelly’s work. I had faith Bobby would bring sensitivity and a healthy dose of humor to this project. Further, working with Woody Harrelson as the lead, I was excited to be part of the team.
Can you tell us about the research and prep you did for this sport-centric film?
I went down a rabbit hole with the research. I watched a lot of basketball games and sports center. I deep-dove the internet for inspiration for the Friends. Woody prefers ethical brands and wearing organic and vegan clothing. A lot of research went into finding and vetting clothing companies. I particularly love doing this type of research as I share Woody’s sensitivities and support his choices. I now have a great list of resources for future projects!
One of our challenges was finding someone to manufacture our Special Olympics basketball uniforms on time. We were working with a very short turnaround, and finding a manufacturer to accomplish this task took some digging around. Fortunately, the uniforms arrived the day before camera!
The film focuses on a group of 10 friends. How did you craft individual styles for each of these characters?
I definitely had to get creative! I started off by watching their audition tapes over and over.
Each of these actors had so much personality. They really pulled on my heartstrings, so I really wanted to capture their uniqueness. Bobby and I discussed the characters that were written on the page and who they were in real life. We really wanted to bring out their personalities and have them feel as comfortable as possible on screen.
In order to do this, my team and I came up with a questionnaire. We asked such things as what’s their favorite color, favorite movie, and favorite animals. What kind of music do they like? Did they mind buttons or zippers? Through this questionnaire, we discovered one of our actors, Mathew Von Der Ahe, who plays Craig, is color blind, which inspired me to put him in bright colors. This added some comedy to his character, and it made Mathew happy and accomplished our goal of creating unique characters.
Bradley Edens, who played Showtime, really loved bowling and old jazz. This inspired me to dress him in vintage bowling shirts and “old man” clothes, like Kramer from Seinfeld! I also used each actor’s lucky/favorite number on their basketball jerseys. The Friends were absolutely thrilled when we surprised them with this detail.
What was the most rewarding aspect of working on this film?
The biggest reward of working on this film was getting to know the 10 Friends. To see what brought them joy and know that my costumes played a part in that joy was rewarding. The Friends bonded with each other instantly, and seeing their friendships grow while we made this film brought me joy. It was a gift to be part of this project.
I understand you collaborated closely with the production designer and other departments. Can you tell us more about that and any other standout collaborations you had?
Jean Carriere, the production designer, Kim Miles, the director of photography and I worked closely on choosing a color palette and how we would use color to enhance the visual narrative. Jean did such a great job with creating Alex’s (Caitlin Olsen) Travelling Theater Winnebago. The vehicle’s exterior color and design influenced her thrifted 70’s bohemian vibe. It was also fun picking all the basketball team colors. We chose gold for the Friend’s Special Olympic jerseys because regardless of the outcome, gold symbolized they were champions.
What type of projects would you love to work on in the future?
I am always attracted to projects that offer telling a story with color. I love grounded, gritty, human characters with good backstories. Stories with characters I can really sink my teeth into. And if said story fell into the 1960s to the 1990s, I would be thrilled.
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