It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… Batman v Superman’s Michael Wilkinson. We caught up with the costume designer in advance of his MAGIC panel — held at the Las Vegas Convention Center this weekend — to discuss what we can expect from the highly anticipated film’s wardrobe.
But first — what brought him out to MAGIC? The chance to meet and greet fashion’s finest, of course. “I’ve heard about MAGIC for years, and have always been intrigued by it,” said Wilkinson, who attended the fashion convention for the first time with his WilkinsonMartin design partner Tim Martin. “Then, I was invited to be on the panel about costume design for superheroes — so that sealed the deal! I love the idea of such a huge event filled with exciting new products and bursting with creative souls.”
During the panel, Wilkinson — who is best known for his work on American Hustle, Man of Steel, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—discussed his path to costume design, his recent projects, and what materials he prefers. Those who weren’t in attendance, have no fear… People’s Choice has your exclusive, inside scoop.
Read on to find out what went into creating the Batman v Superman costumes, how the batsuit will differ from what fans have seen before, and the hidden scripts fans should keep an eye out for on the superhero suits.
People’s Choice: What did you enjoy about tackling the wardrobes for Batman v Superman?
Michael Wilkinson: There’s nothing I like more than a challenge. I love to get outside my comfort zone and go to new creative places. Designing the costumes for Batman v Superman really allowed me to do this. It was an incredible 18 month experience with a costume department that at times swelled to 75 people. It is rare to have the opportunity to explore the visual world of a film in such depth, and I was accompanied on this journey by the world’s best costume experts. It’s a chapter of my life that I will never forget.
What sort of research went into creating Batman and Wonder Woman’s looks?
Wilkinson: To get ready to design the costumes for Batman v Superman, I really did my homework. I immersed myself in the long histories of these iconic characters — Superman [Henry Cavill], Batman [Ben Affleck], and Wonder Woman [Gal Gadot]— I studied how they have been portrayed over the last 75 years on film, on TV, in comic books, graphic novels and video games. I studied what they mean to people, what they stand for, why they are important. I started an exhaustive search for new materials and technologies — original ways of portraying these characters that would be unlike anything audiences have seen before. I wanted the costumes to help make the characters inspirational and relevant to modern audiences.
How are this film’s costumes different than what we’ve seen in previous films?
We tweaked the Superman suit only slightly from our suit from Man of Steel. We streamlined plus sharpened the details of the costume a little to suit the more earthly (less alien) context of this film. The batsuit is a complete 180 degree turn from the previous film incarnations — our Batman’s power comes from his incredible physical strength and fighting skills, not from armor. The director Zack Snyder wanted him to look as much like the comic book version as possible — to be respectful to the original source. As for the Wonder Woman suit, well she has never been seen in a film before, so there was nothing to compare it to! There is of course the costume from the TV show. Zack wanted our character to be a fierce and intimidating warrior — gritty, battle-scarred and immortal.
Should fans look out for anything in particular when it comes to the costumes?
Zack had a great idea to have some kryptonian script subliminally included in the details of the suit, so we made that happen. There is ancient Greek script on Wonder Woman’s weapons too. My favorite details of the batsuit are the brass knuckles on the gloves.
What was Ben Affleck like at his first fitting? How did he react to the suit?
From the moment Ben had the suit on in the first fitting he was hooked. He liked the way it made him feel – powerful and intimidating.
The cast for the film were all amazing. Everyone was so excited to be working on such a cool, high-profile project. I wanted them all to look as impactful as possible. The fitting room was a very upbeat and inspiring environment.
How involved was director Zack Snyder in the process? What sort of feedback would he give you?
Zack was there at every step of the way — initial meetings, concept design, prototyping, fittings, camera tests. His energy and passion were phenomenal. It was the fifth film that we have done together, so by now we pretty much finish each other’s sentences!
You previously worked on Man of Steel. How many of those costumes carried over to this film?
Only the main superman costume. Everything else is new!
Did anyone beg to keep a memento from the costume department?
It was pretty hard to get Jason to get out of his Aquaman costume. It really became part of him. And Amy was rather attached to her winter coats and trenches.
Where did the costumes go after filming ended?
The hero suits begin a world-wide publicity tour in the next few months. They will be seen everywhere from Tokyo to L.A.
What was the most challenging part of creating this film’s wardrobe?
Trying to keep the stamina going for an 18-month project. Trying to make sure every decision I make is the most original one. Trying to make sure that I have put the maximum amount of passion and intelligence to every costume I put in front of the camera.
What’s one thing that would surprise us about the film’s costumes?
I think that most people would be surprised to hear that my approach to designing the costumes for Batman v Superman is similar to my approach on a film like American Hustle, even though the genres of the films are so different. I work out what ideas and mood I want to convey to the audience for each character, and aim to capture them using color, texture and silhouette. The choice of fabric and materials is absolutely crucial to my process. I always try to make bold, surprising, sophisticated choices when it comes to sourcing materials and using technology.
Any particularly fun anecdotes or memories from set?
I think I have to wait until closer to the film’s release to spill any beans. Ask me again next March!
Are you lined up to work on any of the Justice League films?
Again my lips are sealed. All I can say is that I am very excited about the year to come.
I think the trailer says it all. The film is going to be an impassioned, highly original work that will blow any expectations out of the water. Jen is a dream — so much fun to be around, her energy is infectious and her talents are immense. She had 35 costumes in the film that spanned over 30 years. David O. Russell was after a timeless, classic look that avoids the clichés and expectations of a given decade — so the film has a very special, genuine look.
Editor’s Note: The original headline incorrectly suggested Wilkinson said the Batsuit will have hidden Kryptonian script. He did not specify and can not confirm which costume will have the script. The headline has since been updated.