No Time To Die Costume Designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb Shares Why Even a Simple T-shirt Was Challenging

James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Paloma (Ana de Armas) in NO TIME TO DIE. Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM

No Time To Day is the last outing for Daniel Craig as James Bond, and it’s bringing back Léa Seydoux as Madeleine, Ralph Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter. One of the things the 007 franchise is known for is the outfits, whether it’s Bond in a nice tux or the supporting characters in extravagant dresses. The person behind the outfits in No Time To Die was Suttirat Anne Larlarb, a NY-based costume designer.

Suttirat Anne Larlarb’s projects include Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire & 127 Hours, Gemini Man, American Gods, and the London Olympics opening ceremonies, which earned her an Emmy. Her work can also be seen in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series from Lucasfilm and Disney+. We had the chance to chat with her about the outfits seen in No Time To Die and the process behind them.

Nerd Reactor: With your hectic schedule, how much of it do you cherish or remember for the process in previous films?

Suttirat Anne Larlarb: The way that we work is so intense for the costume department. Many departments spend a lot of time doing their job on a film set, but the costume department, I will feel pretty safe to say, is one of the hardest working departments. We have probably 16 hour days, on average, for a really long period of time. You have to be there before the actors arrive, you have to be there after the actors leave and much of the shooting crew, and then me and the design department. We’re constantly feeding the beast. We have to keep thinking ahead, a week ahead or two weeks ahead so that things show up on set. I’m saying all this because it’s so much and so intense that it’s very hard to forget. Like, even if I haven’t thought about it in months, some of the specific questions that have been coming up about the longtail, it’s actually really easy for me to tap into like, “Oh, yeah, that’s pretty.” I opened the door in my mind really quickly.

Nomi (Lashana Lynch) in NO TIME TO DIE. Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM

Nerd Reactor: The Bond films are all about style, especially for Bond. And then the ladies, they also have the outfits. What was the most challenging part for you? Like, “This is challenging, but it’s also cool, and I’m down to tackle it.”

Suttirat Anne Larlarb: I mean, they all are really challenging. It’s weird. I know that it kind of looks like when you do a contemporary film, the clothes are at hand, but what you wouldn’t necessarily expect is how much work goes into even just a t-shirt. If something is a part of an action sequence, you need to make sure you’re covered for all the actions in the sequence. So a shirt on a character goes through a specific journey the way that the character goes through the journey. So you need multiples for the actors, for their stunt doubles, for the photo doubles, and at various stages of wear and tear from that journey. So a t-shirt that appears on a character, you might have done 60 of them. And they’re all at multiple stages of the action. There’s a hole and then the hole grows and there’s a bloodstain. Then you’re shooting out of sequence, so sometimes you have to make decisions about what something looks like at the end of a big explosion before you shot it, when nothing touched it.

So it’s quite a puzzle that you’re always doubting, sort of bouncing around the schedule a lot. And so I’m sorry, I might be going off-topic here, but I think when you asked me what the most challenging thing was, I would there were so many because a Bond film is just walls-to-wall action, really. But also, you have this style brief that you need to fill and the aesthetic is so important. So you can’t really just turn to jeans and t-shirts and just go out and buy 60 pairs of the same jeans. Every actor is so specific about their character’s journey but also they all have different bodies and things need to move in certain ways. And there are physical requirements or requirements for the stumps in the special effects. And so, sometimes you have to actually recreate something or come up with something from scratch so that you can meet all these demands.

We had a Tom Ford tuxedo. By the time we knew we needed to have a tuxedo for James Bond, we knew we wanted to develop a new one. So it was not something that already existed, but we worked with Tom Ford and his design team to tailor it, give it certain details to make it very firmly a Bond tux that’s specifically his. Once we settled on what the design of it was and the fit of it was in the details of it, we then had to go through the process of making sure it could be reproduced to the numbers that we wanted, which it was. They were so brilliant at accommodating that. But then we also had to get it from its source, fit it, tailor it, alter it, make multiple for a different stunt double, photo double, and do all those same things with them. We then stress it for the various parts of the sequence of action and then fly it over to where we were going to start shooting it in another part of the world from where we started. So by the time we had all that stuff, it was a pretty nail-biter. “Are we going to get it on time to make the sequence happen in the tux?”

Daniel Craig as James Bond and Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann in NO TIME TO DIE. Credit: Nicola Dove/MGM

Was there any particular actor that had more of a hands-on experience on input, like Daniel Craig or Rami, etc?

Yeah, they’re both obviously incredibly well-known and very well-dressed human beings in their real life. So of course, they’re going to have an opinion. What I would say is, they’re both incredibly generous with what they were expecting from me. So meaning that when it became clear that I’m there to make the character the best they could be, the kind of doors open for a collaboration that was really, really fruitful for me because there was no directive. It wasn’t like, “You have to do this.”

It was sort of like, “What do you think? What would you do in this scenario?” Once the trust was put in, we sit down in the beginning, we have a talk so that everybody can understand where everybody’s coming from. And when that trust is developed, I get to do my best work, which is to go out and figure out how I’m going to meet the needs of this actor. And then I come back to them with my ideas, and then it’s a continuous conversation through the fittings. And as both of them are rehearsing, or all of the actors really are rehearsing their scenes and understanding what the requirements for the script are, things might change along the way. So I’m constantly checking in to say, “Okay, have you learned anything in rehearsals like, “Do you have the pocket on the left-hand side or on the right hand?” Technical things like that, but also, there could be even bigger or more philosophical questions at hand that I like to feed into and then contribute to the process. I had a really, really lovely collaboration with all the actors on this. They were very inclusive, if not relying on me to come up with the goods.

Rami Malek stars as Safin in NO TIME TO DIE. Credit: Christopher Raphael/MGM

With Rami’s character, he’s got the mask that’s broken off. Did you get to work on that part?

Absolutely, yeah. That was a group effort within my department. Once I pitched the idea of what the mask could be to Cary, the director, and to Rami, who was very excited about the idea of it, I then worked with this great sculptor, Liz at SPFX in London, to come up with the perfect shape before it was cracked. And then we worked on the cracked version of it. Once we got those details right to our liking, we showed that version to both Cary and Rami, and we got to go ahead and proceed with it. And then there was a whole host of 3d modeling to make it fit Rami’s face perfectly. Also, because it needed to withstand, again, the specific action, we have to make multiple versions of it and the way that you replicated exactly to be able to cast it and then reproduce it from the cast. So it was sculpted, scanned, 3d modeled and then we produced multiples in various stages of the cracks. And then all finished by hand. There’s an amazing specialty costume maker in our arsenal at the workshop, Kevin, who really helped figure out how it’s going to stay on his face and all the details of seeing beneath the layers of it. There’s a lot of hands that touched it and a lot of minds that went into creating that thing from just the first initial sketch of mine. It takes a village to do a single thing like that.

There’s a lot of variety in your work. Gemini Man has the action. American Gods has fantasy. And then you’re also working on Obi-Wan. With Obi-Wan, your upcoming project, I’m not sure how much you can talk about it. But that’s like the ultimate fantasy. And I’m thinking inside your head, like, “What can I do in this world?” Because it’s so creative.

Yeah, I definitely can’t talk about that. But you’re right, it is. I would say that between a James Bond film and a Star Wars project, it’s like the two holy grails of costume design, right? Like, they’re definite worlds that people have a preconceived notion of, from the history of the franchises, but also, you have this expectation to push it forward. So it is a challenge. Yeah, it can be also very exhausting, like you’re really tapping into the deepest recesses of your subconscious.

Is there a type of project that you really want to do? That would be the most challenging?

I haven’t done Western. I would love to do Western, but I feel very lucky in my career, getting to do a James Bond film. I would never have guessed in a million years, as a young aspiring designer, that it would have ever been a possibility. That ticks a major box. I feel really lucky. I don’t know what would top that, to be honest. Obviously, I’m working on, as you said, Obi-Wan. Between the Bond film and that, I truly don’t know what would top it. And it’s more challenging. It’s just kind of a necessity for me, but we’ll see.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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