Where did the inspiration for
Indy's fedora, leather jacket, satchel & whip
of the Incas (1954) starring Charlton Heston
and directed by Jerry Hopper is almost a shot
for shot Raiders of the
Los Ark. Since both were made by Paramount,
and Secret is
no longer available on video – I can only
guess that Larry Kasdan took that script and updated
it for Steven. A great idea. We did watch this
film together as a crew several times, and I always
thought it strange that the filmmakers did not
credit it later as the inspiration for the series.
on it’s own as a modern classic, but the
fedora jacket and whip are right there on Charlton
Heston in 1954. My own work is not diminished
by having seen that marvellous film. The spirit
of Raiders was
also informed by Alan Ladd’s 1940’s
film noirs, which also had the same hard boiled
adventurer, clad in leather jacket and felt fedora.
I have just seen Secret
of the Incas again at the Eastman
House in Rochester, and it really helped
refresh my memory. Harrison’s Indiana is
really a kinder and gentler Harry Steele, Heston’s
archaeologist/adventurer. Heston’s fedora
is considerably bigger and more unwieldy –
compared to the one I designed for Indiana it
looks practically like a picture hat!
Did the casting of Harrison
Ford have any influence on Indy's signature costume?
Absolutely not. As you probably
already know, we were looking forward to working
with Tom Selleck. All the receptionists at The
Egg Company (our lavish Lucas offices on
Lankershim Blvd) were devastated when Tom left
for Magnum PI.
Tom had shot the pilot prior to signing for Raiders
and regrettably the pilot was picked up after
I had already made a prototype of the entire costume
at Western Costume Company
on Melrose. We were close to shooting and now
missing an Indiana Jones. In desperation George
and Steven conferred and we were left with the
perennially unemployed Hans Solo. And he was old,
almost 40! Harrison is, or was, an affable, introspective,
reticent character, worlds away from the larger
than life and glamorous Selleck. We were disappointed,
but we accepted. Of course, the casting of Harrison
was fateful. His natural warmth, intelligence
and most of all, his vulnerability, transformed
the character of Indiana Jones from a one dimensional
superhero to an everyman with a wry sense of humor.
fedoras and leather jackets were made for Raiders
of the Lost Ark?
(which I designed) was a financial disappointment,
Lucas came on as producer of Raiders
as a favor to Steven. We were working on a "B
picture" with a B budget, but all the people
were the "A" team. I needed a decent
budget to accommodate the many stunt people, stand
in's, additional units, and dummies (stuffed).
But the unit production manager was ruthless.
It was not pretty. I had budgeted for 10 jackets
and to save money I ordered them from the very
reasonably priced Wilson’s
House of Suede and Leather in Los Angeles
who custom made them for me based on a prototype
I made at Western Costume
Company. This is before any of us ever
went to London to begin pre production at EMI
When the jackets arrived from Wilson’s
I understood they would be unusable for the film.
As I tried to age the first one, the leather peeled
away in my hands, immediately the color of the
leather came off, and giant holes appeared. I
discussed this with Steven, George and Harrison.
And it was Harrison who became my ally and advocate.
I simply could not use these low grade jackets
– it would be impossible to wear them in
stunt situations and they would never look right.
Finally, after much fighting about money –
which was ridiculous given that the jackets were
the centerpiece of the film – and after
watching Heston and Ladd sporting them on the
big screen – finally I was given the OK
to design and make another set of 10 at Berman’s
and Nathan’s Costumier’s once
we arrived in London. These were also created
from the original prototype that I created for
Tom Selleck, made by Reuben at Western
Costume. They had an “action back”
of inset pleats, a 30s pattern device, which allowed
for more arm movement, and adjustable tabs at
During one of our first fittings
I emptied boxes of felt fedoras for Harrison to
try on at Berman’s.
Hats are extremely individual, and it is absolutely
impossible for anyone to determine what will be
right for someone else’s face. The height
of the crown, the width of the brim, the ribbon,
the color, are all components of the hat that
will frame the actor’s face and imbue the
character with substance. We took our time. Costume
designers must also consider the needs of the
cinematographer when designing hats – will
the audience be able to see the actors face and
eyes? When we found one that could be adapted,
crown shortened, brim narrowed, I travelled to
hatters in Saville Road to find the model which
most closely resembled the one in my hand. They
offered an "Australian" model –
which, with fiddling, became the Indiana Jones
fedora. I ordered one dozen, and I believe that
number made it to the end of the film.
The palette for Indiana Jones is
all earth tones – even in his archelogical
academic wear. This was my deliberate choice –
Indiana was accessible, magnetic, and above all
– part of the earth he was always digging
in. The bad guys in Raiders
are in tones of grey and black – cold and
various action scenes Indy never looses his fedora.
Can you tell us which tricks were used to keep
the fedora in place on his head? There's a joke
about this in a documentary on Last
Crusade where Ford
pretends to staple the fedora on his head.
There were no tricks that I know
of - other than the hat fit well – and it
was of course part of the joke that the hat stayed
on his head. Stunt men often have elastic straps
under their chin painted out with make-up. Remember
that if the audience must never see the stuntman’s
Whenever I see Indiana
Jones as a suited professor at college and then
as Indy on an adventure in his leather jacket
& fedora, I am reminded of Clark Kent vs.
Superman. Was the resemblance of Indy’s
professor outfit to Clark Kent’s suit an
intentional costuming choice?
There was not an intentional choice
to create an allusion to Clark Kent, but your
presumption is a good one on a general level.
Indiana Jones is not a super hero and he is not
in hiding. He does not need a secret identity
of a bumbling klutz. But, Professor Jones is a
vulnerable, idealistic, introspective intellectual
with a dry sense of humour. His courageous character
in the field is an alter ego of his reticent character
in the classroom. Indiana is more like Sherlock
Holmes who withdraws to his Baker Street lair,
after dangerous adventures solving crimes, sometimes
costume, what was the most challenging costume
to design for Raiders
of the Lost Ark?
Karen Allen’s character was
hard to get right. It was tough to transition
a self reliant trousered tomboy into a glamorous
wench who could wear a white tulle gown followed
by a very bare white bias cut satin slip.
set in the past, like Raiders,
which require large amounts of military uniforms
and vintage equipment (belts, firearms, etc.)
how much of this costuming is fabricated by the
costume dept. and how much is either "found"
or purchased from military reproduction services
like What Price
All the Nazi uniforms we used on
Raiders were actual
WWII surplus, which we bought through a vendor
in Texas. These uniforms, now 60 years old, are
no longer available. I only manufactured the principal
uniforms for Raiders
to order – every other German uniform in
the film was vintage. This was customary practice
on all Hollywood films, we used army surplus.
On 1941, which I also designed for Spielberg,
I used the same source in Texas for the American
Marine, Navy and Army uniforms. Alas, they are
all gone to the moths now. When Joanna Johnston
designed Saving Private
Ryan, she manufactured hundreds of new
uniforms for the troops at a costume house here
in Los Angeles. Generally, on any production,
uniforms are rented if the designer can find them,
and the principal actor’s costumes are manufactured
because often they need to be doubled for stunts.
Military consultants and specialists are always
employed to get all the insignia correct and properly
What parts of the
costumes are handled by the prop department? I
am aware that generally the prop department would
locate vintage firearms, swords, etc., but in
the case of the main character like Indiana Jones,
wouldn't the costuming department deserve some
say in what Indy carries on his person aside from
The property department simply
handles weapons – the definition of a prop
is anything an actor uses. That could be a grenade,
a gun, a whip or a briefcase. Costume designers
are always involved in collaborating on personal
items which may influence the carriage of the
costume – like a gun or ammunition belt,
holster, key ring, wallet, back pack or glasses.
the advent of digital technology, filmmakers now
have the ability to manipulate the frame in post-production,
including the costumes at will, whether they merely
want to change the color of the outfit or a piece
of it, or change or remove a costume piece entirely.
As President of the Costume
can you tell us what the Guild's position is on
the use of digital manipulation in films today
and what the Guild is doing to protect their artistry
and craftsmanship from digital alteration or erasure?
Designers Guild looks forward to even greater
collaboration with the director. There is no stopping
the future and no stopping technology –
we embrace it. Our member Ngila Dickson designed
the costumes for Lord
of the Rings. She said there was nary one
costume, which appeared in the film exactly the
same colour as it looked on the set. Every frame
of LOTR was hand
colored. If the Costume
Designers Guild had a political position
on digital imagery, it would be to remind directors
to involve the costume designer at the earliest
stage in the creative visual development of the
film. We welcome the exciting times ahead working
with our fellow digital artists.
costume designer for Return
of the King
said recently on the DVD that hours and hours
were spent designing dresses for actress Miranda
Otto and many of them are only in one scene and
appear for mere seconds on screen. One dress appears
only in medium shots, so all we see are the shoulders.
What is the greatest frustration outside the sewing
and fitting room as a costume designer when working
on a film?
Costume designers greatest frustration
is the shortened preparation time and collapsed
time schedule to make a movie. We need gestation
time between the reading of the script and the
sketches to internalize the characters –
the design time. It seems we never have enough
time to design and make the costumes any more.
The process of costume design is exactly the same
on all films, whether they are period or modern,
on a mini or mega budget. Our mantra is Character
Comes First – creating authentic character
for each screenplay. All costume designers read
the script, meet with the director, create sketches
or a mood board, meet with the director again,
confab with the production designer and cinematographer
and then wait for casting. Often, we wait and
wait. Casting is often last minute, which places
a terrible pressure on the designer to create
the right costume for the character. Often, whatever
the cost of the film, the costume budget is depressingly
unrealistic, considering the costume is on the
actor in the center of every frame.
They are currently working
on a fourth Indiana Jones film, in which the story
will be set in the 1950s. Will Indy’s costume
remain as it is, or will modifications be made
to reflect the styles of the 1950s?
I am sure the new film will be
made with the same care as the last three. All
the designers involved in the Indiana Jones series
are passionate professionals desiring the same
result – a fabulous 90 minute adventure.