'Mad Max: Fury Road's Jenny Beavan Defined Costume Drama Before She Redefined The Apocalypse
Sunday offered a lovely, lovely night for Mad Max: Fury Road, which won six Oscars early on, including Sound Design, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Make-up/Hairstyling, Editing, and Costume Design. On one level, of course it did! It’s a massive, moving movie where every frame is lush with visual storytelling and audio nirvana. But on the other hand, many feared The Academy would snub the awe-inspiring action movie, because those old white dudes can get pretty snooty about genre pics. This made these wins all the sweeter for Fury Road fans. But for all the gratitude and attitude Fury Road’s crew brought to the big stage, the spotlight snatcher of the awards first half was undoubtedly costume designer Jenny Beavan.
Not only did she stay on brand by wearing a leather jacket, gloriously emblazoned with the Immortan Joe logo…
Not only did she become a rebel meme thanks in part to The Revenant director Alejandro Inarritu’s sulking…
But also, she’s been a damn Oscars institution that deserved more time, orchestra! Yeah, lots of people get played off. But when Leo can rattle on and a ten-time nominee gets cut short, The Academy looks like elitist bullies. Did I say ten times? YES. Let’s take a look through Beavan’s astonishing career highlights.
The Bostonians (1985 Oscars)
Beavan’s first nomination was for the ruffles, bows, and period glamor she brought to James Ivory adaptation of the Henry James novel. The pair first worked together on the 1979 drama The Europeans, which he helmed and she served as costume assistant on. But this win, cemented a collaboration that would bring Beavan back to the Oscars again and again.
A Room With a View (1987 Oscars)
Her first win came two years later for this Merchant Ivory drama, boasting beautiful buttoned up fashions.
Observe the madness that was that year’s awards presentation, and Beavan’s first Oscar acceptance, which she shared with collaborator John Bright.
If you ever wondered if something could be painfully ’80s, the answer—per this dizzying dance number—is totally.
Maurice (1988 Oscars)
Next, it was a lesser-known drama about gay romance in early 20th century England, based on the E.M. Forster novel.
Howard’s End (1993 Oscars)
Then came another Ivory-helmed E.M. Forster adaptation.
Remains of the Day (1994 Oscars)
By the time Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel debuted, Beavan’s costume designs were not just earning almost annual acclaim, but also defining the genre of Merchant Ivory films. She and Ivory’s last collaboration was 1995’s Jefferson in Paris. But the end of their teamwork did not by any means mean an end to her Academy Awards attendance.
Sense and Sensibility (1996 Oscars)
When Emma Thompson and Ang Lee brought Jane Austen’s classic novel to the big screen, they of course went to the queen of period costumes.
Anna And the King (2000 Oscars)
East met west in this Jodie Foster joint, a dramatic and songless rendition of The King and I.
Gosford Park (2002 Oscars)
Later, she earned a nod for Robert Altman’s upstairs/downstairs drama, which paved a long road to screenwriter Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey.
The King’s Speech (2011 Oscars)
This Academy adored biopic about the stuttering monarch King George VI gave Beavan the chance to dress Helena Bonham Carter for the fourth time.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2016 Oscars)
Then came the insane post-apocalyptic glory of Mad Max: Fury Road, and Beavan’s long in the works second win. This incredibly talented costume designer who built her career on the conservative, frilly elegance of period drama and restrained romance did a total 180, diving into George Miller’s wild world of road warriors and dropped our jaws with its strange splendor, destructive decadence and bold beauty.
Bonus: Listen to Beavan talk about her work on Mad Max: Fury Road after her BAFTA win.
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