Antonio Banderas: What the Designer Gave Me Was Extraordinary

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” said star Antonio Banderas praising the work of Sonu Mishra and Davina Lamont  for National Geographic’s “Genius” series Picasso.

The major biopic shows the progress of a young art student as he transforms into the most successful artist of the 20th Century. These two personas were just one in a myriad of challenges faced by a production shooting in different periods with a big and changing cast. “When we were shooting, we would time jump and we had to keep in mind all those aspects of filmmaking and that was the core of the filmmaking. We shot in four different countries. We had extras everywhere. It was massive, but we had this flow. I felt there was always a guiding hand with us,” costume designer Sonu Mishra told GoldDerby. “Picasso was very much like a matador, this strong, powerful man and the clothes needed to look powerful and imposing.”

Shrinking Antonio Banderas

“Antonio Banderas was going to play Picasso. He’s very stylish and he is loved around the world. He’s taller than Picasso by at least four inches. I made suits where the jackets were slightly longer, looser and I used high waisted trousers to accommodate that difference. We had heavier fabrics,” she said. “When Antonio came to Paris for the fitting. I had all these heavy woolen clothes made because we were about to head into winter. I wasn’t sure how a movie star would take these clothes. I also had these lighter clothes made from linen and the minute he put on these trousers, he put his hands in the mirror and said, ‘Yes, I feel Picasso.’ He embraced everything. He was so passionate about the costumes and the evolution of how Picasso became famous. He knew he was the richest living artist and he was sure of his stature as an artist, so he started wearing fewer and fewer clothes. A lot of photos have Picasso in shorts and he’s bare-chested, that’s how sure he was of himself. He could meet the biggest art dealer and he could show up wearing shorts.”

(National Geographic/Dusan Martincek), 

Suffering Every Morning

Over five months of filming in Hungary Banderas had to endure five hours of prosthetics from make up designer Davina Lamont. “We three created the character together,” said Banderas, “drawing and talking, putting together pieces. I couldn’t have done it without them. In footage Picasso walks weird, with his feet open and his body language. [Mishra] designed the pants in a way that favours that kind of movement.”

“Sonu had studied deeply the complexity of how Picasso dressed himself, so when I step into his pants every morning, the character comes to me. It makes me smaller in size, it makes me wider, it makes me more wrinkled like Picasso. But I don’t think Picasso was very worried about the way he looked or anything like that. He had this kind of Bohemian ‘I don’t give a shit’ thing, and Sonu got that completely. She helped me enormously to understand the character. The way you dress is a proclamation of who you want to portray yourself as in front of others, so what she gave me was extraordinary. Then in the prosthetic setup, there was a lot of suffering every morning. You have to learn to play with them because they are kind of a mask, but you have a person behind them like Davina who gives you tremendous security. She did a job with the character that is unbelievable, priceless.”

Young Picasso

Unfortunately for Mishra the young Picasso star was also taller than Picasso and so the same techniques of longer, bulkier clothes was used. He starts of wearing early-20th-Century suits and the team recreated a corduroy suit he was photographed in when he arrived in Paris.

“Alex’s passage goes from art school, getting dressed up to fit into that society. Then he does the Blue period and then the pink period. That’s when he’s dressing like a work man. He had baggier trousers, wore a work man’s jacket and that was in contrast to what his rival, Matisse was wearing. Matisse was in tweeds and very gentleman dressing. He had those nice round glasses. He’d take the ugliness of the period and turn it into the beauty, while Picasso took the beauty and turn it into ugly. He used his art for work. His smock was dirty. Again, I replicated another photo. He had these pants with huge patches on the front and so I used those. When Alex ends up selling art and gets married, that’s when he starts dressing up and that’s another passage of time. He transforms from the bohemian world with dancers, models and sculptors to the world of ballet and Olga. He gets more flamboyant, it’s also the transition of the two actors too. It was almost like creating the before and after with the blend in between. When we see the change, I used the same coat, but it’s very subtle.”

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