Inglourious Basterds: Creating the Look of Tarantino's Film

Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds will be released by Weinstein Company/Universal on August 21.

With little time to prepare, costume designer Anna Sheppard, production designer David Wasco and special effects makeup artist Greg Nicotero spent the weeks prior to production testing, building and creating quickly. 


Sheppard added to the alternate world of “Inglourious Basterds” with her imaginative, inventive costumes.  Sheppard was hesitant to take on another WWII-era project, having designed the costumes for HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” Polanski’s “The Pianist,” and Spielberg’s “Schindler's List.”  Once she read the script, however, Sheppard realized that “Inglourious” would offer her an opportunity to look at the era in a completely unexpected way. 


“I felt that I was given a lot of freedom and that gave me courage to try new things, and to try a new approach,” Sheppard says. “I really enjoyed doing a movie from this period like never before.  Maybe doing the other ones made me confident about this period, but also it gave me great joy to see how appreciated my costumes were.”


Diane Kruger enthuses that the suit worn in the “La Louisiane” sequence matched her character’s personality perfectly:  “She doesn’t want to be recognized or draw attention to herself, but she’s a movie star, so she has this fedora with a feather, and this perfectly tailored suit.  It’s very funny that anyone would think you could go unnoticed in such a beautiful suit.”


Sheppard found her meeting with Julie Dreyfus to be a major source of inspiration.  “Julie is very beautiful, and she knows how to carry clothes. She’s always wearing something like animal fur, or a funny bag with the alligator on it, or a leopard hat.  It’s always something cruel with Francesca Mondino.”

Dreyfus explains of Mondino’s relationship with Goebbels—and clothing.  “She’s a wonderfully well-dressed character.  She struts around in these beautiful dresses, and furs, and jewels, which for me is fantastic.  I’ve never been able to wear such amazing stuff!  Anna crafted everything the same way they did it in Hollywood in the old days.”


“When you put this stuff on it just gets you into the role,” Roth says of Sheppard’s costumes.  “I thought she did such a wonderful job of giving everyone their own diverse look while keeping them in the same universe.”


“I really saw it in the finale sequence,” Roth adds.  “She has so many different colors, different styles, and they all live together in the same world.  They are all definitely Nazi officers, but she was able to use the color palette of the movie to put it into each character.  You felt like everyone is a distinct character.  You look at the clothes and you see the each character’s history.”


The makeup designs for Winston Churchill, Adolph Hitler, and Joseph Goebbels offered challenges and rewards for makeup artist Greg Nicotero and his team. In his first meetings with Tarantino, Nicotero showed images of Goebbels alongside pictures of Groth and discuss what enhancements needed to be made to the actor. 


“Martin Wuttke, who plays Adolph Hitler, had only played Hitler on stage, so he had never gone through the prosthetics process,” Nicotero says.  “For his makeup test, we had silicone cheeks, and a chin, and nose, a wig, and contact lenses, and it was fascinating to watch him look at the transformation.  He was so accustomed to playing this character but he didn’t look like him.”


“Emanuel Millar, the hair department head, styled all the wigs, and was an integral part of our team because he utilized the designs that we had and brought all those characters to life,” Nicotero adds.

Mike Myers, who has worn prosthetics for his entire career, was eager to meet with the makeup artist to design the look for General Fenech.  “He’s really accustomed to it, and he has a lot to say about what his character looks like.  He really wanted to be an integral part of the character design.  Mike
really wanted to do a couple of make-up tests just so he could start finding who Fenech was.”


Production designer David Wasco, who traveled to Berlin to begin location scouting almost immediately after Bender and Tarantino’s July meeting, assembled his department quickly.  “Berlin is a very busy city for making movies, but I arrived as some things were finishing.  I ended up with an all-German art department—all from Berlin.  I believe this is the first movie of this size that has used an all-local team.”


Wasco relished the chance to do a period movie with Tarantino.  “We tried to make a few of his other projects kind of nebulous period movies. For “Reservoir Dogs,” we evoked the 1970s and the same with “Pulp Fiction,” so that they would be pretty timeless.  This one is late 1930s, early 1940s and we set out to be very accurate,” Wasco says.


Wasco says that Laurent’s movie theater in the film is based on a few theaters in California.  Tarantino asked Wasco to look closely at several theaters, including the Vista Cinema in Silverlake.  The design team also managed to find two matching vintage carbon-arc film projectors that really worked.  The cast and crew all were amazed watching the antiques play real nitrate film stock—it was a first for everyone.


In addition to the preproduction preparations made by the crew, Laurent and Roth had to learn trades to better portray their characters.


In the weeks prior to shooting her cinema scenes, Tarantino sent Laurent to Los Angeles for film projection boot camp at the New Beverly Cinema in order to better portray a projectionist.  “The test was to project “Reservoir Dogs,” says Laurent.  “We showed a lot of cartoons and trailers before the movie.  The audience didn’t know it was me with the machine. So it was just amazing. This was during three hours: midnight to 3:00 AM, and it was just amazing.  And I was alone with all the machines, and the shows did go on and I did it with pride.”