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Like ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”s production designer Chris Spellman, costume designer Kristin Burke was tasked with anticipating the near future. She notes, “When a script ventures even a little bit into the future, you naturally wonder, ‘Okay, what are we going to be wearing? What fabric are we going to have that we don’t have now?’
“But Lorene [Scafaria, director] wanted to make the clothing as classic as possible, so that the film doesn’t date itself and also so it wouldn’t be implausible. For example, where were we 10 years ago and how much is the fashion sensibility different from today’s? Well, it’s not that far; between 1972 and 1962, now there was a huge gap.” She elaborates, “What we were trying to do overall was ‘retro future,’ and as accessibly as possible for the viewer. As apocalyptic as this story might seem, it’s not depressing, and our costuming reflects that.”
Burke was particularly pleased to be able to costume Keira Knightley for a rare non-“costume” role. The designer says, “Penny is eclectically minded; we were looking to create a look for Keira which spoke to that. The way Penny dresses incorporates vintage elements and something of that mindset.
“While there were no corsets for Keira on this movie, Penny is accessorized with something from the past – vinyl record albums.”
While Dodge totes along Sorry, Penny hand-carries vinyl albums from her coveted record collection. As Scafaria muses, “There’s always that ‘what if’ question; in case of a fire, what are you going to grab when you’re on your way out the door? What can you in fact physically carry?
“Dodge by then feels responsible for the dog, but for Penny these albums have long had meaning to her; her record collection is something that she’s taken care of for years and years – in part because it is a connection to her parents.” Scafaria reveals, “Music is important to me, so I felt that this story wouldn’t be complete without it. Part of showing Penny’s journey was through what – if not who – she has.” Chris Spellman and his team didn’t have to search far for the record albums that Keira Knightley would be clutching; Penny’s urgently streamlined collection is curated from Scafaria’s own.Specific songs, albums, and artists had been written into the script from the earliest drafts. When asked which albums she would rescue in case of fire – or worse – the writer/director says, “Lou Reed’s ‘Coney Island Baby,’ some Gene Clark, The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds,’ The Beatles.”
Knightley states that her picks would have to be “Supertramp and Talking Heads. Also, if in fact the world were ending, I would get on the road to North Devon.” Steve Carell would not take “albums because my car lacks a turntable. My family would go to Disney World, with a steady stream of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez; what the kids are listening to these days –
“‘What the kids are listening to these days?’ I just sounded about 85 years old…I would eat a lot of junk food, but I wouldn’t steal it; I would purchase cupcakes and brownies. Chinese food and pizza, too.”
Scafaria muses, “I might stay put; I’m happy in L.A. I might drive north. I do have a ‘what if’ box ready to grab, plus my dogs and the person I’m with. I would want to be with friends and family as much as possible.” Producer Mark Roybal says, “There would have to be one serious camper with full entertainment, and a limitless supply of gas so we could go anywhere we wanted. There would be debaucherous eating and drinking – within the confines of safety, since I have kids. But I do think there would be hot dogs for breakfast.
“Our family road trip’s soundtrack would include ‘Harvest Moon,’ by Neil Young. That was our wedding song. Also, U2’s ‘Joshua Tree,’ The Band, and lots of Adele, because my kids love to belt out her songs.” Producer Joy Gorman Wettels demurs, “I’d do anything within reason that’s under a good rationale. If the idea of living on an island in Greece is moot, I would just try to relax.”