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With such a large cast of young women portraying college sorority girls in the new movie ‘So Undercover’, the filmmakers certainly had their work cut out for them to make each girl stand out as an individual. The casting was key, of course, but so too was the costuming, hair and make up for each young lady. As costume designer Wendy Chuck points out, “The actors bring something special to the characters, but so do their clothes. We had to select wardrobes that fit each person’s story character,” she says. “Although we had a fairly good lead time to prep, we didn’t know who our cast was until a week before we went to camera. Fortunately, I had a good assistant and we were able to use the template of the characters in the script to start to think about who they were and how they would be dressed. We sort of knew which one was the über preppy, and which one was the snooty one, and which one was the leader of the pack, etcetera.”
While Ms. Chuck absolutely nailed the characters’ costume looks, she points out that research was vital. “It was a big learning curve for me because I’m from Australia and we don’t have sororities there,” she smiles. “So I went on a scout to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and visited a couple of sororities there. I took a lot of photos and asked a lot of questions. It was my anthropological study! I hooked up with an expert on sororities who was amazingly helpful.”
Often, however, design must be dictated by what the camera may not want to capture. For instance, Kelly Osbourne, who stars as Becky Slotnick, wears tattoos. “That was not ‘sorority correct,’” Ms. Chuck says. “I had to do some creative inventions for that. You’ll see Kelly in long sleeves and little gloves, all of which ended up working very well for her character.”
While the costumes are eye catching, they never appear too over the top. They strike the right balance of color and attitude. For instance, when audiences see Sasha, played by Eloise Mumford, coming down the stairs of the sorority house, you’ll know who she is by how she looks and carries herself and it’s the same with Megan Park who plays Cotton, the sort of dim one in the bunch. She’s quite defined by her wardrobe.
Miley Cyrus’s character was unique because the costume designer had to straddle two separate looks. Molly’s world is gritty because she’s poor and doesn’t have a lot of money to spend on clothes. So Wendy chuck used grays and blues and steely colors for her wardrobe. But Molly’s alter ego, sorority girl Brook, was dressed in high heels and short dresses.
The important role of Miley’s FBI mentor Armon Ranford went to Emmy Award winner Jeremy Piven. “I feel we really lucked out getting Jeremy for this role,” director Vaughan says. “His character has to carry a lot of exposition, and with Jeremy’s energy and great humor he turned the role into more than what was on the written page. He was the perfect foil for Miley’s character, and it was fun watching the great chemistry they have together.”
For his part, executive producer Cowan agrees with Vaughan’s assessment of Piven. “When Jeremy came on he really brought a lot of exceptional qualities to the role. We were very happy to get him,” Cowan raves. “He brought charm and humor and a bit of quirkiness to the character. And he really made the ending of the film work for us.”
While Jeremy Piven appreciates the swell of commendations, he has equal praise for Miley Cyrus. “Miley was perfect for her role,” Piven says. “Our director, Tom Vaughan, was brilliant in casting her. Miley is like no other. She’s an authentic ball of energy and isn’t pretentious. She’s a young actress but handles herself beautifully. She touches on all the different tones she needs to as an artist. She can be really serious when she has to be, and then incredibly silly, too.”
When one thinks of Kelly Osbourne, what may come to mind is her career as a recording artist, as well as the shy contestant who blossomed into the darling of last season’s “Dancing With the Stars.” Now motion picture audiences are going to be pleasantly surprised and delighted by her acting performance as Becky Slotnick. As director Vaughan enthuses, “Kelly Osbourne is a revelation. She came in to the audition and just completely surprised me. The minute she started acting and being the character, I knew she was the one for the role.”
Osbourne recalls her first audition for ‘So Undercover’ and the trepidation she felt going in. “I was so scared when I walked into the room because Tom, the director, and casting people were there, as well as Miley’s mom,” the young actress says. “I didn’t know that Miley’s mom was going to be judging me! They were all taking notes and looking at me as I read, and I thought ‘Oh my god, you sound so stupid. This is so bad. You’re never going to get this. It’s going to be embarrassing.’ But then everyone was so nice to me and they called me back to read with Miley.”
It was an agonizing two weeks for Kelly as she waited to hear from her agent about the results of her auditions. “The thing is, and I didn’t know this at the time, but I was the only one they saw for the role,” Osbourne says with more than a hint of disbelief. “My agent didn’t tell me that. So I went to the auditions being terrified. Finally I got the call and my agent said, ‘You got the role, and by the way, you were the only one they saw.’ I was like, ‘Why did you let me through all that agony? I was so scared and so nervous for two full weeks!’”
The torture was ultimately worth it to Kelly however, because she thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience of working on “So Undercover.” “I loved the whole idea of being able to create a character and really work on it and be part of a production with such great people,” she says. “I feel as though I’ve become spoiled. Whatever I do after this, I don’t think it will live up to how much I enjoyed myself here.”
Although a sorority house is a girls-only living arrangement, that doesn’t mean the residents aren’t studying anatomy. For the role of Nicholas, Molly/Brook’s love interest in the story, the filmmakers cast Joshua Bowman. “Although Josh was a new face to me, he gives an absolutely charming performance,” says director Vaughan. He brings a lovely sensitivity to the role of Nicholas who, although he develops a relationship with Molly/Brook, we don’t know whether he’s a killer, or what he’s really about. He’s a man of mystery in the story.”