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Behind the scenes of It and Thor: Ragnarok A conversation with Christian Cordella, Apulian costume illustrator living in Los Angeles, who created the costumes for the two cult movies.
“For Pennywise in It I made 123 sketches”
by Giovanni De Benedictis
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Christian Cordella and Karl Urban

Christian Cordella strikes again. In Hollywood the name of the Salentinian costume illustrator, American by adoption, is a guarantee: he is often the one who signs the big screen look of the figures that populate our collective imagination. But how many people know that their appearance conceals the hand of a talented Apulian?

The latest movies where his contribution can be appreciated are Thor: Ragnarok and It. In the first, a super-hero comedy that closes the Marvel Cinematic Universe trilogy, he got to revisit the iconography of the inhabitants of Asgard. This time the other-worldy home of the God of Thunder is threatened by nothing less than the Norse apocalypse (the “Ragnarok”).

In the second, a new adaptation after the 1990 TV miniseries, he had to redesign the look of the diabolical clown Pennywise, the incarnation of Evil that for years has persecuted a group of kids in the depths of America, the Losers in the famous novel by Stephen King (1986). A success both as a book (and with the critics) as well as at the box-office.

In view of the success of these two films we decided to have a chat with him.

The audiovisual approach of these films seems to reflect the nostalgia for the Eighties, so fashionable in the last few years (think of the retrowave in music, for example). What’s changed in the final result?

When the Eighties are filmed the design becomes more colorful and geometric.

In the comic World War Hulk the green giant reluctantly becomes a gladiator on the planet Sakaar. How did you reconfigure the characters to make them into fighters in the amphitheater?

I really enjoyed working on Thor’s armor, which with the setting in the huge structure of the arena, couldn’t be anything but a Roman gladiator’s.

In Thor: Ragnarok the approach adopted by the director, the New Zealander Waititi, was to move away from the serious tones of the two previous chapters. How much did that decision influence the costume design?

This work wanted to pay tribute to the creator of the Marvel comics, Jack Kirby, and to the great producer Stan Lee, who were the inventors of the character Thor. Taika Waititi decided to totally change the character, making him simpler and at times hilarious. We worked in a calm, friendly atmosphere. The director put across a humorous spirit not only in the film but also to the whole crew.

Which characters in the two films did you have most fun with?

A character that I really enjoyed working on was Skurge, played by Karl Urban. I’d already met him in Star Trek Beyond and he was kind enough to appreciate my work, revisited and reinterpreted after seven years.

Compared to the first adaptation, this time in It the appearance of the clown Pennywise is faithful to the novel. Was it very hard to achieve the right balance between the realistic and the supernatural elements? What did you rely on to make him disturbing?

For It I made a special study and to get the best version of the character I made 123 sketches. The old clown couldn’t be either modern, or like the one in the first series, because there he had smaller, tighter costumes, almost childlike and never sinister.

Were you in contact with Stephen King while you were making the movie? Was it intimidating to have to deal with such a well-loved book?

Stephen King had great faith in the director, and obviously when you work with these brilliant people there’s a huge responsibility to reach an equilibrium that satisfies those in the audience that have read the book.

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