For the new black comedy ”Drowning Mona,” director Nick Gomez clothed his entire cast — including Neve Campbell and Danny DeVito — in polyester so tacky that even John Waters would be embarrassed to shoot it. While some actors embraced the glamourless life — ”I was really into making my hair as horrible as possible,” says Campbell — Bette Midler, who plays the titular town harridan Mona, put up a fight when it came to dressing down.
When Gomez first met with Midler to discuss her taking the role, she loved the idea of looking ”natural,” with no makeup or fancy clothing. ”But six months later on the set, she’s looking at the clothes we’ve picked for her,” says Gomez, ”and on certain days I had to show up two hours early [to convince her to wear] them.” He quickly realized that in Bette’s mind, these fashions were more alien than her famous mermaid suit. ”She would say, ‘It’s horrible, why would anyone wear this stuff?’ I’d say, ‘Bette, it’s Kmart, people all across the country wear it,”’ says Gomez. ”She doesn’t realize that… she’s a kind of royalty not that in touch with the rest of the country.”
Gomez also had to talk Midler’s costar Casey Affleck down from wardrobe suicide, although it was the actor’s straight blond wig, not clothing, that had him despondent. ”Every day we had to have everyone come in and cajole him into wearing it,” says Gomez. Months later, the memory still burns Affleck, just like the wig did. ”It was like 150 degrees, so every day under that wig it was just sweating and stinking and festering scalp,” says Affleck. ”I would take it off and go home, and people would be saying, ‘What the f— is that smell?”’