Age 42 Previous Brushes With Oscar She earned costume design nods for Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet and for Cate Blanchett’s grandly royal ensembles in 1998’s Elizabeth. Why Her? Her fanciful conception of the original Peter Pan characters and the authentic outfits of early-20th-century England in Finding Neverland. Background ”I trained as an architect, as a means to becoming a theater designer,” says Byrne. ”Costumes sort of came secondary.” Inspiration ”Whenever I work on a period film, however conceptual a piece it is, I research the period completely so that I absolutely know it,” she says. ”There were photographs from the first production of Peter Pan and of the Llewelyn Davies family.” Design Philosophy Research goes only so far. ”Sometimes if you absolutely reproduce something, it doesn’t quite work in terms of people, the character, or the moment,” says Byrne, who also designed the 300-plus costumes for Oscar contender Phantom of the Opera (one of Minnie Driver’s gowns required 25 meters of fabric). The Competition Byrne is in a tight race with Oscar vet Sandy Powell (The Aviator), a five-time nominee and Academy Award winner (for 1998’s Shakespeare in Love).
Age 49 Previous Brushes With Oscar The cinematographer won gold for 1991’s JFK and earned nods for two other Oliver Stone films, Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, as well as Snow Falling on Cedars. Why Him? The flight sequences in The Aviator make you feel like you’re in Howard Hughes’ cockpit, while the lush set pieces transport you to Hollywood’s golden age. Inspiration ”I read as much material as I could get my hands on about Howard Hughes and watched documentary footage of the flights we were trying to replicate,” says Richardson. ”I studied Technicolor as well, to figure out the best way of replicating the methods that were used, and how to do it in a digital manner.” Design Philosophy While the heightened color schemes were intentional, Richardson hopes the overall effect was subtle. ”When you first see Fenwick, the home of Katharine Hepburn, if you think of how lush those greens are in the lawn, then we made a mistake.” Biggest Challenge ”To maintain an eye on the performances in these incredible spaces…rather than on the spectacle,” says Richardson, ”by making [the actors’] faces as much of a visual element as the environments they were in.”
MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Age 51 Path to the Nomination After hearing an NPR interview with cut man-turned-writer F.X. Toole in September 2000, the feature-film newbie plunked down $25,000 (with partner Albert S. Ruddy) for rights to Toole’s fiction collection Rope Burns. He then wrote a script without a studio attached. ”No one in their right mind was going to hire me to write it; I describe Baby in tone as Leaving Las Vegas — only depressing.”