By Lindzi Scharf
Updated October 25, 2013 at 10:44 PM EDT
Credit: Kerry Brown
  • Movie

For his new drug trafficking thriller The Counselor, director Ridley Scott created a world as visually appealing as it is complex, with characters who use their clothes to both enhance and disguise their appearance. Scott turned to longtime collaborator Janty Yates (Gladiator, Prometheus) to design the wardrobe for the film’s larger-than-life characters — including a cunning con woman, an international playboy, an urban cowboy, and a sharply dressed lawyer.

“It’s a huge collaboration between myself, the actors, and [Ridley Scott],” said Yates, who called EW from the set of Scott’s next project, Exodus, which is currently filming in Europe. “Ridley was incredibly involved. He always starts me off with a brief [rundown of his vision], then I run with it, but it all starts with Ridley. He’s so visual. Ridley was a painter for years, went to the best art college in London, and was a production designer. I’m in awe of [him].” To keep the costumes “exciting, cutting edge, and character accurate,” took three and a half months of prep time and a minimum of three fittings per actor. And although working with the A-list cast was a “fantastic” experience, Yates admitted she was more starstruck by the film’s writer, Cormac McCarthy. “Meeting him was amazing and emotional. He has been my hero for 20 years. I have every book of his,” she said of the No Country for Old Men novelist. “Every production is a huge challenge, but it was a wonderful and exciting project to conceive a Cormac McCarthy script.”

Labels like Versace and Armani worked for some, but the Counselor wardrobe department turned to designer Paula Thomas of lifestyle brand Thomas Wylde to find extravagant pieces for Malkina (Cameron Diaz), a sociopathic ex-stripper. “Working with Ridley was a once in a lifetime experience I’m thankful to have had. It’ll definitely be one of the highlights in Thomas Wylde’s history,” said the designer, who has been friends with Scott for more than 20 years. “[It wasn’t until] I read the script that I realized why he called upon me. [Cameron’s] character has a lot of elements of a Thomas Wylde woman…. [She’s] bold, edgy, modern. She’s about wanting to be seen, as opposed to blending into the background.”

Though The Counselor hits theaters today, Yates is already fully consumed with Exodus — starring Joel Edgerton, Christian Bale, and Aaron Paul — slated for release next December. “I’m standing here looking at the Spanish Sahara as the sun sets as we speak . I’m covered in wind and dust and sand,” joked the designer, who says the costumes in the upcoming historical drama are even more over-the-top than the ones audiences will see in The Counselor. “There’s a lot of gold costumes and gold jewelry. It is immensely out there. Glamour a go-go [and] elegantly biblical!”

Click through the photo gallery for more details on the costumes of The Counselor.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Brad Pitt as Westray

“We made everything for Brad–every suit was tailored,” said Yates of Pitt’s Hank Williams inspired look. “[Ridley] wanted him to be a tailored cowboy. When we got together with Brad, the jury was still out as to whether it would work, [but when he] put on that [first] suit, we just knew that was his character.” While Pitt’s clothing was custom-made, Yates sourced his accessories from various Los Angeles based boutiques–including those vintage 80’s glasses seen on the film’s posters. And all that bling? “Every single jeweler participated with an open heart and an open archive,” though most of his rings and bracelets came from Konstantinos.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Penelope Cruz as Laura & Michael Fassbender as Counselor

Both Fassbender and Cruz’s characters largely wore crisp, modern looks from Armani. “Michael is a lawyer who is ambitious,” said Yates. “He’s sharp, he’s brilliant, he’s cutting edge, he’s quite greedy. In his ambition, he becomes a little blinded. We needed to get that image straight off, so we put him in an Armani suit that was very sharp. The lines fit him [beautifully].” As for Cruz who plays “the innocent in the film,” Yates wanted a professional, tailored look. “We had access to every Armani store from London to LA to Milan to Madrid. We were able to comb every single piece that we needed. Anything they didn’t have, they made for me.” Fassbender’s sand colored cotton suit and Cruz’s red dress (as seen in the above photos) were specially created by the Italian luxury label.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Javier Bardem as Reiner

“He’s an archetypal playboy,” Yates explained of Bardem’s colorful wardrobe which largely consisted of pieces from Versace. “Ridley wanted him to be a real party-thrower, party-goer, one of those playboys that you’ll see in South America, in the Mediterranean. Versace does playboys really well.” As for that wild hair? “I can’t take any credit for the hair. I’m pretty sure the hair was Javier’s own idea.”

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Cameron Diaz as Malkina

“Malkina is not your typical, average young lady,” said Thomas, pointing to this sleek black one shoulder Thomas Wylde dress as a favorite of the ten featured in the film. “She’s got this very detailed, very specific look and way about her. She’s a very unusual character for Cameron to play. She’s cold, she’s calculated. She has a whole game plan that she executes very well, so her wardrobe gives you that sense. She uses her wardrobe as a facade to cover up her dark ways.”

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Collaborating with Cameron

“[Cameron and I] spent a day at my studio where I pulled [out] all my [Thomas Wylde] archives and we sat down and discussed each individual scene and each individual outfit,” said Thomas. “We built this woman–from the page to the screen. [Cameron] was diligent with Malkina. She knew exactly who she wanted her to be from the get-go. It made my job a lot easier.” Though the duo did have a pre-established rapport. “Cameron and I had known each other for a while [previously]. Before she [became] famous in the Jim Carrey movie [The Mask], she was at the same modeling agency as I was. We bumped into each other every now and again.”

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Malkina’s Mini

“It’s a very sexy piece–very short and mini. It was actually one of my best-selling dresses,” said Thomas of the Thomas Wylde leopard print look, adding that the dress was somewhat metaphorical in that it “gave you this sense of this animal trying to find its freedom. It’s bold and it works perfectly for the scene.” While Thomas remained mum on the scene’s details, she did say: “It’s so shocking and so crazy. You can’t help but think, ‘Wow, did she really do that?’ [That’s when] you realize how dangerous she is.”

The Counselor hits theaters nationwide today.

The Counselor

  • Movie
  • R
  • 111 minutes
  • Ridley Scott