'That coat has a life of its own,' costume designer Kim Tillman says

By C. Molly Smith
January 20, 2017 at 03:01 PM EST
Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios
type
  • Movie

It’s been 15 years since Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) was last on screen, but in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the character comes back with a bang — his looks contributing largely to that. With the movie out in theaters now, it’s time to enter the Xander zone…of costumes.

“I started wanting to depart entirely and I think that’s kind of a new kid mistake,” costume designer Kim Tillman tells EW. She took over for Sanja Milkovic Hays, who designed for the first two films — xXx and xXx: State of the Union — the second of which starred Ice Cube instead of Diesel. “Sometimes you come in and you’re like ‘I’m going to change it and I’m going to put my stamp on it.’ Well that lasted for about five minutes.”

“It’s in the title, Return of Xander Cage, so I really had to respect that and I thought this is a fun action movie and I don’t want to get too serious — and Vin would punch me in the arm if I was getting too serious — but I can’t help but analyze, who is this guy? What’s he been doing for 14 years? Now we get to pick him up, and so I really stayed true to that.”

She did so, in part, by maintaining Xander’s extreme sports meets rock ‘n’ roll style, pulling inspiration from the likes of surfer Kelly Slater, soccer star David Beckham, and singer-songwriter Lenny Kravitz. Then, of course, there are costume callbacks to the original film, the biggest and, perhaps, best example being the fur coat.

“That coat has a life of its own, and it’s interesting, I went from hating the coat to loving the coat,” Tillman says. The original Gucci piece was long gone, and the brand archives didn’t have any remaining either, so Tillman turned to a Toronto furrier to essentially remake the coat and match the fur as closely to the original as possible, but also to cut the coat to Diesel’s measurements. “He wanted to do a little wink and so we thought, well, arriving in London, it’s cold there. We can pretend he has a locker of his old stuff and he pulls out the fur coat and says [it’s] good to be back. Well, he was so happy wearing the fur coat that it then continued into the next scene.”

“I think for him it was sort of like finding the old friend, like ‘Oh yeah, this coat,’” Tillman adds. “The coat really is a character.”

Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

Tillman also kept things consistent by putting Diesel — also a producer on the film, which is directed by D.J. Caruso and has a flurry of new characters played by Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette, and more — in tanks and cutoff shirts. Those made it easier to move, but also showed that signature ink. She paired them with cool pants to balance out the silhouette.

“He is an extreme sports guy and his big events are snowboarding and skateboarding, so what is that vibe? Can we take a little bit of that vibe and translate that to his physique? In the first movie, Sanja put him in these motocross pants, so I had to say, what are going to be his motocross pants this time?” One answer: old, army canvas pants that fall somewhere in between looking tactical and fashionable, and included stretch panels that became a staple throughout production due to their sleek look and practicality.

Those throwbacks aren’t to say that there weren’t any changes. In fact, Tillman had conversations with Diesel about adjusting Xander to the times as part of her broader vision. “I would say a lot of the times, ‘I really want to update you. I want to make you modern. You’re a grown up man now and you’re clearly the leader of this gang and have learned a lot and become a little wiser.’ Maybe still wild — I mean those stunts are wild — but he had a layer of wisdom as Xander. He’s still got this amazing physique and he’s strong and physical so that’s always first, but also there’s a subtle cool — he calls it swagger — that we always try to maintain.”

Basically, as Xander’s handler Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) says, a line Tillman kept in mind, “Kick some ass, get the girl, and try to look dope while you’re doing it.” That, Xander definitely does.

Paramount Pictures and Revolution Studios

type
  • Movie
mpaa
  • PG-13
release date
  • 01/20/17
director
  • D.J. Caruso
Performers
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