May 16, 2024

Jack O’Connell, Back To Black, Hollywood Authentic, Greg Williams

Photographs and interview by GREG WILLIAMS
As told to Jane Crowther

Jack O’Connell doesn’t like to hurry his eggs. ‘Low and slow,’ he insists, talking me through his breakfast wrap one drizzly March Friday morning in north east London when I meet him at his home. He takes half an hour to scramble his eggs as he crisps his accompanying black pudding, sausage and streaky bacon for our brunch. ‘I’ve always wanted to do a cookery show,’ he chuckles as he diligently stirs. ‘Don’t rush them…’

The actor’s domestic vibe is similarly exacting – ‘a tidy house, a tidy mind,’ he says of his spick ‘n’ span home – and is also reflected in the way he approaches his work. Though he has form playing troublemakers, rule-breakers and trailblazers in projects such as This Is England, Skins, Starred Up, Unbroken, The North Water, SAS Rogue Heroes and Ferrari, Jack doesn’t adhere to the idea of playing a hellraiser on and off screen. ‘It’s a funny one, isn’t it?’ he says, scarfing down his breakfast wrap. ‘If I’ve got a good head on my shoulders, and I’ve slept, and I’m rested, and I’m on set, it’s the best place to be. You know what I mean?’

As Bob the dog (more of whom later) weaves round our legs, Jack shows me round his house, pointing out the art he’s bought on his travels, including a Shane McGowan (‘I picked this up in Bantry, in Cork – it’s painted with peat from the bogs’), and the plants he’s currently cultivating. ‘This fella needs to cheer up,’ he says of one of the plants he’s just repotted, its leaves scattered around the floor next to it, ‘and this fella is thriving…’ His art is mainly of musicians, which is apt considering he’s next playing the husband of Amy Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s new biopic, Back to Black. ‘The last five or six years, I’ve started to really, really appreciate cinema. Not just actors, but the whole craft. I’ve always loved music but I never had the attention span for films as a kid. I’d get fucking bored – unless it was Braveheart with loads of scrapping, and all that action kicking off.’

While he might not have fully appreciated film and acting as a teen growing up in Derby, it intrigued him enough to attend a drama workshop twice a week in Nottingham with Ian Smith, the acting teacher who discovered Samantha Morton. It was while he was there that Shane Meadows came to cast for This Is England in 2004. He gave Jack his first role on a project that became an awards-winner and hugely influential to British cinema. ‘I was about 14 and suddenly I’ve got a BAFTA-winning film to my name,’ he marvels. Quite the trip for a kid from an industrial town in the north of England where working at the Rolls Royce or Bombardier plant was the usual ambition. 

Jack O’Connell, Back To Black, Hollywood Authentic, Greg Williams

‘I just grew up there, playing football and doing all the normal stuff. My mum and dad worked every hour of the day. My mum had two jobs and still had bailiffs coming around. I remember the bailiffs coming and nabbing our TV. I was halfway through watching Pingu, and they fucking nabbed the TV. I remember my mum having to be really crafty with how she’d get food on the table and whatnot. And that was despite my dad working his arse off. He worked himself into the ground.’ The death of his dad at the age of 18  is something that still informs the 33-year-old today. ‘In terms of my relationship with him, I never got to speak to him as an adult, which is the biggest bereavement I still feel. With that kind of loss, you never get over it. You just cope. I had 18 years with a fine, fine man. I know lads that never even had a day with theirs. So it is what it is. But he got to see the start of where I was getting to with work.’

Shane Meadows has continued to be influential in Jack’s career as he recently turned his hand to directing a music video for Paul Weller. ‘I loved the shooting experience, then I got into the edit and was petrified, because suddenly I’ve got all this material, and I don’t know where it’s going, and I don’t know if it’s going to work. So I reached out to Shane; I hadn’t spoken to him in years. I told him what the score was, and he was like, “Oh, Jack, whenever I finish my gig, I feel like I’ve just won the award. And then I get into the edit, and I want to do myself in.” When you’re an actor, if it’s shit, you just blame the director. This time round, I had no one to blame, so it was on me.’

Jack’s latest acting work cast him opposite Marisa Abela as the two of them inhabit Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil in Back to Black. Filming on location in the couple’s real-life stomping ground of Camden, Jack was reunited with Bob – a dog he’d befriended previously while acting in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof in the West End in 2018. As we head out to walk the dog, he tells me of their sliding doors moment. ‘I was shooting at the Dublin Castle pub in all my Blake garb. And who should walk past? It’d been about a year-and-a-half or two years. Bless him, he remembered.’ Now Jack borrows Bob for walks and hangouts from his owner, Lisa, when he has downtime between film shoots. Back to Black was a special project, he says, as we stroll the rain-slicked local streets to his favourite coffee shop. ‘I loved it, mate. Marisa was spellbinding. She threw everything at it. She was in every scene, it was heavy for her. I just really respected the work rate and the process.’ In preparation for the role, Jack met up with Blake, an experience he describes as something of a revelation. ‘His persona’s very public. He’s got plenty written about him in the tabloids. You think you’ve got the measure of someone based on what’s out there. I think he’s been vilified. And compared to the fella I met – I just got on with him. I was quite surprised. 

Jack O’Connell, Back To Black, Hollywood Authentic, Greg Williams

Your best tools are your ears, and what you hear, and what you play off. You do a scene three or four times, and there’s gonna be a different nuance

It just felt like I had a lot in common with him. Any time he talked about Amy, it just rang true – and you can forgive being beguiled at that age. The kind of limelight that both of them ended up in… That meeting informed me a lot.’

As we arrive at Jack’s local coffee house I ask how he chooses his roles. ‘There’s jobs that you get, and there’s jobs that you chase, you know? It’s a bit of the law of attraction. There’s such a thing as just eating a bit of humble pie, and putting your hat in the ring. Even if you get fucking ignored, blanked and rejected, you know, not everything is just going to come your way. So I’m reaching out a lot more. I’m interested in being versatile.’ Before we can discuss further we’re welcomed warmly by Rodrigo, a barista from Naples, and we get chatting about football, Maradona and Paolo Sorrentino as Jack gets his coffee on the house. The two of them sing Napoli football songs together in Italian.

We move on to the local butchers, cups warming our hands, in search of a treat for Bob. As a proud northern working-class man, Jack recognises a certain pre-judgement operates in getting roles. ‘Do you think if I had a posh accent I would have a bigger career?’ he asks. ‘What I’m trying to understand – it’s bigger than myself, and my career – is that, do you get to have really good, aspirational jobs if you didn’t go to private school?’ Does he have a point? Though he’s played a wide range of roles, eras and accents with a diverse roster of helmers (including Michael Mann on Ferrari, Angelina Jolie on Unbroken, Jodie Foster on Money Monster), it’s interesting that there have been more American directors who have seen beyond his background. There are still ‘invisible lines and glass ceilings in play’ says the actor.

Jack O’Connell, Back To Black, Hollywood Authentic, Greg Williams

Jack has worked across TV, film and theatre – so which is his favourite space to get hooked on? ‘To use a cliché, film’s a director’s medium and TV is a producer’s. On TV you’re allowed more time to tell a story in a series, but you’re shooting fucking seven to eight pages in a day. Whereas, with film, obviously there’s always restraints as it relates to budget and what have you, but you can be a bit more focused. Your best tools are your ears, and what you hear, and what you play off. You do a scene three or four times, and there’s gonna be a different nuance to react to.’

His love of cinema is both as a practitioner and a punter, and as we stroll past his local picturehouse I ask him what role in any film he would have liked to have got stuck into. ‘The first one that’s coming to my head is American Psycho and Patrick Bateman. But I just think that what Christian Bale did with that is untouchable. And Jud in Kes. Sid in Sid and Nancy. That’d be the top three there.’ We nip into the retro cinema Jack describes as a ‘little viewing glass into yesteryear’ where he tells me over a Coke that he never watches his own work on a big screen alongside an audience. ‘I just watch at home, in the comfort of your own living room. So if you need to self-flagellate, you can just do it, in privacy! But there’s got to be a childlike curiosity to what you do. You know, when a toddler is playing, they’re not scared of how they’re looking, or if they’re getting it wrong. There’s a freedom to it. We lose it – the innocence, the fucking vigour, the fearlessness. To a toddler, fear doesn’t exist – the fear of getting it wrong; the fear of looking silly. But I think that’s got to be part of the process, isn’t it? You’ve got to be given room to fail. What’s borne out of that is what’s worth mining for. It’s the oxymoron of trying to be but not act. That’s always the goal. The best example I’ve got, which is lived in, is working with Shane Meadows. The cameras didn’t come out until the afternoon. He just spent the morning figuring it out. He didn’t know the story until he got into the edit. So we didn’t know. We were just there.’ 

Photographs, interview and video by GREG WILLIAMS
Jack O’Connell can be seen in Back to Black, out now 


Debut writer-director Agathe Riedinger’s sharply observed and slyly feminist drama is a Cinderella story for the influencer generation – a tale of good girls and dreams dressed up in boob jobs, stripper heels and TikTok dances. It focuses on 19 year-old Liane (Malou Khebizi, luminous) from Frejus who is manifesting being ‘the French Kim Kardashian’ via an audition for a scripted reality show that could boost her from her hard-scrabble existence living with a callous mother and bankrolling her club trips and cosmetic surgery with shoplifting. A self-assured hot mess who can handle the lascivious advances of passing men and sprint miles in her vertiginous diamante heels, Liane is aware that her self image and reality do not marry up. Having treated herself to breast enlargements, her carefully curated look of hair-extensions, heavy brows, glossy lips and provocative clothing put her on the short list for joining a dating reality show as well as being slut-shamed on public transport. But though she seems as hard as a diamond, this vulnerable teen has been in foster care, regularly prays, is a virgin and has high self-worth. 

It’s this dichotomy that fascinates Riedinger as her lens lingers on Liane’s body, her unwavering takes on the emotions fluttering across her lead’s face as Liane attends a clinical audition (and is made to strip to her underwear while being asked questions about standing up for herself), flirts with a local boy (who inevitably and disappointingly asks to see her breasts) and, in a seeming act of dangerous self-sabotage, crashes a wealthy party and offers to dance for a group of older men who literally stroke their thighs while watching her. As viewers we constantly worry for her as we watch her negotiate a world that is cruel and patriarchal, constantly waiting for the other (high heeled) shoe to drop. 

That Riedinger keeps us guessing as to whether Liane will transform into an insta princess is one of the intrigues of the film, but so is Khebizi, a first-time screen actor who inhabits the role so thoroughly and messily it’s impossible to not want the best for her. It’s also an empowering experience that feels like a fresh take on the madonna/whore complex. As Liane says defiantly; “if girls want to wear mini skirts and twerk in clubs they don’t deserve your scorn.” This one certainly doesn’t.

An impressive debut from both director and star – Wild Diamond marks two fledgling careers worth watching


For years, George Miller’s post-apocalyptic saga has been all about Max Rockatansky. The Road Warrior – first played by Mel Gibson and, in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, by Tom Hardy – has been the iconic lone wolf at the heart of these films. But his latest chapter Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga flips it, brilliantly, switching focus to the breakout character from Fury Road

Played originally by Charlize Theron, Furiosa was every bit the equal to Max, as she led a posse of female escapees from The Citadel, the impregnable fortress ruled by the foul-looking Immortan Joe. Miller now backtracks fifteen years, giving us Furiosa’s origin story, in this thrilling blockbuster, packed to the rafters with insane action set-pieces perfectly tailored for the big screen.

Across five chapters, the film begins with Furiosa as a girl (Alyla Browne, who also featured in Miller’s Three Thousands Years of Longing). She falls into the hands of Dementus (Chris Hemsworth, ditching his Thor persona for some villainous fun), the leader of a gang of marauders who has designs on The Citadel and finding the “place of abundance” where Furiosa comes from.

When Dementus tortures and kills her mother in front of her, Furiosa’s fury rises, inspiring a quest for revenge that will stay with her for years, even after she is taken by Immortan Joe for his baby-producing harem. As she grows into a young woman (The Northman’s Anya Taylor-Joy), she learns how to cultivate her warrior skills, thanks in part to Tom Burke’s Praetorian Jack, a highly skilled driver for Immortan Joe who has completed more runs on Fury Road than anyone else. This all leads to the film’s staggering central sequence, an aerial attack on the armoured War Rig that includes predators on flying motorbikes. In one jaw-on-the-floor moment, a car even flips up onto the bonnet on the War Rig as it’s in full motion. If The Fall Guy, the recent movie with Ryan Gosling, suggests stunt men deserve an Oscar, the stunt team – led by Guy Norris – deserve every award going.

Likewise, the sheer craft on Furiosa – the costumes, the sets, the cinematography – astounds. And whether it’s a moody Burke or a menacing Hemsworth, the performances ace it. At its heart, Browne and Taylor-Joy shoulder the burden of bringing Furiosa to the screen with aplomb and, in their hands, she’s one of the great modern heroines of Hollywood action cinema.

George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga staring Anya Taylor-Joy, Chris Hemsworth and Alyla Browne is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival and will release in cinemas 24 May


Archly meta and reflexive, Quentin Dupieux’s cheeky comedy is precisely the sort of movie to open a film festival – with its fourth wall breaks, mid-scene appeals to film buffs and discussion on the purpose of art. Audiences for Cannes’ opening night film ate up a self-described indie that has plenty to say as its scatty characters seem to say nothing at all.

The Second Act of the title is a remote restaurant where a trembling, anxious waiter opens up and nervously flicks on the lights. On their way to his eaterie are two sets of characters – besties Willy (Raphaël Quenard) and David (Louis Garrel) who discuss the annoying girlfriend that David is trying to jettison as they stride down the road. That girlfriend, Florence (Lea Seydoux), is driving to meet them at the titular rendezvous with her Papa (Vincent Lindon), convinced David is ‘the one’. But before any sort of narrative can form, David and Willy discuss trans women and bisexuality and address the camera directly as they worry about their opinions having the potential to cancel them. Meanwhile, in the car, Florence’s father quits the film production we are watching and argues that acting and filmmaker are ridiculous artifice, pointless in a violent world of war and poverty. That waiter at the restaurant awaits their arrival, his anxiety rising for his big break as a featured background artist, and the ‘director’ is an AI app…

Like a cinematic onion, The Second Act continually sheds its artistic layers, keeping audiences on their toes in questioning what’s ‘real’ and the value of the seventh art. Even if you don’t like this, Dupieux seems to be saying, cinema is vital; ‘movies are cool!’ Seydoux argues at one point and a dolly track is lensed with love. The device of constantly upending expectation with cast/characters spatting about semantics and talking in circles is simultaneously self-indulgent and self-aware but makes some spiky points about the disenfranchisement of artists, the rise of algorithms and the value of acting (Seydoux’s actress calls her mother at one point to blub about her day while her heart surgeon mum saves lives). And despite some dextrous physical comedy from Manuel Guillot as the waiter with serious pouring issues, the film ends with a violent, bleak act that is open to interpretation.

Brisk at under 90 minutes, The Second Act is a slight concoction that plays like a successor to Woody Allen and asks viewers to take nothing too seriously. Unless it’s a call from Paul Thomas Anderson…

Quentin Dupieux’s The Second Act starring Lea Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Raphaël Quenard and Vincent Lindon  is screening at the 77th Cannes Film Festival. Release date TBC

May 13, 2024

austin butler, hollywood authentic, greg williams, masters of the air, dune: part two

Zoë Saldaña takes Greg Williams to the beach.

May 13, 2024

austin butler, hollywood authentic, greg williams, masters of the air, dune: part two

Jack O’Connell makes Greg Williams breakfast.

May 13, 2024

austin butler, hollywood authentic, greg williams, masters of the air, dune: part two

Adria Arjona shows Greg Williams her DIY skills.


When Pulp Fiction was released 30 years ago, it wasn’t long before the wardrobe worn by Uma Thurman’s gangster wife Mia Wallace influenced a generation of designers: 1995’s catwalks from Miu Miu to Alexander McQueen boasted a multitude of over-sized white shirts fit for a twist-dancing, milkshake-sipping bad girl. The movie even prompted sell-outs of Chanel’s iconic nail colour, Rouge Noir (Vamp in the US). Here, Arianne Phillips sits down with Betsy Heimann to explore the road to creating such an iconic moment on celluloid.

‘On the eve of Pulp Fiction’s 30th anniversary, I had the good fortune to discuss the film’s iconic and culture-shifting costume design with one of our most respected and revered costume designers, Betsy Heimann. Her stellar body of work underscores generational filmmaking at its finest, with her designs featured in Reservoir Dogs, Get Shorty, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky, Lady in the Water, Green Book and many other memorable films. Betsy’s costume design for Pulp Fiction  remains as relevant today as when the film premiered in 1994.

pulp fiction, john travolta, samuel l jackson, hollywood authentic

Betsy is an artist; a truly remarkable and talented costume designer whose brilliant work with Quentin Tarantino significantly contributed to the enduring success of his first two films. It also benefitted me 26 years later when I was invited to design Quentin’s Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood. I was so excited to speak to Betsy about the early days with Quentin, their process creating the visual language that we have come to know unmistakably as a “Tarantino film”, and designing and imagining the world of Pulp Fiction.’

AP: Watching Pulp Fiction again this week I thought about you so much, and what we have in common. I worked with Quentin on his last film, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, and I really have to hand it to you that you really are a part of the visual language that Quentin is so known for – whether it’s the Hawaiian shirt on Tim Roth in Pulp Fiction (a look that re-surfaces on Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood) or Quentin’s love of a leather jacket and a T-shirt, or a black-and-white motif… this is the Tarantino language that you both created together. I’m curious to learn from you what your process was like with the young Quentin when you worked together on Reservoir Dogs. How did that happen?

BH: I met [producer] Lawrence Bender at a New Year’s Eve party and we just got chatting and he invited me to a screening of a small indie film that he had worked on, and then it evolved into him sending me scripts and asking what did I think it would cost to do the costumes for them. And I would help out with the budgets. And then, one day, he sent me this script for Reservoir Dogs. It was fascinating. I had a costume career before Reservoir Dogs – I worked my way up from seamstress – but I had never read anything like this. I said to myself, you know, they’re gonna get good actors for this because there are pages of dialogue. So when Lawrence called me up and asked, ‘So what do you think?’ I said, ‘Err, who’s doing the costumes for this movie?’ He said, ‘I don’t know yet.’ And I said, ‘I’ll do it. I wanna do it.’ He told me they didn’t have any money. And I told him I didn’t care. That’s how it happened. 

AP: And what was your impression of Quentin when you first met him?

BH: Oh, his enthusiasm was so contagious. And he was very organised. I remember being very impressed that he was so prepared. He was very grateful. And I just thought, I like this kid and I like being with him, and I love his enthusiasm. And then I went over to his apartment and we started watching movies together. Quentin was always visual. We’d go through the whole script visually. And our language was the language of film. I remember one conversation most vividly about Pulp Fiction. It was about Butch, about Bruce Willis’ costume. I said I think he should wear a leather jacket. He said, yes, I want a leather jacket like Nick Nolte’s in Who’ll Stop the Rain; so I sourced a similar old brown pigskin suede one, put it in the car, and Quentin and I drove out to Malibu where we had a meeting with Bruce. Demi [Moore] was there and Bruce brought all of these 1980s and 1990s leather jackets he liked – he must have had 10, but they were all oversized – and mine looked quite skimpy in comparison. But Quentin liked it, so Bruce tried it on. He put it on and said to me, ‘Well, are you gonna drag it behind a truck?’ And I said, ‘Oh, you mean age it? Yes, and with you in it.’

pulp fiction, john travolta, samuel l jackson, hollywood authentic

AP: I love it. Another of the things that I was really noticing when rewatching it was the day players and all the ancillary characters are wonderful characters whether it’s Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, Amanda Plummer, Eric Stoltz or Kathy Griffin. You did such a beautiful job of letting us know who these characters were in such a quick, short time period, the costumes really allowed us to just get there immediately. You infused so much storytelling into your costumes, it’s so impressive. 

BH: Well, thank you very much. Yes, it was a big cast. As with Reservoir Dogs. We had a very big warehouse that we prepped and shot in. When I would get the things together for the fitting, I would call Quentin and he’d come in and he’d peek his head in and he would say ‘great’. But we had discussed it all before. One of the things that he and I did is watch anime cartoons. And one of them was Speed Racer. And I remembered that when we were prepping Pulp Fiction

AP: And you put Eric Stoltz in that T-shirt, right? 

BH: Yes. I said to Quentin, I think Speed Racer is the way to go. For me, I always tell a story about the character to get inspiration. And he said that he had one in his closet and so he went and got the T-shirt. There was a lot of spontaneous back and forth.

wardrobe, pulp fiction, john travolta, eric stoltz, hollywood authentic
wardrobe, brad pitt, once upon a time in…hollywood, tarantino, hollywood authentic

AP: These graphic T-shirts are a part of Quentin’s language. In my experience with him, he had a lot of graphic T-shirt ideas for Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood

BH: He has the same respect for the graphic T-shirt that I do. It’s not just, let’s put this guy in a graphic T-shirt, it has to mean something. It’s the same on all the films I’ve worked on. On Jerry Maguire, for example, when he is writing his mission statement, I figured he went to Notre Dame College. And so I called the Student Union and asked where do you guys all hang out? And I found the Little Bar, and I got hold of a T-shirt from them, and that’s the one Maguire is wearing when he writes his mission statement – his college t-shirt, the one he wore when he was full of ideals and full of how he was going to change the world… So every T-shirt for me has meaning. 

AP: That’s so great because it gives us little Easter eggs of reality. For me, watching Pulp Fiction, and seeing the Santa Cruz Banana Slugs college T-shirt that Vincent [John Travolta] wears was, like, nobody knows about that T-shirt unless they’ve been there. But Quentin wanted to get across that Jimmy had some connection with Santa Cruz. And so you see how costume can give a character an instant backstory – it really adds another layer and a texture. It’s the same with other clues you used in Reservoir Dogs. Tell us how the black suits came about in that film?

BH: Well, for Reservoir Dogs, my budget was $10,000. So I said, ‘Guys, I can give you four suits with this budget for the film. And I need to keep one clean’. 

wardrobe, hollywood authentic, reservior dogs

AP: Four suits for all? 

BH: Right. But, you know, we were shooting multiple action scenes with them. So the fact of the matter is that only Harvey Keitel and, briefly, Quentin, wore actual suits. We couldn’t afford them. So I found this stash of 10 black Beatle jackets at American Rag – which is now very hip, but it was a thrift store at the time – and I thought these would work on the younger guys, like Tim Roth and Steve Buscemi. They were great jackets. And then I teamed them with Beatle boots and black jeans. And Quentin was, like, ‘What?’ And I said, ‘Trust me, nobody’s gonna know the difference. It’s gonna be fabulous’. 

AP: That was amazing foresight to know that it would work so well on screen and not show. 

BH: Well, that’s what we do. That’s what we know as costume designers. The other thing I will tell you is that not all of the jackets people were wearing were black. Some of them were navy, some of them were dark grey. I spent a little bit of time with our cinematographer, Andrzej Sekula, and I would say, ‘Okay, look at this grey suit jacket and look at this black suit jacket. How are you lighting this picture? Are they gonna photograph the same?’ And he would say, yes, and I would trust him. 

AP: I think that was ingenious. And it actually gave it a modernity that a regular suit might not have. And a black jean was probably great for all those action scenes because they could put pads under them and you wouldn’t see anything. And back to Pulp Fiction, and they’re also wearing black suits, what was your budget like then?

BH: $36,000. I remember sitting with Quentin at Barney’s Beanery, and I said to him, ‘I really think that Vincent and Jules are Reservoir Dogs.’ And he thought about it. He goes, ‘You know, I like that. I like that’. This time I could do actual suits because now these guys have a little more money. I could do a linen suit with Vincent so that he always looked kind of a mess; and with Jules [Samuel L Jackson] I wanted a very slim-fitting narrow lapel, which was not that popular back then. So I went downtown and I found this Perry Ellis suit that I could get at a discount. And the collars of the shirts were very important to me, too. With Reservoir Dogs, each one of those guys had a different shirt with a different collar and a different width of tie in proportion to the width of their chest. This is all very technical, but it gives them a difference. So in Pulp Fiction, I did that again. 

wardrobe, pulp fiction, bruce willis, hollywood authentic

AP: And so Jules had a very narrow collared shirt because he’s the preacher?

BH: Right. And then there’s a bit of a cowboy theme in Pulp Fiction, too. Amanda Plummer has the cowboy boot dialogue, and Jules calls Tim Roth ‘Ringo’ – Gregory Peck played Jimmy Ringo in The Gunfighter. They’re all gunfighters. And so for me there was this kind of a Western influence in the costume. And we all used to shop at King’s Western Wear in the Valley and that’s where I got the idea for the bolo tie. I thought, well, here’s Vincent thinking he’s cool. He’s got his bolo tie on. And Mia [Wallace, played by Uma Thurman] says to him, ‘How are you doing, cowboy?’ And he refers back to her as a cowgirl. So these are all messages to me. So I came up with that idea and Quentin liked it. 

AP: A lot of those choices influenced the way people dress then and now. Let’s talk a little bit about Mia. I really was taken by her proportions and how you used them. How did it come to be that her trousers were short, like pedal pushers?  The proportions of her outfit work so beautifully, especially in the twist-dancing scene… the way that you tailored that shirt, and it had the French cuff with the cufflink, and the black-and-white motif. I really love the beautiful symmetry of design in that scene. They’re dancing and they look like cake toppers. That scene is burned in our minds forever. It really kicked off a trend. 

BH: Well I thought that Mia was really a Reservoir Dog, but she couldn’t express that because she was married to the boss and she had to be chic and glamorous; the eye candy. But on her date with Vincent she wanted to show him that she was one of the guys. And so I said, I wanted her to wear the black and white. But Uma is very tall, and we didn’t have any money, and all the pants weren’t long enough for her, and so I said, ‘What the heck, let’s just cut ‘em off’. I called Chanel and I said the magic words, Uma Thurman – they are magic words, things fall from the heavens – and I told them I needed these gold ballet slippers I had seen in a magazine and they lent us them. And then the shirt had to give her some shape and I wanted it to be oversized because I wanted it to say ‘I’ve got money but I’m also one of you; I’m a bad girl’. And then we added the bandana underneath. So it was another cowboy reference. 

AP: And then Mia’s bob. It all works in tandem: the short pants and the oversized shirt, and then that black bob, it’s just so successful. 

BH: The bob is all Quentin. It’s based on the old film star Louise Brooks and that’s what he wanted. And so knowing that, you start with that, instead of hoping that it’ll work with what you’re doing, you start with that. That’s the reality. And the reality is the inspiration. 

wardrobe, uma thurman, quentin tarantino, on set, pulp fiction, hollywood authentic

AP: Something else I love, which you do beautifully, is using a costume piece more than once to tell the story; when it starts on one character, then another character wears it. So, for example, we have Vincent wearing his black suit and that wonderful trench coat. And then we have Mia coming back from dinner with him and she has the trench coat on. That’s just beautiful. It says so much. It still looks so great today. 

BH: I love that you noticed the raincoat, because that was something I was really, really adamant about. And Quentin liked the idea. I knew that I wanted her dancing around in that big coat and then she could find the drugs in the pocket. I wanted to make it more of a natural thing and so I had to get that coat on him in order to later get it on her. And so I searched everywhere for one of those old gabardine raincoats from the 1950s and found it at Palace Costume.

AP: It worked so well. And I love the colour… it would be easy for it to be a black raincoat but then we would really not see the detail. Also when she puts it on, it’s clearly not her coat. And what’s amazing, again, is the way these characters dressed in Pulp Fiction still inspires the way people dress today. It’s the marriage of your trueness to the characters, but also the fact that you and Quentin really tapped into a fantasy of larger-than-life characters that a part of us would like to be. And elements of the way they looked are attainable: you both turned regular items into iconic ones by the way you used them on the characters.

BH: Yes, I suppose it is the connection that the public makes with the characters. There’s a poignancy to Mia Wallace. I mean, she has to wear the trench coat as she has to find the drugs in the pocket. So therefore she could just ruffle through his coat that’s left on the couch, or she can have it on and reach in the pocket. And these are motions and actions that the audience can relate to. 

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AP: That’s because these are the choices you made in respect to how you saw these characters. The reason for its influence on fashion is that this film is such a great reflection of what was happening in our culture, and it just resonated with people. These characters are unattainable, but people can create their own versions and make it accessible because the design is so uncluttered, it’s so specific. 

This film also is indelibly a part of ‘the film language’ with other costume designers and directors. I’m sure you’ve seen that your work is often referenced or recreated. In the 1990s I was doing a lot of music videos, and I know that this was cited as the pinnacle of cool for so many directors; we’ve seen iterations of it in music videos and fashion magazines. Just this last Halloween, I was in New York and I was invited to a party where everyone was supposed to come dressed as a character from Pulp Fiction. There were 500 people dressed as these characters you helped create…

BH: Who knew that 30 years later we would all still want to dress like the baddies in Pulp Fiction [laughs]. But I’m only as good as my director. I’m inspired by my director. I get all my ideas from the energy that’s coming out of my director. And Quentin was on fire. He was on fire with these two movies, and they were original, and they were different from anything I ever read.

All images © 2000 Block 2 Pictures Inc. © 2019 Jet Tone Contents Inc.
Reservoir Dogs / Pulp Fiction / Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood

Our fifth issue of Hollywood Authentic marks a full-circle moment and point of change. We first created a simple rag of a magazine – 32 pages, no staples – and took it to Cannes two years ago. This year, we’re bringing our bigger, more beautiful evolution of the magazine back to the festival, now with an expanded team and content.

This issue, we welcome our new contributors shining a unique light on cinema – both the making of it and the enjoyment of it. Gary Oldman and his wife Gisele Schmidt join us to talk through their shared passion for film photography and the shot that sparked their romance. Abbie Cornish parlays her foodie passion into reviewing must-visit restaurants. Legendary costume designer Arianne Phillips provides insight into iconic on-screen wardrobes – having worked with Tarantino on Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood, she interviews Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction costumier, Betsy Heimann. And Esquire’s UK editor-in-chief Alex Bilmes sings the praises of his favourite movie, In The Mood For Love. We’ve also expanded our editorial team and I’m proud to welcome film journalist Jane Crowther as editor-in-chief. Plus architectural photographer (and my college classmate) Mark Read brings his cinematic use of light to the bricks-and-mortar gem of a golden-era picture palace, the United Theater, in downtown LA. 

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Greg Williams and Zoë Saldaña

With more pages we’ve been able to tell more stories of the craft, dreams and drive that inspire practitioners in the movie industry. Zoë Saldaña, who graces our cover, invited me to the beach to talk mortality, process and feeling like a diamond. Her ballerina training was evident as she danced across the sand. Also in California, Adria Arjona took me on a DIY journey round LA that provided insight into her acting process. I also hung out with Jack O’Connell in his local London neighbourhood, discussed inspiration with Julia Roberts in her trailer, followed the making of Mothers’ Instinct on set with Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain in New Jersey, and talked ‘A Little Nonsense’ with Stephen Merchant. 

I would like to say a big thanks to our advertisers for their support in making Hollywood Authentic a reality – I even shot the L’Oréal one you will see in the print edition ;). It’s all quite the glow-up from a garage enterprise to the fully fledged periodical you’re holding in your hands. We made this magazine for those obsessed with cinema and aim to provide an insider’s perspective of the dream factory.

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Greg Williams, Founder, Hollywood Authentic

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Photograph by GREG WILLIAMS

How important is a little bit of nonsense now and then to you?
It’s the most important thing. I once had a school report card that criticised me for ‘always finding the joke in everything’. I’ve tried my damnedest to do that ever since.

What, if anything, makes you believe in magic?
Derren Brown, the mentalist and illusionist. I know everything he does is misdirection and stagecraft but his mind reading is mind-blowing – and he’s performed tricks on me that defy explanation. I’m angry that I’ll go to my grave not knowing how they’re done.

What was your last act of true cowardice?
I told a restaurant chef his food was ‘absolutely friggin’ incredible’ when it was really bland. 

What single thing do you miss most when you’re away from home?
The basement room I turned into a movie theatre. 

Do you have any odd habits or rituals?
In my movie theatre, no one is allowed to talk. Or eat. And they have to drink from sippy cups. Not a joke.

What is your party trick?
I eat anything. Nowadays everyone has a lactose intolerance or wheat allergy, but you can serve me whatever and I’ll clear my plate.

What is your mantra?
‘Everyone’s guessing.’ No one has life figured out, despite what they may tell you. Everybody is just stumbling along, trying to make their way. Once I realised that, a great burden was lifted from
my shoulders.

What is your favourite smell?
Napalm in the morning.

What do you always carry with you?
The ability to laugh at myself. I don’t trust people who refuse to be the butt of the joke. 

What is your guilty pleasure?
I kind of enjoyed the lockdown. 

Who is the silliest person you know?
My partner, Mircea. She can make me laugh so hard with a silly dance.

What would be your least favourite way to die?
Without featuring in the Oscars’ ‘In Memoriam’ section.

Stephen Merchant transitioned from stand-up to the screen when he collaborated with Ricky Gervais on writing The Office. It became zeitgeist TV, spawning two series, a Christmas special and the US version. Merchant co-starred in his and Gervais’ follow-up show, Extras. While juggling award-winning stand-up, radio shows, podcasts, producing, directing and screenwriting, Merchant has also acted in numerous films including Hall Pass, Logan and JoJo Rabbit. He is the co-creator, executive producer and writer of The Outlaws, which he also stars in. The third season will be released this summer on BBC and Amazon Prime.

Photograph by GREG WILLIAMS

*Arguably one of the most memorable (and quotable) scenes in 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is when Mr Salt mumbles, ‘It’s a lot of nonsense,’ to which Wonka replies, in a sing-song voice, ‘A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.’