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Jenny Beavan

Jenny Beavan

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Also Known As: Jenny Beaven Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: England, GB Profession: Costume-Wardrobe ... costume designer actor
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BIOGRAPHY

Designer Jenny Beavan earned a reputation for detailed and historically accurate work with a host of Oscar nominations, many for her frequent collaborations on Merchant Ivory costume dramas. In this capacity, Beavan had as important a role as the actors, given the task of creating styles that were at once pleasing to the eye and appropriate for and evocative of the characters she was outfitting. After impressive work designing for theater and the opera, with credits including 1973's "Carmen" starring Placido Domingo, Beavan made her debut creating clothing for Peggy Ashcroft for a 1979 Merchant Ivory TV-movie "The Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie's Pictures" and segued to the big screen assisting costumer Judy Moorcroft on the filmmakers' "The Europeans". In 1984 Beavan began her partnership with costume designer James Bright, an alliance that would lead to six Oscar nominations including one for their debut, the Merchant Ivory filming of Henry James' suffragist drama "The Bostonians". Two years later the designers would win an Academy Award for their follow-up, another Merchant Ivory film based on a literary work, E.M. Forster's "A Room With a View". Here Beavan added to the beautiful Florence-set production with genuine Victorian costumes, more constricting to illustrate uptight Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith) and a looser silhouette for freer spirit George Emerson (Julian Sands).

In 1987, the Merchant Ivory production team (including Beavan and Bright) took on Forster again, this time tackling the homosexual love story central to his supposed semi-autobiographical novel "Maurice". Here costumes pointed to the stark differences in class between Maurice's first love, upper class politician Clive (Hugh Grant), and the man who brought him happiness, common gamekeeper Scudder (Rupert Graves). The following year, Beavan joined Bright in costuming "Maurice" star James Wilby in Piers Haggard's "A Summer Story", marking the designers' first film work apart from Merchant and Ivory. Also that year, Beavan and Bright worked on the grand India-set adventure "The Deceivers", directed by Nicholas Meyer and produced by Ismail Merchant. Beavan and Bright brought realistic costuming to Bob Rafelson's swashbuckler "Mountains of the Moon" in 1990, and the following year continued their spate of adventure films with work as costume designers for the feature "White Fang". Beavan struck out on her own again in 1991, and the extensive research she did for "Impromptu" brought that film to a higher level. Beavan's use of authentic 19th-century fabric and patterns, her development of an appropriately masculine wardrobe for unconventional novelist George Sand (Judy Davis) and her perfect recreation of Chopin's clothing due to her discovery of actual notes from his tailor contributed to a historically sound production.

More work in the quiet, character-driven historical dramas that made her name came with Syd Macartney's moody, atmospheric Victorian-era drama "The Bridge" in 1992. That same year, she reteamed with Bright and Merchant Ivory on the roundly acclaimed pre-World War I drama "Howards End". 1993 saw her outfitting Nazi Germany teenage Anglophiles in appropriately slapdash ensembles for "Swing Kids" before reteaming with Bright and Merchant Ivory, creating along with production designer Luciana Arrighi a suffocating propriety that exists alongside the freedom of the rolling countryside in "The Remains of the Day". She next designed the costumes for Caroline Thompson's 1994 take on perennial children's favorite "Black Beauty". In 1995 she worked again with Bright, designing costumes for Merchant Ivory's "Jefferson in Paris", a tale of the noted American patriot and President's romance with slave Sally Hemmings and time abroad in a liberty-striving France. Their costumes were illustrative of the cultural differences between the somewhat uptight colonial-era Americans and the more decadent French.

That same year Beavan costumed Ang Lee's "Sense and Sensibility", creating some of the more memorable and historically accurate pieces for a less wealthy family than is generally portrayed in such films and earning yet another Academy Award nomination. Teamed with director Franco Zeffirelli, she dressed "Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre" (1996) in suitably severe and plain clothes, coordinating well with the film's somber gray atmosphere. Her period work on Philip Saville's 1970s set "Metroland" (1997; released in the USA in 1999) was note perfect and appropriately unglamorous, proving that her skill encompassed often unattractive realism as well as romantic yesteryear costuming. 1998's "Ever After" was a particularly challenging project for Beavan, who had to create numerous and different lushly detailed ensembles for the main characters played by Drew Barrymore, Anjelica Huston and Dougray Scott. Her Renaissance-era clothes were inspired by painters including the ever-present da Vinci, and her work was an especially instrumental aspect of the film, evincing both period realism and fairy-tale magic. That same year she reteamed with Zeffirelli on "Tea With Mussolini", creating costumes for this 1930s-set ensemble piece featuring Maggie Smith, Joan Plowright, Lily Tomlin and Cher. Beavan's fashion creations helped to amplify and distinguish the variety of personalities and social status in this collection of women. Eternally proper Smith was attired in suitably starched gear, while Tomlin's sexually ambiguous character wore less fussy man-tailored styles, and Cher's American heiress was the perfect picture of showy new wealth.

In 1999, Beavan reteamed with director Andy Tennant and took on a project of epic proportions as designer for "Anna and the King". Working closely with production designer Arrighi, Beavan created a wardrobe for the cast of the Thailand-set film that mined the nation's rich textile roots and used traditional fabrics purchased in the Thai city of Chaing Mai although actual filming took place in Malaysia. The grand scale of the production gave the designer the task of not only costuming Jodie Foster's Anna in appropriately unadorned, practical frocks and Chow Yun Fat's King in elaborate royal garb, but was responsible for costuming thousands of extras. The result was a visually remarkable production that earned Beavan her seventh Oscar nomination.

Beavan's work on 2001's "Gosford Park" earned the costumer her eighth Academy Award nomination. Robert Altman's clever look at the strict social structure of British society on the eve of the class structure breakdown, "Gosford Park" featured all of the remarkable attention to detail the director is known for, notably represented in the costuming. Beavan not only aided the production by illustrating both the look of its 1932 setting and the delineation between the classes with painstaking accuracy, her work helped Altman achieve a multi-layered mode of storytelling, where the detail in her designs offered subtle but crucial contextual clues. That same year, she garnered acclaim for her stage costumes for the Lindsay Duncan-Alan Rickman teaming in Noel Coward's "Private Lives", a production that transferred to Broadway in 2002.

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