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Milena Canonero

Milena Canonero

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Birth Place: Italy Profession: costume designer, production designer, producer, fashion designer

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A renowned Oscar-winning costume designer with an impressive resume of film work as well as opera credits, Italian-born Milena Canonero started off her movie career with a bang, working with Stanley Kubrick as costume designer for 1971's "A Clockwork Orange". Here she broke new ground, tossing aside the space-age costumes described in Anthony Burgess' source novel and opting for a more realistic look with cues from modern history, in keeping with Kubrick's adaptation. Canonero appropriated the style of British middle-class propriety to disturbing effect in outfitting these brutal futuristic street gangs, with Malcolm McDowell's Alex donning a bowler and a walking stick. Conversely, older characters, like Alex's mother, wore shiny futuristic fabrics and had unnaturally bright colored hair, making for an interesting and unsettling visual contrast. In 1975 the designer reteamed with Kubrick, sharing her first Academy Award (with Ulla-Britt Soderlund) for the painstaking recreations of 18th-century styles for the director's drama "Barry Lyndon". She costumed 1978's harrowing "Midnight Express" before working again with Kubrick as designer for "The Shining" (1980).In 1981, Canonero won her second Oscar as...

A renowned Oscar-winning costume designer with an impressive resume of film work as well as opera credits, Italian-born Milena Canonero started off her movie career with a bang, working with Stanley Kubrick as costume designer for 1971's "A Clockwork Orange". Here she broke new ground, tossing aside the space-age costumes described in Anthony Burgess' source novel and opting for a more realistic look with cues from modern history, in keeping with Kubrick's adaptation. Canonero appropriated the style of British middle-class propriety to disturbing effect in outfitting these brutal futuristic street gangs, with Malcolm McDowell's Alex donning a bowler and a walking stick. Conversely, older characters, like Alex's mother, wore shiny futuristic fabrics and had unnaturally bright colored hair, making for an interesting and unsettling visual contrast. In 1975 the designer reteamed with Kubrick, sharing her first Academy Award (with Ulla-Britt Soderlund) for the painstaking recreations of 18th-century styles for the director's drama "Barry Lyndon". She costumed 1978's harrowing "Midnight Express" before working again with Kubrick as designer for "The Shining" (1980).

In 1981, Canonero won her second Oscar as well as a BAFTA Award for her costume design of the roundly acclaimed "Chariots of Fire". Here she revisited the 1920s with perfect recreations of the time's leisure wear worn by the wealthy Europeans. The designed wardrobe, consisting of tennis whites, Oxford sweaters and tailored flannels, sparked a trend toward such traditional "preppie"-type clothing in the fashion world. Not since Hollywood's early years were men's collections so influenced by film costume. Canonero herself was even commissioned to create her own line based on the film's costumes, and won the fashion industry's prestigious Coty Award. She followed up this success with the similarly inspiring, Academy Award-nominated wardrobe from 1984's "Out of Africa", her costumes helping to launch a safari-chic trend, with lightweight khaki fabrics, relaxed shapes and even accessories like the Panama hat in vogue in the mid-1980s. In between these two influential projects, Canonero did impressive and eye-catching work in Tony Scott's modern vampire noir "The Hunger" (1983), the Paul McCartney musical vehicle "Give My Regards to Broad Street" (1983) and Francis Ford Coppola's "The Cotton Club" (1984).

Canonero's career began branching out in the 80s, taking on producing duties and television projects in addition to her prolific film work. In 1986 she marked her first feature credit as an associate producer on the Taviani brothers' look at early Hollywood "Good Morning Babylon". Other producer credits include "Mamba" (1988), for which she was costume consultant as well as associate producer, and a co-producer credit for "Naked Tango" (1990). From 1986 to 1987, Canonero designed costumes for NBC's "Miami Vice", a stylized detective series known more for its wardrobe than its drama. Joining the program in its third season, the designer helped to update the look, growing away from the trademark (and by then caricatured) pastel suits with no socks mold and moving toward a darker palette and more modern silhouette. Canonero began her association with director Barbet Schroeder as costume designer and visual consultant of 1987's gritty Charles Bukowski-penned drama "Barfly". The designer's visual cues helped to separate the literary world from the world of The Golden Horn in the film, and succeeded in her contribution to bringing Bukowski's words to evocative life onscreen. She reteamed with Schroeder as costume consultant on 1990's fact-based Von Bulow socialite attempted murder drama "Reversal of Fortune" (1990). Prior to that accomplishment, she worked again with Francis Ford Coppola on "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (1988), earning a fourth Oscar nomination for designing the 1940s-era costumes in this visually striking film. She costumed Ivan Passer's "Haunted Summer" in 1988 and contributed to the following years' "Lost Angels" in the capacity of costume design consultant. Interestingly, "Lost Angels" hearkened back to two of her most memorable works, "A Clockwork Orange" and "Chariots of Fire", the film featuring a privileged street gang that appropriates Latino gang culture while dressed in "Chariots of Fire"-like prep wear.

1990 saw Canonero taking on a spate of varied projects, working as costume designer of "Dick Tracy" (for which she picked up a fifth Academy Award nomination) and "The Godfather, Part III" as well as her design work on "Reversal of Fortune" and producer role for "Naked Tango". Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" was a particular challenge and departure for Canonero, who had to work with a very specific color scheme--only the seven primary colors used in Chester Gould's original comic strip. Canonero excelled with these guidelines and created an appropriately cartoon-inspired but historically accurate wardrobe that was a particularly notable aspect of the film. "The Godfather, Part III" required a more realistic and modern look, which the designer capably delivered. Louis Malle's tale of an affair turned to obsession "Damage" (1992) was the next film to carry her costume design credit.

Canonero made her debut in the production design capacity with Barbet Schroeder's thriller "Single White Female" (also 1992). Canonero was additionally responsible for the film's costumes and hair design, and created a look inspired by 20th-century French painter Balthus, conveying in both fashions and surroundings, the mixture of femininity and careerism that the New York City dwelling young women possessed. In 1994, the costumer designed for the romances "Only You" and "Love Affair", as well as taking a co-costume designer role in the production of Deepa Mehta's "Camilla" and working with Roman Polanski on "Death and the Maiden". Canonero reteamed with director-star Warren Beatty on "Bulworth" (1998), dressing the over-the-edge politician in both age and position appropriate suits and decidedly urban, logo-emblazoned street wear.

An accomplished designer for the opera as well as film, with credits including the Metropolitan Opera House's "Die Fledermaus" and "Arabella" as well as productions in Vienna, Austria and Italy, she teamed up with Polanski again, this time serving as costumer and production designer of the director's production of Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" (1999-2000) on the Italian stage. Work with another stage director would earn Canonero yet another Academy Award nomination, as costume designer of "Titus", the feature debut of Broadway helmer Julie Taymor. Both a realistic, hard-edged drama and a fantastical mythic tale, Taymor's adaptation of this sweeping, blood-soaked, almost horrifically pulp story offered Canonero quite a costuming opportunity. The wardrobe for the film encompassed vast time periods and styles (Middle Ages-era armor alongside fascist-inspired gear and modern black leather ensembles), creating an eclectic and elaborate look that bridged the gap between the 16th Century and the present, in keeping with Taymor's take on this atypical Shakespearean work.

Canonero's work next graced the screen in the 2001 period piece "Affair of the Necklace", which chronicled the duping of Marie Antoinette, an event that so rocked France's confidence Napoleon credited it among the triggers to the French Revolution. Charles Shyer's embellished retelling of the royal scandal masterminded by a commoner of noble stock (portrayed by Hilary Swank) was received coolly by critics and moviegoers alike, but Canonero's impressive costuming was honored with an Academy Award nomination. Overseeing every aspect of each character's look, from clothing to makeup, wigs and even the famed diamond necklace, the costumer brought some contemporary cuts and colors to the traditional Revolutionary styles to underline Shyer's theme of modern scandal in a period setting, but stayed true to the time with authentic 18th-century textiles.

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CAST: (feature film)

1.
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Milestones close milestones

:
Moved to England in the late 1960s
1971:
Made impressive debut as a costume designer with Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"
:
Designed costumes for operas in Austria, Italy and New York's Metropolitan Opera House
1975:
Reteamed with Kubrick, designing costumes for "Barry Lyndon"; shared a Best Costume Design Oscar
1978:
Was costume designer for Alan Parker's Turkish prison-set drama "Midnight Express"
1980:
Worked again with Kubrick, as costume designer for his adaptation of "The Shining"
1981:
Won second Academy Award for work on "Chariots of Fire"
1983:
Designed the costumes for Tony Scott's modern vampire film "The Hunger"
1983:
Was costume designer for the Paul McCartney musical vehicle "Give My Regards to Broad Street"
1984:
Designed clothing for Francis Ford Coppola's 1930s drama "The Cotton Club"
1985:
Designed the trend-making costumes for Sydney Pollack's "Out of Africa"; earned Oscar nomination
1986:
First film as associate producer, "Good Morning Babylon"
1986:
Designed costumes for the fashion-influential TV series "Miami Vice"
1987:
Was visual consultant and costume designer for Barbet Schroeder's "Barfly"
1988:
Was associate producer and costume consultant for Mario Orfini's "Mamba"
1988:
Reteamed with Coppola as costume designer for the director's "Tucker: The Man and His Dream"; earned Academy Award nomination
1988:
Was costume designer for Ivan Passer's "Haunted Summer"
1989:
Served as costume design consultant for Hugh Hudson's "Lost Angels"
1990:
Designed comic strip-inspired costumes for Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy"; received fifth Oscar nomination
1990:
Reteamed with director Barbet Schroeder as costume consultant for the fact-based drama "Reversal of Fortune"
1990:
Was co-producer of "Naked Tango", directed by Leonard Schrader
1990:
Designed costumes for Coppola's sequel "The Godfather, Part III"
1992:
Made production designer debut with Barbet Schroeder's "Single White Female"
1992:
Designed contemporary clothes for Louis Malle's "Damage"
1994:
Was costume designer of the romance features "Only You" and "Love Affair"
1994:
Took co-costume designer credit on Deepa Mehta's "Camilla"
1994:
Designed costumes for Roman Polanski's "Death and the Maiden"
1998:
Reteamed with director-star Warren Beatty as costume designer of "Bulworth"
1999:
Was nominated for a sixth Academy Award for her costuming of Julie Taymor's "Titus"
:
Was production and costume designer for Roman Polanski's Italian stage production of "Amadeus"
:
Hired to create clothing for the features "The Lost City" and "In the Boom Boom Room" (both in development as of 2001)
2001:
Honored by the Costume Designers Guild with the Career Acheivement Award in Film
2001:
Costumed the period drama "The Affair of the Necklace"; earned seventh career Oscar nomination
2004:
Was the costume designer on "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"
2006:
Designed the period costumes for Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette"
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Notes

Canonero won the fashion industry's prestigious Coty Award for a line of menswear she was commissioned to design after the success of "Chariots of Fire".

"I don't like to base designs on my earlier work, I like to experience it in a fresh way. Depending on the project and the director's vision, you change the 'tune,' you change your own vision." -- Canonero, quoted in a 1999 article by Douglas Eby on CreativityandWomen.com

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husband:
Marshall Bell. Actor.

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