Interview: Costume Designer Luciano Capozzi on Designing the World of Netflix’s ‘The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die’

Awards Radar

Awards Radar got the opportunity to chat with Luciano Capozzi, the costume designer responsible for creating the looks we see on the recently released Netflix film The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Capozzi created costumes from scratch for the principal cast and up to 700+ background characters, he wanted to humanize the characters and not have them be seen as just heroes, and he used a natural color palette to differentiate the various kingdoms while making sure to use muted tones that feel more realistic 

The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die follows the last season of the series, ‘The Last Kingdom,’ the movie is about the death of King Edward as rivals and invaders battle for the crown. At the same time, Uthred, played by Alexander Dreymon, tries to unite England with his commanders. The film is based on the novel ‘The Last Kingdom’ by Martha Hillier. 

In this interview, Luciano breaks down how he curated the costume designs, the importance of the color palette used, and how he got involved with the project. 

Can you tell us about your background?

Luciano: I started my business in 1989 in Italy after graduating from an art institute, a two-year course for costume designers directed by Giulia Mafai (a famous Italian costume designer who had worked with directors such as DeSica and Monicelli – among others).

After all of this, I had the opportunity to try my hand at theatre, television, and cinema. My first professional job was that of an assistant, which helped me learn a lot about my job while working there.

During this time, I also began working as the department head. My first task was working on a home video production starring Omar Shariff in 1990.

My first notable international work was for the film Los Borgia, an Italian/Spanish co-production. The result of my work from this film was that I received a nomination for the prestigious Spanish Goya Award – and also was awarded first prize at the Mullen sur Aller competition, a French costume film festival.

I then continued to work in cinema and TV, among various productions, including Titanic Blood and Steel and Paul, Apostle of Christ.

How did you get involved with “The Last Kingdom”: Seven Kings Must Die?

Luciano: Paul Wilmshurst, the director with whom I had happily collaborated already for AD-The Bible Continues, had asked me to make the costumes for the fifth series of The Last Kingdom, but unfortunately, I was already busy with another project, and I could not accept his offer at that time.

However, I kept in contact with the producer Nigel Merchant. A few months later, he offered me the position of costume designer for Seven Kings Must Die, directed by Edward Bazalgette, and this time, I immediately accepted!

You differentiated the various kingdoms by the color pallets. Can you give an example of how you achieved that?

Luciano: From the heraldic study of the various kingdoms, I extrapolated details and colors for each of them. Some had already been used in past seasons of The Last Kingdom. I had to keep the same colors for the groups that had already appeared in the series while making some minor or subtle changes. I avoided using color tones that were too vivid or anything too graphic, preferring full, saturated nuances but also deeper in tone.

For example, the Colors of the Welsh Army uniforms, which in the series were scarlet in the film, are changed to a more somber red (like a pigeon’s blood, with vermilion detailing). The bright blues of the Scot’s uniforms are veiled to make them closer to Biscay Bay, and for the Christian soldiers, I used almost browns combined with badly dyed slate blacks to underline their almost ascetic essentiality.

Once these nuances were defined, the aging work used to create credible colors for the historical setting was really important. So, never too flat. To better reach this result, choosing fabrics was really important – all of them were natural fabrics with evident textures.

How did you push forward your vision to appeal to the audience that loves the series?

Luciano: I tried not to distort the characters so loved by the public, but I still wanted to add my personal taste to their style. I paid particular attention to the details, whether they were jewels or fabrics, to give an example.

All the seams had to be done by hand, and where it was necessary to use machines, I requested that all the machine seams be covered with threads of wool or other natural materials. All the jewels were made exclusively and according to my design and the fibulae!

To summarize: I would say that my particular touch can be seen in my attention to detail.

What was the process like creating looks for 700+ background characters?

Luciano: It was exciting and, of course, very demanding. The script required the differentiation of different groups by social class and belonging to different kingdoms.

So I started from a reference point of philological research, in addition to a careful study of the series’ previous seasons. This way, I could understand the story’s mood better, and only at that point did I start thinking about how to make costumes that, while respecting what had been done previously by other colleagues, also best represented my style. A particularly important task was choosing the proper repertoire material to form a good basis or starting point to work from. I tried to give each group its own characteristics not found in the others, taking into account the importance of clearly defining some of these differentiations – cinematically speaking.

What are your favorite looks that you designed for The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die?

Luciano: I particularly loved the look of the wolf soldiers, for which I used leather with textured and non-flat surfaces. I also played a lot on the volumes of the shoulders and heads, almost as if they were anthropomorphic figures.

I loved all the minimal and slightly pre-Gothic looks of Ingilmundr and the more informal look that Uthred used on the streets of Bebbanburg when he wasn’t wearing armor. I am referring to a couple of more unstructured garments that helped me draw the character in its most everyday dimension, also allowing the actor a more credible posture for a character who is no longer very young.

What was your biggest challenge in this project?

Luciano:  The challenges varied, as with any production, of course. As I mentioned, the most important thing was to find a way to express my style within a story – and with these characters who had already been established and given a well-defined look over the years. To do this, I wanted to keep some established details. Instead, I tried to emphasize the original designs further, adding more detailed work to garments and things like that. I also specifically looked for textures for each character that would read well on camera.

For the noble Saxon figures, as an example, I avoided sumptuous volumes and colors, which, in addition to not being historically correct, wouldn’t have been linked to the atmosphere of history, raw, dark, and dirty. In this case, I let the refinement and memorable aspects of the garments come from details that were never too obvious and that sometimes were barely glimpsed in the costumes, like the splendid brooches with which the Catholic sovereigns closed their cloaks.

Then, works of actual chiseling were used to set hard stones for the armors, which are also credible in their manual reconstruction and so rich in detail ( each one took at least two weeks of work to complete). The work done with the leather and the metal bolts was meticulous but historically accurately crafted. I would also like to thank my Italian, Spanish, and Hungarian suppliers for their assistance and expertise! The second challenge was assembling and organizing all the material needed for the film, which amounted to over 2,500 pieces in about two months, excluding the period of the fittings. (To put this into perspective, 1,200 shoes had to be created just for the extras!) And because this was a film and not a series where shooting takes place over the span of months, the vast majority of the material (including soldiers) had to be ready for the beginning of the shooting.

Having said all of this, the good reviews from the critics and the enthusiastic appreciation of many fans of the series have reassured me that my work and my team have produced good results.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up that you’d like to share?

Luciano: I’m truly excited to announce that the movie, Verona, directed by Timothy Scott Bogart, will arrive on the big screen soon. Verona is a musical, full of color and with a beautiful soundtrack. It reinterprets the story of Romeo and Juliet. It should arrive on screens sometime around next Christmas.

Another film distributed by Grindstone Entertainment Group, State of Consciousness, will be released soon in America (in Europe, it is already available on the Prime networks). This is a contemporary psycho-thriller with strong colors, directed by Markus Stokes and interpreted by Emile Hirsch.

This is another epic series in post-production for Netflix, shot last year in Morocco. However, signing a confidentiality contract, I can only say that it tells the story of a famous historical leader, a person from history who did exist. I think you’ll hear more about it sometime next autumn!

Betty Ginette