The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die is out now on Netflix, marking the end of the long-running tale of Uhtred son of Uhtred. Over the course of five seasons and the new follow-up film, The Last Kingdom has lodged in the hearts of fans like an arrow from a longbow. Seven Kings Must Die featured Uhtred’s final stand, the unification of England, an epic battle at Brunanburh as well as pivotal moments for some of our favorite characters.
Part of what sets The Last Kingdom apart from many other historical dramas is its attention to detail. One of the people responsible for that was Luciano Capozzi, the costume designer for Seven Kings Must Die. We spoke to him about his work on the film, and what went into making Uhtred and his companions look ready for the battles, feasts, and medieval life.
DANIEL ROMAN: Hi, Luciano! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your work on The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you didn’t work on The Last Kingdom television series, right? What was it like coming on board for the movie, which stands on its own but is also part of a long-running project that already had its own visual style? Were there any particular challenges or things you enjoyed about that?
LUCIANO CAPOZZI: No, I didn’t design the costumes for the entire series (the various seasons have always had different costume designers). The producers contacted me to design the costumes for Seven Kings Must Die, and I immediately accepted! The main challenge was to insert one’s own style in a world already defined from a stylistic point of view. But I think I succeeded! More observant viewers will surely notice a cohesive look within the world they already know while noting an elaboration of costumes with new characteristics. Fore example, the color palette, colorful but never vivid, or the particular attention to the textures of the fabrics, never flat but always very textural, as well as for the armors, particularly stylized to avoid the effect of “déjà vu.”
DR: I was told that there were a lot of costumes for Seven Kings Must Die. In addition to the leads, there were also more than 700 extras who had to be outfitted. What was it like to tackle such an immense amount of costuming?
LC: The material accumulated over the years and used to film the previous seasons were no longer available. So for the new film, I had to think about recreating the various groups of soldiers, priests, and people around the protagonists. I started renting stock in various workshops in Italy, Spain, and Hungary. Soon after, I started designing accessories such as cloaks, tunics, armor, and many other garments I worked on in Budapest, where I had a workshop. To put things into perspective regarding the sheer volume of costumes needed, we had more than 1,200 pairs of shoes just for the extras!
DR: Running with that, there’s a pretty large battle in Seven Kings Must Die. Can you talk a little about some of the different things you have to consider when creating costumes for a large action sequence like that, as opposed to some of the quieter moments capturing the everyday life of the characters?
LC: A good question! In this final film, there were some scenes in which the principal characters were seen in more everyday situations. For these scenes, I used costumes that would underline this dimension, which were a little more unstructured and with more comfortable fabrics like suede, wool, and linen. Quite different from the battle scenes — especially the last one: the most epic! Of course, they all wore their armor with their undergarments, which were also rough and designed to be a protective element. For these armor pieces, I also have to make ‘copies’ of the costumes for each of the protagonists, costumes which would have been used by the stunt performers in particularly difficult scenes where they could have replaced the actors in front of the camera.
Additionally, in these battle scenes, we had to use (for the actors but also their stunt performer counterparts) elements that seemed to be made of metal but, in reality, were made of polyurethane and, therefore, very light to wear and not dangerous during the battles. Then, in order to better identify the different groups of soldiers, it was necessary to utilize different colorings for each of them, but always using credible, historically correct palettes.
DR: There are a few different factions at play in this film, each with their own agendas and cultural backgrounds. How did you approach costuming them to give them unique visual identities on screen?
LC: Through my preliminary philological research, I have identified recurring elements for each group: in their coats of arms reproduced on the shields or in the goldsmith’s production. As well as in some pictorial representations: in this case, I have developed a way to produce these elements on the costumes I was devising using and incision on their armor, for example, or on the fibulae to block the cloaks. However, I resorted to specific incisions and construction modules in the case of the crowns. Other indications, such as for the wolf soldiers and their white furs, as well as for their “fierce” helmets, were request directly from the script.
DR: One of the tricky things with costuming a medieval or fantasy series is making the costumes feel lived in, rather than something that just got picked up off a clothing rack. Can you talk a bit about how you approached this, especially given the scale of the film?
LC: A necessary condition in each film, especially in an epic, historical film, is that the costumes are credible. In this case, everything needed to be archaic, strong, and precisely epic. Even for the costumes of the Kings or the Queen herself, I avoided resorting to false sumptuousness, which, as philologically inaccurate, would also have distracted the viewer from what should have been the dark, dramatic mood of the film.
Obviously, to achieve all this, I gave particular attention to the never-too-vivid color palette, albeit full of contrasts, and to the aging techniques. I was lucky enough to collaborate with some talented Hungarian guys who followed me both in preparation and on the set. Everything has undergone special treatments to patina the surfaces, whether metals, fabrics, or leathers. Moreover, with the dripping technique, I could further shade the fabrics so they did not appear new.
DR: One big advantage that something like The Last Kingdom has over something like, say, Game of Thrones, is that it has a lot of actual history to draw from. Were there any resources or historical references that were especially helpful in designing the costumes for Seven Kings Must Die?
LC: As mentioned, the philological research of visual material is essential in the preparation phase. We must always remember that this must be the starting point to develop unique creations, even in a historical film. In fact, we must not confuse a film that is a work of historical reinterpretation with a documentary. In the case of this film, a real help was the study of some tapestries or picture stones, the jewels and metallic elements [such] as a brooch, and the research and study of some fabrics and costumes found in some recent archaeological excavations.
DR: If you could take any one outfit home from your work on The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die, which one would it be? (Or is there any one you’re particularly proud of?)
LC: Yes, of course. I couldn’t do it, of course! At the film’s end, all the material made goes back to production. I also know that a wonderful exhibition was organized with the costumes.
Anyway, I would have brought home the leather and wool short tunic worn by Uhtred in the first scene of the film, entirely hand-sewn after both fabrics have been treated for more than 15 days. And a long Galabia, worn by Ingilmundr, a new character in teh film, in a topical scene that I cannot wait for the audience to see.
DR: To end on a fun note, are there any particular shows or movies you’ve seen lately which you’ve really enjoyed the costuming for?
LC: I really liked the work done for Passing, a black-and-white film now on Netflix. It was beautifully photographed, with very interesting textures and particularly well-designed lines. The costumes, as well as the environments, fill the screen. And I loved the costumes of The Fabelmans, so precise in telling the characters in all their nuances.
DR: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about your work on The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die!
LC: Thank you! It was a pleasure talking with you!