After spending five seasons trying to keep the peace in The Last Kingdom, Uhtred of Bebbanburg’s story comes to an end with Netflix’s epic feature film The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die. If you’re like me and obsessed with period-piece clothing, then you’re probably enthralled by this movie’s costumes. Costume designer Luciano Capozzi created costumes from scratch for the principal cast and 700-plus background characters. Using a natural color palette to differentiate the various kingdoms, Luciano also collaborated with Italian and Hungarian artisans to craft accessories that were period-appropriate but stylized to reach a wider audience.
Recently, I had the privilege of chatting with Luciano about his design process, creating nuanced costumes for the cast, his design inspirations and more.
Melody McCune: We at GGA love a good origin story. How did you become a costume designer?
Luciano Capozzi: I started to study costume design during the ’80s, an amazing decade so rich with energy and dreams, especially in Italy, where we lived an artistic and creative renaissance. I was attending a specific school in Rome, and my first work was a home video production with the amazing actor Omar Sharif.
MM: How did you get involved with The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die?
LC: A dear friend, the talented director Paul Wilmshurst (a director I already worked with for A.D.: The Bible Continues in 2014), was preparing Season 5 of The Last Kingdom! He and the producers contacted me to ask me if I was available to work with them, but unfortunately, I was busy, so I couldn’t do it. However, I have been in contact with the producers, and when they started thinking about Seven Kings, they came back to me, and I accepted it immediately!
MM: What was your thought process behind stylizing your designs to reach a wider audience while keeping them period accurate?
LC: I immediately realized I had a big responsibility toward the massive audience of the series! My first idea was to make new costumes with my personal touch but also be respectful of the work done before my arrival. Before starting my designs, I also watched all the previous seasons to understand the costumes and how to add my ideas.
MM: Did you draw inspiration from any designers or artwork when creating the film’s costumes?
LC: For the armor of the Wolf Soldiers, I was inspired by the leather and wool work that the great costume designer Piero Tosi did in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Medea, a real art piece. Regarding the Saxon world, it was beneficial to study tapestries such as the Bayeux Tapestry. It looks like a comic from the year 1000, which was a source of inspiration, and the illustrations of the sacred texts preserved in Cambridge as well as the enameled jewels in Oxford.
MM: What kinds of materials did you use for the costumes to make them look so authentic?
LC: I used only natural materials such as wool, cotton and linen; all materials I can dye and treat with various methods to emphasize their textures. I’m sure that the beauty of these materials will be evident on the screen, thanks to the high definitions of filming.
MM: Can you dive into the process of adding nuances to the costumes that are unique to each main character? Did you collaborate with the actors to bring that individuality?
LC: Colors have always been a really important element in my costumes! In this case, I used only natural colors to make every nuance more vivid and modern but historically correct. The colors will help recognize the different factions in the battle; each group of soldiers will have specific nuances of colors.
Regarding Alexander [Dreymon], for example, I added shades of blue, dark green and dark gray because all these nuances worked very well with his eyes and skin color. In general: the color palette of the Saxons is cold and a bit mute compared to the Vikings’ colors. They are more aggressive and with a bit of a graphic combination.
MM: Was there any collaboration with the hair/makeup team when bringing a character’s look together?
LC: Yes, of course, it is really important to work closely. In Italy, it’s the costume designer that coordinates the other departments.
MM: Do you have a favorite costume you’ve designed for Seven Kings Must Die?
LC: Not just one! I like all the costumes I made for the Wolf Soldiers, especially those as Shamans for the fire festival (they also used interning masks). I like the jewels made by my amazing collaborators from Italy and Hungary and all the crowns for the famous seven kings. I also love all the costumes I prepared for the more intimate scenes of Uhtred.
MM: What or who inspires your work, overall, as a designer?
LC: Thank you for asking this question; I love it! I think a good costume designer must be like a sponge to absorb all the inputs that can come from most disparate things (music, art, street style, etc.). The great costume designers from the past (I really love the Italians: Danilo Donati, Piero Gherardi and Tosi, but also the Americans: William Travilla, Adrian Adolph Greenberg and Edith Head) are always a source of great inspiration.
Visiting museums stimulates me a lot, and when I’m in Rome, I often visit the Montemartini Museum. It’s a magical place where statues of classical antiquity are immersed in an industrial space horned at the beginning of the xx century. This apparent contrast is an incentive to seek out and enjoy the beauty, which is evident in the attention to detail and the use of different materials. The result is an amazing space full of positive energy, where I really love to come often to concentrate before starting to prepare a new movie.
MM: What else is on the horizon for you, career-wise?
LC: I just finished filming the musical Verona, which I really loved! A completely original version of Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Timothy Scott Bogart and starring actors such as Rupert Everett, Rebel Wilson and many others. The release is scheduled on screens for next Christmas. State of Consciousness is a psycho thriller directed by Marcus Stokes with Emile Hirsch that will be released soon in the USA by Grindstone Entertainment Group. And also, I’m about to start a film with an Irish director that I adore, but it’s still too early to talk about it.