Harmony Korine’s colorful new film, The Beach Bum, hits theaters this Friday, March 29, but you might already know what it looks like.
Even if you haven’t seen the trailer, you might remember paparazzi shots of its star, Matthew McConaughey, wearing mismatched Hawaiian prints while eating lobster on a hoverboard, or skateboarding around Key West in bedazzled Ugg boots.
The look, which is perhaps best classified as Florida Man, has seeped its way into the public subconscious over the last few years, either through Korine’s imagination or some cultural osmosis. One could easily imagine Justin Bieber in the same costumes as McConaughey’s sleazy-but-lovable character, Moondog. (Not to mention McConaughey himself.) Luxury brands are even in sync with the moment, with Prada resurfacing its flames print from the archives and Eckhaus Latta showing Ugg boots in its most recent collection.
Costume designer Heidi Bivens is the one to thank for putting all of the Beach Bum looks together (in addition to those from Korine’s Spring Breakers, and Jonah Hill’s Mid-90s.) We spoke to her about what it was like to work on the film.
Where did you start with this project? Were you given any specific direction from Harmony Korine?
Harmony had the idea for this project at least a couple years before we actually shot it, and would send me inspiration and references. He would text me random images of Key West expats, or day drinkers who hang out all day. Just free-wheeling, free-loving characters.
My research really began once I was able to get down to Key West myself, and the southern part of Florida, and do some pretty amazing people-watching. A lot of the inspiration was based on real people, in real life. We just took it to a heightened level. I also looked on YouTube. There’s a guy named Leslie Cochran who’s a local celebrity in Austin, Texas. He was a big inspiration because he wears women’s clothing. He lives his life in a similar way to Moondog; this not-give-a-fuck attitude.
Did you use any designers for the costumes? Did you shop locally?
For Moondog, specifically, we made a lot of his stuff. Same with Lingerie, who is Snoop Dogg’s character. With Minnie, who is played by Isla Fisher, I used designer brands because she comes from money. For example, she wears a Roberto Cavalli dress at [her daughter’s] wedding, which, to me, speaks to Miami and the fashion that’s considered popular there. She also wears an Emilio Pucci dress from a current collection.
In general, Harmony doesn’t like to use fashion. I think that a lot of what he ends up doing visually in his work sometimes influences fashion. So he’s not looking to be derivative. With that said, I did put McConaughey in a Balenciaga dress.
No way! Why that Balenciaga dress in particular?
It’s the first dress he wears in the film. The joke is that he’s going to wear women’s clothes as a disguise, but he puts on a dress and looks exactly the same. It’s ridiculous. I wanted an easy-breezy silhouette, like a muumuu. I thought: If Moondog were a dress, what would it be? A muumuu is free and floaty. Later, he wears some more fitted stuff, which was inspired by real women of the Keys.
I’m assuming Moondog’s three-piece flame suit was custom?
It’s interesting to see what’s been going on in fashion since we shot that film. It’s been flames overload. With Prada in particular, they have that print in their archive, so I don’t know which comes first in terms of conscious inspiration. But the direction from Harmony was: I want him to look like he’s on fire. So, that’s where that came from [laughs].
I saw on Twitter that Zac Effron’s facial hair was inspired by the grill marks from a panini press. Is that true?
I saw that meme! I don’t know if that was made-up, but it works for me. For the creative decisions across the board — it’s a comedy, so we were always going for the laugh. Whatever we could do to be silly and play up for comedy was encouraged.
Was it hard for Zac Effron to roll around in his Heelys shoes?
Well, that came about because he suggested it. He knows how to Heely. So, we were thrilled. We’d already decided to put him in the JNCOs, so the sight of him rolling around in these Heelys with these huge jeans was an instant belly-laugh.
Did the actors take any liberties, in terms of what they wanted to wear or how they wanted to style it?
Snoop, for sure. He was very happy with the stuff we custom-made for him, but there was scene where he showed up on set wearing his own “Snoop” robe, which was from this collaboration he did with Joyrich. It said, “Snoop Dogg” on the lapel, and I remember going to Harmony and being like, “He’s wearing his own robe, are you cool with that?” Snoop is such an angel and a professional, but you really don’t want to tell him what to do. So, I deferred to Harmony. And he was like, “Yeah, it’s fine.” I actually think it creates even more comedy because it breaks the third wall. He’s playing the character of Lingerie, or “Ray” for short, but everyone knows it’s Snoop Dogg.
Did Matthew McConaughey come to set in any of his own costumes? They seemed like something he would wear home.
I don’t know what Matthew would’ve had in his own closet that would’ve worked for Moondog, but he definitely wears stuff either from Moondog’s closet, or inspired by Moondog in his life now. I think he was happy with everything and had a good time.
His fanny pack was essential to his character. Did you fill it with anything?
He had his own little stash of stuff in that fanny pack — his Moondog necessities.
Last question: Were there any wardrobe malfunctions on set?
Well, in the first fitting we had with Matthew, we gave him a thong to put on. We thought that he would for sure know what he was doing because of Magic Mike. But he came out with the thong on sideways. That was a great memory. It was an awkward moment of like, Uhhh, something doesn’t look quite right … and then figuring out what it was, and having to suggest that he go back behind the changing room and put it on right. That was pretty amazing.