6 Moments From Netflix's Halston That Are Now Seared Into My Brain
I've had the trailer for Netflix's Halston on loop since it was released on May 3; partially because I really loved the remix of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and because I was intrigued by the story. My knowledge of Halston pre-Halston was pretty limited, but the five-episode miniseries gives a pretty good overview of the rise and fall of the designer's fashion empire. Billed as the untold story of Roy Halston Frowick, it includes all the drugs, drama, and debauchery you can expect from a designer whose heyday was during the Studio 54 era. This also means it won't be for everyone, particularly for those that are more well-versed in the world of Halston than I was. And like any Ryan Murphy-produced series, it takes an episode or two for it to really find its momentum, but seeing as there are only five episodes, that's not particularly great for the viewer.
Halston, rather than being similar to any of Murphy's other works, is most comparable to Steven Levenson and Thomas Kail's Fosse/Verdon in vibe, source material, and cinematography. The cast — which includes Ewan McGregor as Halston, Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minnelli, Rebecca Dayan as Elsa Peretti, Bill Pullman as David Mahoney, Gian Franco Rodriguez as Victor Hugo, David Pittu as Joe Eula, Sullivan Jones as Ed Austin, Rory Culkin as Joel Schumacher, Kelly Bishop as Eleanor Lambert, and Vera Farmiga as Adele — is phenomenal and their chemistry is unmatched. If any of this has yet to fully convince you to watch the miniseries, which premiered on May 14, ahead are six moments from Halston I haven't been able to stop thinking about.
Ewan McGregor's Take on Halston's Distinct Accent
Accents can either make or break an actor's portrayal of a real person, as it's a lot harder to suspend disbelief when what you see doesn't match up with what you're expecting to hear. Despite his Indiana roots, the real-life Halston eventually adopted an accent that was more Mid-Atlantic in nature — think Vincent Price or Cary Grant.
Not only is the Scottish McGregor's attempt at Halston's accent pretty good, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since watching the Netflix miniseries. I've even found myself adopting McGregor-as-Halston affectations in my daily life, specifically, "There are two things you'll never have: my talent and my name." Will some people hate it? Probably, but I've watched enough interviews and Halston commercials to confidently say McGregor's work with dialect coach Liz Himelstein was worth it.
Basically Everything About the Battle of Versailles Fashion Show
I wasn't truly sold on Halston until the second episode, aptly titled "Versailles," and its exploration of Halston's journey to take part in the legendary Battle of Versailles fashion show. I couldn't take my eyes off of Halston and crew as they strolled into the Paris airport to meet up with the other American designers set to compete. Seeing Halston among the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein really amped up the drama — especially when Halston realizes he's been duped by Eleanor Lambert.
Did I start tearing up when Halston got his standing ovation from the French fashion crowd? You bet your ass I did. The episode also led me down a rabbit hole to learn more about the show in general, including how 10 out of the American designers' 36 models were Black, which was unprecedented at the time.
How the Show Could've Also Been Called Liza
OK, it was never going to be called "Liza," but Liza Minnelli and Halston's friendship is front and center throughout the five-episode miniseries. The chemistry between Ewan McGregor's Halston and Krysta Rodriguez's Minnelli feels genuine and earnest. I often found myself pausing during their scenes to look up the real-life events and see just how close the pair were. Turns out, they remained lifelong friends until his death in 1990. "We got along instantly, and he became my fashion mate. I did what he said. He really took care of me," Minnelli previously shared in an interview with Harper's Bazaar.
Studio 54 and the Nonstop Party That Came With It
Halston sees Studio 54 as the beginning of the end for the designer, who didn't know how to curb his addictive tendencies and need for admiration from those around him. He'll always be associated with the glamour and glitz of the late, great nightclub, thanks to the A-listers who wore his pieces, including Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Cher, and Anjelica Huston.
I don't think I'll ever be able to get the image of the "coke phone" out of my head, though, but I guess that's what happens when life's a nonstop party fueled by cocaine. If you haven't looked up the history of Studio 54 and what it was like during its heyday, I'd highly recommend it. Giant puffy coats, tons of glitter, Jagger on a horse, and the sex balcony are just a few of the very real things that went down from 1977 to the club's first closure in 1979.
Gian Franco Rodriguez's Emphatic Portrayal of Victor Hugo
The name Victor Hugo might bring to mind the author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, however, Halston's Victor Hugo is a Venezuelan-born artist and window dresser that was Halston's lover for nearly 16 years. Each and every time Rodriguez was on screen, I couldn't take my eyes off of him. Perhaps that's what the real Victor, who died in 1993, would've wanted.
However, for the weirdest scene involving Victor, Rodriguez isn't even there. During the search for the perfect scent for his signature perfume, Halston has perfumer Adele (Vera Farmiga) sniff Victor's well-worn jockstrap for inspiration. Much like the previously mentioned "coke phone," the image of Farmiga essentially huffing the jockstrap is now seared into my brain.
The Fact That Joel Schumacher Had a Role in All of This
I consider myself a Joel Schumacher fan. I even count The Lost Boys, Batman & Robin, and The Phantom of the Opera as some of my favorite films — yes, my tastes are eclectic. Yet, when I learned Rory Culkin would be portraying Joel Schumacher on Halston, I had no idea it was THAT Joel Schumacher. It makes sense that Culkin's time on the miniseries is basically a blip, as Joel hated fashion and eventually became the campy director behind the infamous "Bat-nipples".
Schumacher even once told The Guardian, "I really don't think that Halston needed us at all. It was his vision and of course it was an overnight success." What the Netflix series doesn't show is that the two remained friends until Halston's death, with Schumacher adding, "He was one of the most loving, kindest friends I've ever had."