The "Cyrano" Costume Designer on Creating the Film's Beautiful Looks

For costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini, helping to remake the classic "Cyrano" story into a sweeping movie musical presented a formidable challenge. If creating hundreds of romantic, era-appropriate costumes for the cast to dance and sword-fight in wasn't chaotic enough, he also had to do it during a global pandemic. "It was very difficult," Parrini tells POPSUGAR. "I only had one month of preproduction for this film, but thanks to God, I kept making the costumes in the workshop I opened in Sicily during the whole shoot. We sewed until the last day and created about 750 new costumes made exclusively for this wonderful film."

The effort was, of course, worth it — and not just because the film's costumes have been nominated for an Oscar. "Cyrano," starring Emmy award-winning actor Peter Dinklage and helmed by BAFTA-winning director Joe Wright ("Atonement," "Pride & Prejudice") is a gorgeous triumph. Everything about the film is romantic and lovely — the backdrops of snowy mountains and sunny Italian palazzos, the spirited choreography punctuating soaring original musical numbers, Peter Dinklage's love-soaked gaze — and the costumes further build the period piece's world with billowing capes, lush corsets, and battle-worn uniforms. Read on to learn how Parrini helped breathe new life into this classic love story, currently playing in theaters nationwide.

CYRANO, Peter Dinklage as Cyrano, 2021. ph: Peter Mountain /  MGM / courtesy Everett Collection
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POPSUGAR: Where do you start your creative process, especially when you are given the task of recreating such an iconic character as Cyrano?
Massimo Cantini Parrini: In Cyrano's case, [director] Joe Wright and I wanted his costume to be the same for the whole film but also to be versatile enough to change shape and appearance for every scenic occasion. To do this, I created a uniform, putting buttons in the place of the seams, which allowed me to transform the costume by unbuttoning or buttoning, and moving elements of the costume in continuation and in a way that it could always be different.

Sketches by Massimo Cantini Parrini

PS: This is not Cyrano's first film. There is a French film from 1900, a film from 1925, a television adaptation from 1938, another French film in 1946, a film from 1950. . . . Fast forward to a 1990 version with Gérard Depardieu, another in 2008 with Kevin Kline, and countless plays, of course. Were these earlier tales a part of your research, or did you prefer to start over?
MCP: Absolutely start over! I don't want any kind of contamination. The ideas must be absolutely original, and I believe it is very important to respect the director's vision. Joe strongly wished that this "Cyrano" was original in everything and that Cyrano was a protagonist of incredible modernity, while remaining very faithful to the historic play. We all followed this beautiful character's evolution with enthusiasm.

CYRANO, from left: Peter Wight, Haley Bennett, Monica Dolan, Peter Dinklage as Cyrano 2021. ph: Peter Mountain / MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
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PS: How difficult is it to create costumes that not only have to look a certain way to tell a story, but also have to be functional to accommodate the movements of dancers and swordsmen?
MCP: I have to say that it was a good challenge! I have already worked on a musical, but every film is different. In this work, for the costumes, the keywords were "lightness" and "transparency." I wanted all the clothes to keep their appearance and their natural rendering but allow the movement of the clothes to float as much as possible and for the dancers to feel magnificent and very light. The choreography is beautiful and enhanced my work by allowing the clothes to move and flow.

CYRANO, from left: Haley Bennett (center), Monica Dolan (right), 2021. ph: Peter Mountain / MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
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PS: Corsets are back in fashion, as in the 17th century. What is it about corsets that keep them coming back into fashion?
MCP: Who would not want to wear a corset at least once in a lifetime? The corset is a part of the costume that has always fascinated the world and made women's bodies incredibly feminine for centuries. For this, it has been very difficult to abandon it, and in truth, it never goes out of fashion. And that's why in "Cyrano," I wanted to put them on everyone: women and men. And I made them wear them over the shirt so that they were clearly visible. The actor who plays De Guiche, the wonderful Ben Mendelsohn, loved to wear the bust, and every day, he wanted me in person for the dressing — as a real rite of the 1700s.

Sketches by Massimo Cantini Parrini

PS: The look of the makeup is striking especially, in the first few scenes — white painted faces, intricate wigs, etc. What relationship did you have with the beauty team? I'm curious what collaboration between departments looks like, if there has been any.
MCP: With makeup and hair, there has been a wonderful understanding since the beginning, and it is rare to find it. I had previously worked with [makeup designer] Alessandro Bertolazzi, and subsequently I recommended him to Joe. I believe it is very important for all the craft departments to work together and build the image of the characters together so that they are right from head to toe. I have to say that Alessandro and [hair designer] Sian Miller have done magnificent work in "Cyrano" — a perfect balance between the past and fashion. I would like to make films with them again.

CYRANO, from left: Haley Bennett, Ben Mendelsohn, 2021. ph: Peter Mountain / MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
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PS: Did you have a favorite costume? I personally loved the sheep ballerinas (seen all too briefly!).
MCP: I loved creating the costumes for De Guiche so much. The idea of keeping it always pink throughout the film was amazing; even the high official uniform is pink! Also, the costumes for the baroque dance at the theater: the wonderful sheep, which were made in tulle, and Montfleury the singer [played by Mark Benton], gave me a lot of satisfaction. Montfleury was divine — another crazy good actor!

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PS: Was it difficult to work during COVID? How has your work changed during the pandemic?
MCP: It was very difficult, not only with the standard COVID protocol, but also not being able to try on and move the costumes on a live model before the actors and extras came to the fittings, which we always do when we are making costumes. All the costumes had to be disinfected as soon as the fitting was done or the day of shooting was finished, which is time consuming, and we needed many more staff to help us in this work.

CYRANO, director Joe Wright (left, hat), cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (blue shirt), on set, 2021. ph: Peter Mountain / MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection
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