Interview: Isis Mussenden from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”
Interview: Isis Mussenden from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian”

The Massie Twins recently sat down to interview costume designer Isis Mussenden from the new film “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” during the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.


Isis Mussendun: I’m going to judge you by your [recording] gadgets. (Laughs)

The Massie Twins: What were your design viewpoints for this film, in relation to the costumes for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Did you follow with what that film had started, or did you take it in a completely new direction?

IM: It takes a different direction because we’re in a different culture, called the Telmarine. Basically I broke this movie up into three parts. One was Narnia and the Pevensie’s, who come back into the world right where we left off with them, the second group was the Telmarine civilian wear, and then the Telmarine army. That was the challenge. Normally we start with the main character, which would be Prince Caspian, but we started with the foot soldier, and made our way from there. We started doing research, and I went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the curator showed me bits and pieces of what he had there, and he showed me a really interesting piece of a Tibetan armor exhibit they had just closed. Spanish armor and Spanish Renaissance armor were the other pieces for how we formed the Telmarine armor. The Telmarine civilian wear has all been inspired by the Sardinian cultural dress, and in looking for something very lordish and Narnian, from its own world, I pulled from fashion, paintings, anywhere I can, textiles and nature. It’s very exciting, my line of men’s wear.

MT: Do you worry about fans of the book that form their own ideas about the way costumes look from the text and from illustrations that may vary greatly from the way your costumes turn out?

IM: The Pauline Baynes illustrations are the most used by far for the C.S. Lewis books, and we have never really held to those. Except for Tumnus and his red scarf, because those were illustrated in the 50’s and the story took place in the 40’s, and Narnia takes place in Narnian time. As charming as they are for the publication, it’s not anything we’ve ever held ourselves to. The beauty of reading is that everybody does get to use their imagination as to what something looks like. I don’t get nervous because of course its not going to look like everyone’s ideas; maybe I’ll hit a couple that will say “That’s just the way I imagined it!” but there’s no way to please everybody. I don’t worry about that – I worry about being true to the characters, that the actors feel right and that I help them to perform and feel like the characters.

MT: There isn’t a lot of detail in the books, so as a designer, does that make your job easier or more difficult?

IM: It makes it easier, because I’m not trying to back myself into something. I’m the designer but Andrew is the director. Andrew and I worked together for 10 years. We share the same sensibilities, so he narrows it down for me. You’re not going to see a bunch of capes and clasps, because that’s not what this movie is.

MT: Is there a particular piece that you are most proud of?

IM: I love Miraz’ stuff, but I love the Pevensie’s girls stuff. It was an interesting moment getting them dressed again, because they were a little entitled, but it worked, and it was perfect. Now they’re not the little kids who haven’t worked in film before.

MT: When did you start working on Caspian in relation to the release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

IM: We finished the first one completely, and it came out, and then we started this one. I started working on this a year ago, July 5th. I’ve been on this film for over a year already, and I’ll be done at the end of August. It’s been a massive undertaking, we have a cast that is ten times bigger than the first film and we manufacture everything.

MT: When you get a budget, how do you go about utilizing it?

IM: (Laughs) No they don’t give me a budget, I have to tell them what I need. Then they say, “no you can’t.” I love what I do, to get to manufacture that many pieces, thousands and thousands of pieces to do. All the shoes are made at Pompeii, all the armor was made in Czech Republic, and it was exhausting.

MT: Do you ever throw on the clothes you design and run around…

IM: (Laughs) Never! Never!