Here's What It Took To Get Scarlett Johansson Into Her Ultratight 'Ghost In The Shell' Body Suit
Filmmakers and movie buffs across the globe have either heard of, visited or worked alongside the talented artists at Weta Workshop.
Situated in Wellington, the world famous visual effects company was an integral part of the concept design and practical effects for Rupert Sanders' latest blockbuster, Ghost in the Shell.
Starring Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano and Michael Pitt, the film follows Major - a human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to become a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Flo Foxworthy, a senior member of Weta Workshop’s costume department, who helped lead the development of a fully silicone suit for the character of 'Major' in Ghost in the Shell, played by Scarlett Johansson.
MTV: Can you tell us a little bit about your work on Ghost in the Shell?
I was the costume project manager on Ghost in the Shell for Weta workshop. My team and I worked mainly on developing the thermoptic suit that Scarlett Johanson wore as 'The Major', as well as the Geisha costumes - uncluding their masks, their silicon necks, their arms and legs. We integrated those with all the costumes including the beautiful kimono that was designed by Kurt and Bart.
MTV: The world and the look of Ghost in the Shell was very unique. How did you plan each costume to suit the tone of the film and Scarlett's character?
It was such a unique aesthetic. That was really driven by Rupert [Sanders[ and Kurt and Bart - the costume designers. They had a really beautiful vision of how this was meant to look. I think they really nailed it. As a technical production team and manufacturing team, we were able to guide them when it came to practicality making it work. They really drove the look and feel of it. Although a lot of our Weta workshop concept artists provided countless concepts of concept art to create the world and characters in it. It all just came together beautifully. When we went to shoot in Hong Kong at the very end. Being able to see the Hong Kong streets looking exactly like the illustrations was really exciting.
MTV: Scarlett performed a number of her own stunts for the film. Did that create a few challenges for you when designing the Major's thermoptic suit?
We had to make sure that when they were doing stunts the suits were able to stand up to wear and tear. There was a lot of wear and tear. They were jumping around in rigs and on wires it was amazing. So the suits were stronger then you’d expect. Luckily Scarlett’s stunt double Carly was incredible and she was quite close in size so we were able to do a few nips and tucks to create a suit that would fit.
When it came to creating the suit to fit Scarlett we were lucky that we had a 3D scan of her body, which we made out of polystyrene into a life size mannequin. That’s what we used as our main prints point for fitting the costume. We also had a local performer, a circus performer actually named Imogen who was a really close body double. She was our fit model and guinea pig subject for the suit. She was so invaluable because we didn’t get the chance to put the suit onto Scarlett until the day before she went on set. It was a lot of fingers and hoping for the best. But it all worked out really well.
MTV: Is it true that a lot of talcum powder was during the dressing process?
So much Talc. We left a massive trail of talcum powder wherever we went. That was the way we got Scarlett and Carly into the suits. They had to be thoroughly inside and out with talcum powder to stop the silicon from sticking to itself. Where it was a two-person job to put each performer into the suits. One of us on either side essentially, manhandling the poor performers into the suits. They were more than skin tight. They were like a second skin, they were amazing. There was a lot of talcum powder and a lot of sweat.
MTV: Can you talk us through the inspiration and process behind creating the suit and the Geisha masks?
It was a real joint effort from the Weta Workshop design team and Kurt and Bart. Taking on Rupert [Sanders] aesthetics and his ideas. We all sort of workshopped it and came to this incredible final product. But it involved nearly every department workshop. Right from costume through to the sculpting department, the moulding and casting department and our paint department - everyone had a go at this costume, it was fantastic and such a team effort.
Our team was also tasked with creating the beautiful masks, some of which were animatronic. Creating a super fine porcelain doll costume that is worn by a performer is an interesting challenge. It was so exciting to see them in person.
MTV: Which character would you say was the toughest to dress? What other difficult tasks did you face on set?
Definitely Scarlett, she was such a trooper and was amazing to work with. We couldn’t have hoped for anyone more professional and easy going about the process. Cause it’s not an easy suit to wear and she was just amazing. She put up with the squeezing and the pulling and the shoving really well. I think the products that we decided to use were a big challenge for us.
There’s a reason other people don’t make full body costumes out of silicon. While it was really challenging as we went along it was also really rewarding because we developed some really cool techniques. I’d love for us to get to use those techniques again in different ways and different costumes. Making a garment like the thermoptic suit that is neck to wrists to covering your feet. It was challenging to make something wearable and not horribly uncomfortable for Scarlett. There are minor necessities in life that have to be dealt with to integrate into suits like this. That’s a really important thing for us, comfort.
MTV: How does it feel seeing your work worn by the likes of Scarlett on the big screen? Is that something that you’re now used to?
Seeing our work and my work on-screen is pretty cool, I really love it! The novelty does wear off after a while but with each new project it’s just a conclusion to another chapter in your career. I really love it, it’s fun.
MTV: What was the best part about working on Ghost in the Shell?
For me it was the collaboration with all the different departments. Working together to create something that we haven’t created before. I really love getting the chance to collaborate with everyone. There are so many different ideas and talented people in the workshop. That’s the best part. It’s never just the one person who comes up with the idea it’s a team effort.
MTV: Do you have any advice for those who are interested in one day working at Weta?
I think the biggest advice I would give to anyone is just to try. Try things, teach yourself and learn about different techniques and products. It doesn’t come down to what school you go to or how long you study for. I didn’t study formally for this at all. It’s just one thing I wanted to do since I was a child and I’m doing it. Doing my dream job. You just have to do it. Don’t wait around until the timing is perfect.
Ghost in the Shell is out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD July 26.