"Babylon" is Damien Chazelle's most ambitious and provocative film of his career so far. Set in the 1920s during the transition from silent film to talkies in the film industry, his fourth feature film exists as the antithesis of the joyful and sun-soaked Los Angeles that Chazelle portrayed in "La La Land." The world of "Babylon" is instead characterized by excess — the opening scene evokes the likes of "Boogie Nights," or Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," showing the audience an epic, lavish, and debaucherous party ruled by the Hollywood elite.

Even though his latest film is darker than Chazelle's previous efforts, it also maintains a unique sense of humor that breaks up the moments of shock and spectacle. One extended sequence follows a frustrated cast and crew trying to get the semantics of filming a talkie scene just right. Sometimes the humor is much more subtle. If you're a rare individual who has rewatched the film and somehow noticed an extra wearing a silly chicken suit somewhere in the crowd at the Wallach residence, you'll be pleased to know there is actually a neat production story behind it.

/Film's Ben Pearson spoke with Mary Zophres, the costume designer of "Babylon" about the 1920s stylistic inspirations and the process of designing 7,000 unique costumes for the film. In the interview, Zophres also opened up about the origins of the chicken suit and claimed she even made director Damien Chazelle wear it for some production photos.

A Real Life Photo Inspired The Chicken Suit

When asked if there were any costumes or details that Zophres and her team worked particularly hard on that would probably go unnoticed by most general audiences, Zophres referred to the chicken costume. While assembling a lookbook of photographs from the '20s, there was a photo that made the collection of a man in a chicken suit that Zophres was particularly compelled by.

"We had developed this photo album of the Wallach party of things that we loved. There is a photograph from the '20s that Damien loved, I loved, and it's this guy standing in a full, round chicken costume […] I said to Damien, 'Wouldn't this be awesome at the Wallach party?' He was like, 'Yeah.' We're fitting and it's in the beginning of the shooting schedule, and so this thing of this chicken costume is just hanging over my head. 'How am I going to do this?' But I wanted to do it so badly. We just started chipping away at it."

Inspired and determined to get this chicken costume into the final film, Zophres referred to one of her crew members for this assignment, specialty costume designer Sarah Brown, who created a base for the costume and covered it with real, actual feathers. Brown's creation of the chicken costume was a side project that dipped into overtime. "She was game. She took three of her weekends," Zophres explained to /Film. "She got paid, but still, that desire to do something creative and create something you may have never created before and try to problem solve."

Release The Chicken Chazelle Photos, Paramount!

Much like the life cycle of art portrayed in the film itself, Zophres felt like working on "Babylon" was an exercise in endurance and perseverance. She felt an urgency that her ambition should match Chazelle's, and thankfully, her team felt similarly.

As a unit, Zophres and her team of designers felt that working on "Babylon" was a special, once in a lifetime opportunity, and they tried to seize it the best they could — including designing a complex chicken suit that very few audiences will notice. "Honestly, I think you see that chicken — It took her [Brown] probably at least 100 man-hours. All of the feathers were placed by hand," Zophres said. "And you sense him, and I feel like you see him, kind of, but it's not like the camera is still on this chicken."

What good is a chicken suit if your director doesn't wear it at least once? Allegedly, there is a photo of Chazelle in costume out there in the Paramount archives. Zophres shared:

"But somewhere in Paramount's photo collection, they did a photo session while we were filming the Wallach party, where they had all the guests at the Wallach party go on a [white background] that was set up right outside of the set. People took photographs, and I made Damien get into the chicken costume, and there's a photo. There's a whole set of photographs with he and Olivia [Hamilton], his wife, who's also the producer, standing side by side, and Damien's in the chicken costume because I was like, 'Well, you got to wear this thing!' And he did, reluctantly."

Paramount Pictures, you know what you must do.

"Babylon" is now available on Digital and is set to hit 4K, Blu-Ray, and DVD on March 21, 2023.

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The post Babylon's Costume Designer 'Made' Damien Chazelle Wear a Chicken Suit [Exclusive] appeared first on /Film.