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David Lynch Recalls His Career-Long Collaboration with Designer Patricia Norris

David Lynch Recalls His Career-Long Collaboration with Designer Patricia Norris

David Lynch first met costume designer Patricia Norris, who died in at her Los Angeles home in February at age 83 (soon after her sixth Oscar nomination for costume design for “12 Years a Slave”), in London on “The Elephant Man.” She was nominated for that, too, as well as Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven,” Blake Edwards’ “Victor, Victoria” and “Sunset,” and Peter Hyams’ space sequel “2010.”

“We became good friends on ‘The Elephant Man,'” Lynch told me on the phone. “She’s got a tremendous talent for costumes. She’s got exquisite taste. She always gets the job done. It’s a magical thing when she dresses an actor and helps them to set the character. The clothes fit the characters perfectly on ‘Elephant Man.’ It was a period piece and we had to fit the era and of course they did—the different classes of people. She makes the character no matter what. She’s done pretty much every film since then.”

Lynch always marveled “when someone comes out of the dressing room, they are the character, the clothes are perfect,” he said.

“Patty reads the scripts and dials into the character and dresses them, she has great taste. Each person comes out and couldn’t be better. In ‘Blue Velvet,’ what Dennis Hopper’s wearing, when you look at him, immediately, the way he’s dressed you get a feeling for who he is, a lot of things came though the way he’s dressed.”
“She set the look of ‘Twin Peaks,'” Lynch said. “Again, people talked about the way the characters on ‘Twin Peaks’ were dressed. She’s sort of perfect at everything she does.”

On “Blue Velvet,” Norris wanted to take on production design as well as costumes. “I said ‘fine,'” said Lynch. “I had a lot of ideas about the production design–costumes were her area, I didn’t really think about that. I would have if I had to, but Patty takes care of that 100% perfect. On ‘Blue Velvet’ we collaborated on the sets and things like that. We’d talk about color, where things were going and what was happening, the feeling and the mood. You’ve got the layout of the thing, the mood, colors and shapes. Then Patty goes to work; we work together on production design.”
“Patty was super professional, very strong,” Lynch added. “I trusted her 100% to get the thing done and get it done right. She always put in long hours and paid attention to every detail. She was a great friend and a great worker. She’s not a quitter, I’ll tell you. She takes the job and does it perfectly.”

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