‘Black Panther’ Costume Designer Ruth Carter on Her Third Oscar Nomination and Why Costumes Should Not Look Like Costumes [Interview]
Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019 by Steven Prokopy
To read the list of films that costume designer Ruth Carter has worked on in her 30-year-plus career is to move through the history of black cinema in that time period, having worked extensively (in some cases, almost exclusively) with such filmmakers as Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, John Singleton and Lee Daniels. This week, she received her third Oscar nomination for her groundbreaking costume designs in director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (she was also nominated for Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad), and she recently completed costuming work for the Craig Brewer-directed Rudy Ray Moore biopic Dolemite Is My Name, starring Eddie Murphy.
Carter began her film career working on Lee’s School Daze in 1988, and the two worked together on upwards of a dozen features, including Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Clockers, Crooklyn, Summer of Sam, Bamboozled, Oldboy, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, and Chi-Raq, although oddly not BlackKkKlanman, because she was too busy working on Black Panther. Other career highlights for Carter include costume designs for I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, The Five Heartbeats, What’s Love Got to Do with It, The Meteor Man (her first attempt at a superhero costume), Cobb, Money Train, Love & Basketball, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Shaft (2000), Baby Bay, Four Brothers, Black Dynamite, Serenity (yes, the Joss Whedon Firefly movie adaptation), Selma, and Marshall. Some of her most recent designs were seen last year on the Paramount network’s series Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, which features a great deal of Western wear, something that was a first for Carter.
/Film walked through Carter’s entire career with her during this extensive interview conducted last year during the Chicago International Film Festival, during which she was honored with a tribute to her groundbreaking work. Naturally, we go into great detail about her landmark costumes for Black Panther, but we also cover her longtime collaborations with Spike Lee and discuss the places where she seeks and receives inspiration for her designs.