CM – Exclusive interview – Spirale: From the book of the saw costume designer Laura Montgomery


The wait is finally over. One year after Spiral: From the Book of the Saw, which was originally supposed to be published, the twisted story is finally coming to theaters this Friday. Although this is the ninth installment in the franchise, Spiral has a very fresh look and story. One of the people responsible for this new look, more precisely for the noir wardrobe, is costume designer Laura Montgomery. To get the desired look from director Darren Lynn Bousman, Laura examined clothing styles from the 40s and 50s and experimented a lot with sketches. She discusses this and reworks the famous puzzle cloak, the input Chris Rock gave her about the look of his character, and much more in the following exclusive interview.

I worked with director Darren Bousman in 2012 on his film The Barrens designed, a thriller about a family who camped out in Pine Barrens, New Jersey, and met the New Jersey Devil. I am based in Toronto, Canada. When the decision was made to shoot Spiral in Toronto, I was thrilled to join the production and work with Darren again.

In my first conversations with director Darren Bousman, he discussed that the film was like a contemporary film noir should look like. In preparation, I looked at the film noir genre and the clothing styles of the 40s and 50s. The film is set during a summer heat wave, and Darren wanted the heat to be a visible element that conveyed a sense of tension and discomfort. To get into the right headspace, I kept coming back to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Orson Welles’ A Touch of Evil for visual reference. Making costume sketches is an important part of my design process. A pencil and especially an eraser help me work through concepts and find the right look.

In order to realize Darren’s vision of contemporary film noir, my stylistic approach with the color palette should be very controlled. I used lots of rich mid-tones like navy, ocher, burnt orange, teal, and of course black and gray. To create a 2021 version of a mid-century look, I went for contemporary clothing with a classic style: tattersall shirts, foulard-print ties, suspenders, three-piece suits. I also took great care not to use the color red. Blood is such an important element in the Saw films, and I wanted the moments we see blood on the screen to have maximum impact. The only time red appears in a costume is on the lining of Jigsaw’s hood.

Alex Kavanagh was the costume designer of Saw II-VII. Did she give you any advice before you started working on this film?

Yes! Alex has been a supportive friend and mentor throughout my career, and we had a lot of conversations before I started working on Spiral. Alex was very generous with her advice and expertise, she even lent me the Saw II puzzle coat as a reference!

Was there an established “lookbook” that you had to follow because there were so many Saw- Films existed?

One thing that intrigued me about this film was that Darren Bousman and Chris Rock wanted to offer a new take on the franchise. Spiral exists in the world of Saw movies, but Darren and Chris were very careful to give this movie its own visual language. The work of cameraman Jordan Oram on this project is breathtaking. For many days I would arrive on the set and let the innovative lighting take my breath away. I felt like I had the freedom to create original costumes that would work in this new, more stylized environment.

The only time I wanted to stick with the Saw lookbook was with Jigsaw’s costume. The black cape from Jigsaw with a red lined hood is an icon. Staying true to the colors and silhouette, I looked forward to building an updated version of this sinister costume.

Chris Rock is a main character in Spiral, and he’s also an executive producer. How much creative input did he have on your work?

Chris Rock trusted me to implement my vision for the other characters, including Jigsaw, but he had a lot of helpful input into the design of his own character, Detective Zeke Banks. In our first conversation, Chris told me that he wanted to look like a real cop. He said he hosted the Oscars twice. People know what he looks like in a good suit. He wanted Zeke to wear a cheap, ill-fitting suit suitable for a working cop who makes $ 40,000 a year and gives half to his ex-wife.

The puzzle character obviously plays a central role in of the series. Have you changed his looks from previous films?

Jigsaw is such an important character in this film and in the Saw franchise. As we were creating a new visual world, Spiral gave me the opportunity to update Jigsaw’s costume. It was important to stay true to the existing silhouette of a hooded cloak and keep the color black with a red lined hood. Apart from these parameters, all bets were void! I wanted the costume to be modern, edgy, and threatening, and to reflect what I believed to be the interests of someone who builds torture traps. The design details are influenced by S&M, tactical gear and street fashion. I was very inspired by streetwear brands like Boris Bidjan Saberi and Fear Of God. The lacing on the sleeves is inspired by Japanese rope binding and the lacing on the back looks like a human spine. I also built in tactical elements like eyelets and D-rings. The concept for the neck piece, which hides the lower edge of the pig mask, arose from the black bandanas worn by Antifa demonstrators. A simple gray sweatshirt, cargo pants and chunky sneaker boots complete the look.

They also work on FX ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, which is very heavily stylized. Do you have a favorite character from that show? Why?

Designing the costumes for what we do in the shadows is a dream job because it’s not just one period, it’s all periods! Amanda Neale, who worked with Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement for many years and designed the costumes for the film and the series’ first two seasons, established the look with her unique New Zealand aesthetic. Building on that in season three, especially during a pandemic, was a huge creative challenge but was great fun. The show’s costume concept is that the vampires got stuck in the time they were humans. This gives me the opportunity to dance through eras, cultures and classes and explore hundreds of years of clothing history. My specialty is costume making and this show is heavily build based. I am fortunate to have Carla Mingiardi, a brilliant editor who can translate my ideas from sketch to engraving.

I have a lot of fun with Nadja as she is the only woman in the house, but I think my favorite characters are the variety of daily players and guest stars. It’s a joy to bring to life every new goofy, idiosyncratic character our brilliant writers dream of.

Has there been a movie in the last year that you really caught your eye on the costume design?

The Cinemas in Toronto have been closed since early 2020 so I saw a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race from my couch. I like to watch TV at home, but whenever possible I try to watch movies on the big screen so I can really appreciate all the details. One of the last films I saw in theaters was Uncut Gems and I was very impressed with Miyako Bellizi’s costume design. She created authentic and unique characters and struck the perfect balance with costumes that you notice and remember, but that don’t pull the audience out of the story.

Is there a particular director or showrunner that you really are with would like to work one day?

I think Luca Guadagnino’s work is characterized by its beauty and attention to detail, both in production and in costume design.

Many thanks to Laura Montgomery for taking the time took for this interview. You can learn more about Laura here.

Filed under: Exclusive, Interviews, Films Tagged with: Laura Montgomery, Saw, Spiral: From the Book of the Saw

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