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'Tempest' costume piece could light up an Oscar

By Mike Gordon


FROM ROYALTY IN EXILE to shipwrecked Italian nobles, the characters in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" inspired Oscar-winning designer Sandy Powell to create costumes that would be as inventive as they were memorable. But her greatest challenge — an enormous cloak for the film's star, Helen Mirren — was so elaborate it was called "The Monster."

That beast, which was made of 3,000 pieces of plastic cut and painted to resemble glasslike volcanic rock, might help Powell win an Oscar this year for costume design. If it does, it will surely bring more attention to TalkStory Productions, the Hawaii-based production house that helped produce "The Tempest." The $22 million film, which was released in November, was shot on Lanai and the Big Island.

The 50-year-old Powell, who already has three Oscars for costume design, is understandably proud of the cape.

"In the script it was described as being made from 'shards of glass and light,'" Powell said in an e-mail from her home in Italy. "At first I considered trying to make something that actually lit up but realized it wouldn't work as we were shooting in daylight, so I had to find another solution."

Because the story's main characters have been stranded for years on a remote island, director Julie Taymor wanted their clothing to look like the landscape. Powell sewed each piece onto a mesh base in a pattern created to look like flowing lava.

"Each piece was incredibly light, so I thought it would work, but after all 3,000 pieces were sewn on, the cloak was incredibly heavy," Powell said. "I'm not sure exactly how much it weighed, but it took two people to carry it everywhere."

The cloak also taxed Mirren, said Jason Lau, president of TalkStory and a co-producer of the film. "Originally, it was too heavy for Helen to wear," he said. "It was beautiful, but Sandy had to take it apart and lighten it up and then it became extremely fragile."

It needed repairs every time Mirren wore it. "It was so huge and so delicate," Lau said. "But it looked great when the light shined through it."

The Academy Awards will be announced Feb. 27.

IT WAS A MEETING for the ages: The creators of the popular new version of "Hawaii Five-0" in the same room with several surviving stars of the original CBS series.

The private cocktail party, held last weekend at Waialae Country Club, served to bridge the two eras of the famous police drama, said independent video producer Emme Tomimbang, who helped organize the event along with friends of the late James MacArthur and Rose Freeman, widow of the original show's creator. Tomimbang and MacArthur, who played Danno on the original series, had discussed holding an event long before the actor died last October.

Freeman couldn't attend, but sent welcoming remarks and orchid lei for everyone. "It gives me great pleasure to also thank all of the new young blood that has brought 'Hawaii Five-0' back to Honolulu, Hawaii and the world," she wrote.

The event drew original "Five-0" regulars Al Harrington (who has a recurring role in the new series), Glenn Cannon, Eddie Sherman, Jimmy Borges, John Nordlum (Jack Lord's stunt double) and Doug Mossman, who told Tomimbang that he needed to be there so the public would know he's still alive.

New "Five-0" executive producer Peter Lenkov brought a group of about 10 writers, producers and CBS executives.

"Peter gave a nice speech about being humbled and now he knows the task at hand," Tomimbang said. "I know the old-timers really appreciated listening to him and seeing his openness and his respect for legacy."

As a tribute to MacArthur — and at the urging of his widow, H.B., who was also there — Tomimbang showed a 1996 documentary she and MacArthur produced, "Memories of Hawaii Five-0." The 45-minute video features interviews with the show's main stars except Jack Lord, who was ill at the time.

Lenkov liked it so much he asked Tomimbang to send him copies.

"I didn't know when I did it that it would become a legacy piece," Tomimbang said. "Now it's a bridging piece. Now the people who are the recipients of this show will know the history."

AND that's a wrap.

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at

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