In Hollywood, it’s never just a T-shirt or a pair of pants. “Is it an interior or exterior scene? There’s just so much more than people think,” says Amy Westcott, our Best Big-Screen Designer.
A Delaware County native and a member of Springfield High School’s Arts Hall of Fame, Westcott has done it all, working with M. Night Shyamalan and many other big-time film directors. She’s also done countless television programs and cable series, including HBO’s Entourage. Most recently, it’s been The OA, an eight-episode Netflix drama that she’s been shooting in Queens, N.Y., not far from her current home in Brooklyn.
In some ways, what Westcott’s doing now isn’t that far removed from her Barbie days with older sister Lora, when they’d repurpose pieces of fabric found in their parents’ Springfield attic. Unbeknownst to their mother, Lois, they were using scraps from her bridesmaids’ gowns. “If there was something our dolls didn’t have, my sister and I made it,” says Westcott. “We got in big trouble, but we had to get our Barbies to look so much better—and they did, thanks to Mom’s satin wedding fabric.”
The daughter of baseball author and historian Rich Westcott, the 1988 Springfield High graduate went on to Syracuse University for a degree in fashion design. Relocating to New York City, she waited tables while waiting for a break. She had jobs with four different fashion companies that closed overnight, even having her designs stolen. “I worked on Seventh Avenue, but it was a horrendous time,” she says.
Westcott’s huge break came when she was one of 17 people hired as costume-design production assistants for the 1997 movie Cop Land. From there, she assisted with independent films before landing a job as lead costume designer for Roger Dodger, which earned a Tribeca Film Festival award in 2002. That paved the way for her work on Entourage, where Westcott found her husband, director Mark Mylod—most notably of HBO’s Game of Thrones. “I’ve always been grateful to Entourage,” she says. “[Mark and I] are separated for lots of months a year. We have to work at it and remember why we’re in a relationship in the first place.
For a while, the couple went back and forth from New York to a second home in Los Angeles, but it was difficult on their two kids. Now,
there’s more work in New York. “Things are more of a beast in L.A.,” says Westcott.
Among her lengthy list of credits, Westcott certainly has favorites. One was director Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler (2008). “It was so damn hard, but the camaraderie among the wrestlers—they’re the nicest guys in the world,” she says. “I was afraid what kind of people they’d be, but they were awesome. Mickey Rourke was great.”
Westcott notes that the conditions on the set were hardly ideal. “We were shooting in the middle of New Jersey in freezing temperatures, as the movie portrays a life in cold trailer parks, and other locations that aren’t so glamorous,” she says. “Every weekend, a core group of us would go to wrestling events or strip clubs for research.”
The closest Westcott came to an Oscar reminded her of her those miserable, cliquey NYC fashion days. Popular sibling designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy—of the designer brand Rodarte—were enlisted by friend Natalie Portman to design her stage costumes: seven sensual, sinister feathered outfits for Black Swan, the dark, deranged Aronofsky dance drama that won Portman an Oscar in 2011.
Rodarte wasn’t a member of the Costume Designers Guild like Westcott, who was the film’s head costume designer. So the sisters weren’t eligible for awards or even the credits. Westcott was nominated for a BAFTA award (the British Oscars). Meanwhile, the Mulleavys—who felt cheated—bad-mouthed Westcott, and bloggers and style-watchers followed suit, according to Vogue.
Westcott wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but she eventually spoke out about the smear campaign. “It was a bad scenario—one I never want to repeat,” she says now. “I learned a lot, mostly to be wary and look out for myself.”