Friday, June 3, 2016

Suits in Space

Suiting up for a romp through the Solar System, the producers of 2010 were aware of the legacy they had become the caretakers of. The costumes were perhaps not lavish, but practical. Practical to the point of being nominated for an Academy Award. 

American helmet with top mounted light.
The spacesuits in the movie were designed by veteran designer Patricia Norris, who had just come off her design detail for Brian De Palma's notorious movie Scarface. That movie, starring Al Pacino in possibly his hammiest performance, was mostly about pinstripe suits and open collars. For 2010, her gig was slightly different. She received an Academy Award nomination at the 57th Academy Awards for Best Costume Design for her work, but unfortunately lost to Czech designer Theodor Pistek for his splendid work on Amadeus.

American helmet.
All in all she was nominated an incredible six times for her work. This was not the first time Norris was paired up with Peter Hyams; she had previously worked with the director on another of his science fiction films, Capricorn One. Miss Norris sadly passed away in February of 2015.

The immediately noticeable difference between the American and the Russian space suits is, of course, the helmet. The Russian helmets have the work lights on the left and right sides of the helmet, whereas the American helmets have one single light mounted on top. This distinction is seldom noticed by the average movie goer.

Russian space suit helmet with
side mounted work lights.
All in all the American and the Russian suits are, of course, completely different.

The cut and the fabric for the American suits was very much designed as a match for the then-current NASA space suits, whereas the Soviet-Russian space suits were similar in design to the suits in the previous movie.

This sartorial design decision was made to reflect the difference in trajectories between the US and Soviet space programs; the Russians were more often than not focused on what had worked previously, and saw very little importance in recreating already workable models.

Discovery Suits

The Discovery space suits of 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010 have a series of differences, some noticable, some less so.

The most obvious is the size of the suit control apparatus. In 2010 a much slimmer piece had replaced the much bulkier one from 2001.

2001 suit at left, 2010 suit at right.

Since all blueprints, designs, and props from 2001: A Space Odyssey had been destroyed, the 2010 production crew had to use blow-ups of frames from the movie to recreate the red space suit for Dave Bowman. In the eyes of the casual movie goer the 2001 recreation was of course similar enough to produce the illusion of continuity.

At Dave Bowman's Leisure

One detail that is often overlooked, or missed entirely, is the evening suit of Dave Bowman. It's only visible in two short shots, and it is supposed to function as a bridge between the 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010 movies. In 2001: A Space Odyssey the suit is worn by Dave Bowman in the perplexing hotel suite at the very end of the movie. In 2010 Dave Bowman wears it when he appears as an apparition for his boss Heywood Floyd.

Leisure suits, 9 years apart.

The suit was copied from blowups taken from the previous movie, and due to the limitations not every piece of the suit could be copied. The two shots are only a couple of seconds each, so it is doubtful any moviegoer would have noticed any differences.

Production Crew Attire

Arthur C. Clarke's personal jacket.
The final piece that belongs in this article is the attire handed out the the production crew. It used to be common for most major productions to have specially made jackets, caps, and various pieces of clothing made for the core crew.

Some production houses still do this, but most major movie houses these days are only looking at the bottom line. Therefore all paraphernalia is aimed at the general audience. For 2010 however the crew was given their own gear.

Baseball cap for the production crew.
Among the items created for the production crew was a baseball cap and a jacket. A jacket in the same style was for sale by Starlog magazine until the end of 1985. The Starlog jacket was, however, different from the jacket made for the production crew. The baseball caps, in fact, had a small additional run in the year 2010 to coincide with the actual year the events in the movie transpired.

Sir Clarke's 2010 jacket in
storage in Sri Lanka.
It is still possible to find some of the production crew items for sale. They show up - predictably with ever lessening frequency - in various prop stores and on online auction sites such as eBay.

Whether these crew clothing items were designed by Patricia Norris, or whether they were simply standard issue novelty wear, is not known at present.

The 2010 crew was given quite a lot of other items as well, but they are irrelevant for this article.

Images copyright ©1984 MGM, ©2011 Arthur C Clarke Foundation.

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