This story about “Last Night in Soho” first appeared in the Below-the-Line Issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Edgar Wright’s sumptuous thriller “Last Night in Soho” follows young Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer in the present who moves from the country to London’s posh Soho district and inadvertently winds up occupying the life of young singer Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) in the 1960s.
One of the film’s most striking sequences is Eloise’s initial trip back in time as she follows Sandie into the upscale nightclub Café de Paris. (The real club shut down in 2020, a casualty of the pandemic.) It’s a moment that is full of showstopping razzle-dazzle, much of it coming from costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux’s outfits and longtime Wright collaborator Marcus Rowland’s intricate production design. As Sandie walks into the club, she’s flanked by a giant staircase lined with mirrors. As she takes each step, Eloise (in her pajamas—this time-travel business only happens at night) takes the same step, only in the mirror. “The mirrors were in there, and they were in the script,” Rowland said. “Some of it was trial and error, really.” For Sandie’s descent down the stairs, they thought about building a separate “duplicate staircase” for Eloise behind the main staircase, but the idea was ultimately scrapped; the shot was achieved by a motion-control Steadicam that could repeat the shot with one actress then the other, to be seamlessly blended later.
Rowland was quick to point out that there is still a moment with a “double set”—when Sandie hands over her coat and looks in the mirror, and we see Eloise in the reflection. “At one point, the mirror slides across so you get the proper reflection as well,” Rowland said. “That’s all choreographed to happen at a particular point.” It makes sense that a movie about returning to an earlier time would employ similarly old-school techniques.
Just as important to the scene is what Sandie is wearing: a flowing dress that not only has to make an impact on the audience but on Eloise, as it inspires her work and her personal fashion for the rest of the film. Dicks-Mireaux admitted that the costume’s place in the narrative did add pressure. “The things that made me a little nervous were that I’ve got to do a fashion show at the end, and I’ve got to design a dress that will inspire that fashion show,” she said. Dicks-Mireaux knew that the character of Sadie “was not a couture countess, she’s just an ordinary girl,” which informed her design. “Her dress has to be believable, one that she could have had made,” she said. “The idea was to put a kind of tent quality over the shift of the period, so we had a little bit more to play with than just the silhouette of the period.”
But even when they finally settled on the dress, Dicks-Mireaux wasn’t totally sold. “The thing that I was most worried about was that she would look pregnant,” she said. “I was having a few sleepless nights over that.” Even after Wright and Taylor-Joy had all approved, she wondered if she should take more out of it to give it more shape. But like all things connected to “Last Night in Soho,” an answer arrived from the past: the fact that Monica Vitti wore a similar dress in 1966’s Modesty Blaise. “That reassured me,” she said.