The clothe. Credit: Focus Features
Nicely dressed in a sharp gray suit, Graham Moore talks with genuine enthusiasm about his directorial debut, The clothea 1950s Chicago gangster flick with a difference, shot entirely in a tailor’s shop, which is a world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.
All the action centers on and around a master “cutter”, Leonard Burling, played by British actor Mark Rylance, who must outwit a dangerous group of gangsters in order to survive a fateful night.
Having it all take place in a small location proved beneficial for Moore and his production team as they were due to start filming in the US in April 2020 when Covid hit. Luckily, they just needed some controlled studio space, so they moved into the most unlikely places.
“We decided to film at Fountain Studios next to Wembley Stadium, which is home to The X-Factor, so we could be close to Mark [Rylance]. It was actually quite fun to recreate an atmosphere of 50s Chicago surrounded by posters of Simon Cowell and the crew everywhere.
Moore isn’t your typical debut director. He is already a bestselling author and Oscar winner for his screenplay of The imitation gamewhich turned out to be a smash hit, earning an estimated $233 million on a $14 million budget in 2014.
The accolades and contacts he accrued through this project certainly came in handy when creating The Outfit years later. Indeed, FilmNation arrived very early on as producers – alongside Scoop Productions and Amy Jackson – having also distributed The imitation game.
The idea for The clothe was originally inspired by Moore’s grandfather, Charlie, a gentle, decent man who worked as a doctor in a small-town medical office in the United States. He was hugely influential in Moore’s early life after his parents’ divorce, helping him tie his first tie.
“But despite being a kind and gentle soul, one of his patients was notorious mobster Jerry Catena. It was always fascinating to my family and heinous to my grandmother who couldn’t understand why he was treating a murderer. known. What my grandfather always said, ‘he was never anything but a gentleman to me,'” Moore laughs. “The psychology of these two completely different men and their worlds colliding interested.”
The idea was ruminating in Moore’s brain when his friend and co-writer (and executive producer) of the film, Jonathan McClain, once said, “How come no one has ever made a movie about a tailor of Savile Row? “.
This peaked Moore’s interest and the two set to work researching this fascinating line of work, which takes years to perfect (even spending time in the basement of a Savile Row store) , until their main character, Leonard, was formed. But then they needed a story.
“And that’s when we found a single sentence buried at the bottom of a big book of about 20and costume making of the century. We learned that the first bug the FBI ever planted was in a tailor shop in Chicago in 1956. We immediately lit up and said that was our story. It’s about a man, like my grandfather, a nice craftsman, working for these vicious gangsters in the 1950s and the FBI wants to plant a bug to catch them, ”says Moore. “I thought to myself, if we could build an entire film inside the tailor’s workshop. It felt like an exciting and contained film noir concept, in the same vein as Hitchcock films like rear window and Rope.”
The pair got to work on the script, sharing drafts with Scoop Production’s producer Scoop Wasserstein, who, like FilmNation later, immediately decided he wanted to be involved. “Even at this early stage, I knew I was watching something special,” he says. “It’s full of character-based surprises.”
Then, getting Rylance on board to play the lead role was a dream come true for Moore. “Having him for my directorial debut took a lot of the weight off me. All I had to do was say ‘point the camera over there at Mark and say action and something brilliant will happen, and I’ll take all the credit,’” smiles Moore.
The scenes between Rylance’s character and crime boss Roy Boyle, played by famous British stage actor, Simon Russell Beale, are particularly memorable. The pair moved in the same acting circles for many years, often playing Shakespearean characters, but had never worked together before. “It was exciting to put them in the same room, you could tell they were both eager to do their best when they were on set together. We used two cameras instead of one so we could focus on them at the same time and allow them to improvise and try things out.
Rounding out the small main cast are Zoey Deutch as Leonard’s assistant, Mable; Dylan O’Brien as Roy’s son, Richie; Johnny Flynn as mobster Francis’ henchman; and Nigerian-born British actress Nikki Amuka-Bird as rival gang leader La Fontaine. All characters are based on real people in Chicago in the 1950s.
The film’s title is a double meaning, referring to the Chicago Outfit, which was a criminal organization formed from the remnants of Al Capone’s empire, made up of gangs from all over the United States. “But it’s also a metaphor for how our clothes are an outward projection of ourselves, and when you take the layers off, things may not be what they seem, which is the case for everyone. the characters,” says Moore.
As a rookie and with a low budget of $5 million to star in, Moore deliberately surrounded himself with as much creative talent as possible to help make the film impressive. This included Dick Pope (Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies) as cinematographer and Gemma Jackson as production designer, who has worked on several major projects, including game of thrones.
“You would never know how low a budget this film was compared to the caliber of people who run each department. Many of them are Oscar winners and nominees, but they all work together in true harmony,” Moore enthuses.
“I even managed to convince my friend William Goldenberg, who worked on some of my favorite films, including Heat and The insider [and The Imitation Game], to do the editing,” says Moore. “We worked from his living room in Los Angeles because of Covid. It was funny because her teenage daughter was at Zoom School in the other room, so we couldn’t cut out the loud filming scenes while she was there.
Perhaps the biggest coup of all was securing independent heavyweights Focus Features as distributors, securing a theatrical release in the US on March 18 and in the UK on April 8.
Moore has his fingers crossed but is nonetheless very happy with the turn of the film, despite having to film during Covid. “I just hope that my next project, which I am currently writing the screenplay for, can be shot in a non-pandemic environment,” he concludes.