Thousands of people have won Oscars since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1929; but only one person can say he rode a jet ski with Helen Mirren on the Oscars stage. That distinction goes to costume designer Mark Bridges. At the 90th Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel announced that the Oscar recipient who delivered the shortest acceptance speech would win a jet ski and a trip to Lake Havasu. Bridges' speech was 35 seconds long.
"I remember the absolute dread that I felt," Bridges laughs now. "At some point, they took me backstage and they said, 'Could you get up on the jet ski?' I will not forget that, and my little tête-à-tête with Helen Mirren, who was our Carol Merrill that night. I said, 'All I can think of is Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain. Dignity, always dignity.' And she said, 'I like to poke holes in dignity sometimes.' That gave me the wherewithal to go for it and enjoy the moment."
Across his career, the costume designer has won two Oscars, one for Michel Hazanavicius' Best Picture winner, The Artist (2011), and another for Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread (2017). He was also nominated for his work on Inherent Vice (2014) and Joker (2019). That he has the opportunity to design costumes at all is the prize of a lifetime.
Bridges found his way to the theater club at a young age, and even in high school, "I was on stage as well as working on the costumes." He studied theater in college but, "At some point, the costume shop won out." While getting his master's degree in costume design, he worked in Broadway costume shops and then headed to Hollywood, where he was mentored by Richard Hornung. "Everything that I'm into and love naturally — history, fabric, characters, artwork, colors, dye, and drawing — it's all in one job. Every aspect of it is fun for me."
He is a regular collaborator of Anderson — having been the costume designer on every narrative feature that Anderson has directed — as well as Noah Baumbach, the Coen brothers, and David O. Russell. His latest costume designs can be seen in Bradley Cooper's Maestro, about the decades-long romance between the legendary composer and his wife, Felicia Montealegre.
Below, Bridges shares with A.frame five of the films that had a major impact on him.
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli | Costume Design by: Mary Ann Nyberg
When I was a kid in Niagara Falls, I remember really being influenced by That's Entertainment!, which is a compilation of all the MGM films. That really hit me, because I had not been exposed to all those classic movies. Then out of that came The Band Wagon, which is a Vincente Minnelli musical about making a musical. That hit me and captured my imagination as a teenager in Niagara Falls.
Directed by: Roman Polanski | Costume Design by: Anthea Sylbert
As a costume designer, something like Chinatown is always so chic and beautiful and right-on. Certainly, there are a lot of Italian movies, especially Piero Tosi movies, that affected the level of quality I want to do. But I love L.A. — even the underside of L.A — and so Chinatown was a beautifully told story, and that level of smartness and rightness in the costumes certainly affected me.
Directed by: Irving Rapper | Costume Design by: Orry-Kelly
I always love a tear-jerker, so I will always go for Now, Voyager. And I love a good makeover. There's a little bit of philosophy at the end of that movie. Jerry asks her, 'Will you be happy?' She says, 'Let's not ask for the moon. We have the stars.' I think being happy with what you have is so important, so I like that that is how that ends. Because we have the stars, and you're lucky to have that.
Directed by: Sidney Lumet | Costume Design by: Theoni V. Aldredge
I love Network. Anything Paddy Chayefsky, I love. It's incredible to think that the man who wrote Network also did these incredible things like Marty and Middle of the Night. The dialogue is always so smart. Everything about Network is brilliant, from it being prescient about reality TV, to Faye Dunaway and Bill Holden and every single one of them. I could watch Network anytime.
Directed by: Victor Fleming | Costume Design by: Adrian
I grew up with things like Sonny and Cher and The Carol Burnett Show, and I feel like Bob Mackie is the acolyte of the glamour that Adrian started. Pick an Adrian movie from the '30s, and it'll be mind-boggling clothes. Anything from Madam Satan for [Cecil B.] DeMille, to The Women, to Ziegfeld Girl, and anything in between. He had the means and the imagination. And it's stunning. We're so lucky to have that.
The first Adrian movie I ever saw was The Wizard of Oz. I'm still fascinated with the munchkins — with the curled toe on the shoe, and the flower on the toe — and the flying monkeys' outfits, and Glinda. I was weaned on black and white and color in one film, and here we are today with Maestro, right?