Award winning costume designer Ellen Mirojnick has been a part of some of the biggest, most exciting films and TV programs over the last 30 years. With work stretching various genres and styles, she’s collaborated with some of the industry’s true heavyweights, including Steven Soderbergh, Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Paul Verhoeven, John Woo, Richard Attenborough, Renny Harlin, Mark Rydell, Angelina Jolie, and the late Tony Scott, to name only a bunch. An Emmy and Costume Designer Guild Award winner for her spectacular work on the HBO film Behind the Candelabra, Ellen continually applies her love and passion for the arts to each project she takes on, with results that are always eye-catching and wholly appropriate to the material. Podcasting Them Softly is proud to present an interview with Ellen, as she discusses her inspirations, some of the key films on her resume, her dynamic work on The Knick, and what she has in store for the future. We hope you enjoy!

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  1. How did you get your start with costume design and what are some memories from your first job?


I was designing junior sportswear in NY. My husband was working on a film in New Orleans called French Quarter. The film didn’t have a costume designer. I was visiting, they offered me the job, and I was hooked! I did everything from designing the costumes through full wardrobe on set, including sewing. And I can’t sew! So I had holes in my fingers and had to continually wipe blood off the clothes!

  1. Who were some of your inspirations when you were starting out, and growing up, what were some of your favorite films, or the films that spoke to you the most?


Well of course Edith Head. But my favorite film was Auntie Mame, so I couldn’t get enough of Orry-Kelly’s work. I’ve always loved movies! As a kid and while growing up, I went all the time to the cinema. The only films I didn’t see were scary ones. I loved all of Audrey Hepburn’s films, Auntie Mame as I said, and Some Like It Hot was a favorite. I really responded to film noir, the French New Wave, and I just really loved sitting in the movie theater dreaming in the dark.

  1. What was your first “big break” in the industry?


I had a few big breaks. I was given a film to design and was immediately a Costume Designer. I would say my career as we know it began with Fatal Attraction.

  1. You have worked with some absolutely legendary filmmakers – Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne (multiple times), Oliver Stone (multiple times), John Woo, Kathryn Bigelow, Steven Soderbergh (multiple times), Paul Verhoeven, and Tony Scott, just to name a few. Has there been one filmmaker, on this list or not, who you feel you’ve been especially “in tune” with?

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05: American film director Steven Soderbergh attends

I was in tune with all of the above when we worked together, all were momentous experiences! But the legendary filmmaker who I love working with and would say I’ve been “in tune with” the most is Steven Soderbergh. I call him The Grand Master.

  1. Which currently working filmmakers would you love to collaborate with?


I would love to collaborate with Steve McQueen, or somebody brand new, who is passionate about telling stories. Christopher Nolan, I love how he is fascinated by alternate or parallel universes. Marty Scorsese would be the ultimate New York State of Mind, and I’d still love to work again with everyone I’ve previously collaborated with.

  1. After working with Soderbergh on the fantastic Behind the Candelabra which won you an Emmy, he brought you on to his revolutionary new TV show The Knick. What’s it been like working on that show?


There aren’t enough words to describe working with Steven. I feel blessed to be a member of this amazing team. We were all tremendously excited to do something as adventurous as The Knick. 10 hours of storytelling, the complexity of the characters, a true time in history with the early 1900’s, and yet strangely, it still feels very much like today. It was absolutely ELECTRIC putting the pieces together. We built a hospital and a city through a lens we hadn’t seen before. It doesn’t get much better, needless to say, when watching great actors exploring the unknown! Steven has an idea and we get to explore it. He is very trusting with his crew, and he allows us great freedom interpreting the material. He doesn’t micro manage! The goal, as it’s been said by others, is that the actors come onto the set and you know everything works when he picks up the camera and begins to shoot, it’s time for action! The show has been a magnificent challenge, and my joy comes from meeting the various challenges every day, and working with my team, especially with Production Designer extraordinaire Howard Cummings.

  1. The Knick feels like cinema turned into TV. How has this show differed from other TV programs you’ve worked on?2The Knick doesn’t compare with anything. When you are involved with a project that breaks the rules, the rebel in me, as with all the members of the team, rises far and beyond anyone’s wildest dreams! I have only done the occasional TV pilot, all of which have sold and went on to become successful series. And one other TV film, Cinderella, which was lots of fun. But the Knick is great storytelling, chapter by chapter, with great actors loving their characters and their challenges. We shoot it like you shoot a film and I don’t know anyone else that can shoot 560 pages in 73 days! Steven can and does!
  1. This fall sees the release of Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea, which looks emotionally draining and very much a throwback to 70’s filmmaking. What was it like working with her and Brad Pitt on this seemingly quite personal looking film?


Working with Angelina and Brad was great! I didn’t know what to expect but they were great collaborators. It’s a difficult film that was very demanding and an intense assignment, but rewarding none the less.

  1. John Woo’s Face/Off is one of the greatest American action pictures ever made, and the stylish costumes, especially the suits, were a big component of that film’s overall sense of visual flair. What can you remember about working on that bullet fest?


I was thrilled to work with John Woo. I was a great fan of all his Hong Kong films. I loved that I always liked his bad guy! Face/Off was originally going to take place in the near future. I came along and suggested that at the core of the film lived the same man, both sides of him, good and bad, just like the work John does best. They changed the film’s time frame to present day and the characters just spoke to me. John had an idea that when Nic Cage   walked across the tarmac, his coat would fly open as in Lawrence of Arabia. We were able to achieve it with the aid of wind machines! Everyone thought it was a spectacular leather coat and it went on to inspire many future iconic film characters. It wasn’t leather, but rather, it was a polyester priest robe!

  1. Strange Days is one of the most ambitious science fiction films ever made, and everything about the look and feel of that film is tremendous, especially the distinct wardrobe worn by every scuzzy character. What can you remember about working with Kathryn Bigelow on this masterpiece of cinema?


Working with Kathryn was quite fulfilling. The film took place at the turn of the decade, the year 2000. It was 1994 if I remember correctly when we were shooting, and 2000 wasn’t that far into the future. I helped to create a world that was a hyper mix, with various ethnicities, different time periods, rock ‘n roll, etc. It was divine ecology with nothing being wasted; the rich were rich, the poor were desperate. I remember wanting it to be decadent and sexy. I think it was ahead of its time for sure…

  1. One of the most underrated films on your resume is Lee Tamahori’s Mulholland Falls, aka, “The Hat Movie.” That film has an extraordinary sense of style, and the costume work was nothing short of brilliant. What was it like doing a full blown period noir and getting a chance to work with that incredible male ensemble, all of whom looked beyond snazzy in their outfits?


I’m so happy you feel that way about this film as I loved working on it! I love designing for men, it’s pretty clear. I had trouble being thought of as one to design period films, so when I was asked to do this film I felt like I had finally gotten a chance. It was my first period film since Chaplin, and I went into it full on. Nick Nolte, Chazz Palminteri, Michael Madsen, the late Chris Penn, John Malkovich, Melanie Griffith, Jennifer Connelly, and all the supporting players, including Rob Lowe – what a fabulous cast to work with! I loved working on the colors of the suits, and we found original fabrics for all the guys, and all the hats were handmade for the picture. I had a great time, but the story no one knows is that the real life detectives all wore white suits and cruised the strip in a white convertible! The producers thought the studio would be expecting “Men in White”, but after meeting with Frank Mancuso, the head of the studio at that time, he told us we had made the right choice.

  1. Nancy Meyers is a filmmaker who has a very specific style of storytelling and set decoration. What was it like working with her on What Women Want, which is one of the more thoughtful entries on her resume of entertaining comedies?


Nancy and I have very similar tastes in most areas, which made for a really good collaboration. It’s always a pleasurable working experience when your taste aligns with that of the filmmaker.

  1. Is there a genre you’d like to work in that you previously haven’t?


I’d love to do a musical or a fantasy, maybe a nitty-gritty thriller or something definitely not pretty. Actually, anything with a great story and an inspired storyteller – that’s what I’m looking for in new projects.

  1. Who are some of the other current costume designers who inspire you to continuously do great work?


There are so many great designers working today and I don’t want to leave anyone out!

  1. If you’re able to divulge any information, what projects do you have coming out in the near future, and what are you currently working on?


I’m currently in Cambodia, about to shoot Angelina Jolie’s next directorial project. It’s adapted from the book by Loung Ung called “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter Remembers.”

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(This interview was conducted via email in November 2015, and was edited by Nick Clement.)




Side Effects is a slick, smart, and deceptively layered thriller from Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns, who before this under the radar gem crafted the irreverent comedic masterwork The Informant! Side Effects is an extremely stylish head game that loves toying with the audience at all times, and it also happens to be very sexy, which is something that Soderbergh isn’t routinely known for; this is one of the more juicy and nervy offerings from this most eclectic filmmaker. Rooney Mara was absolutely terrific (not to mention disturbingly hot) and Jude Law was the perfect chump to get pulled into her web of potential deceit with possibly dangerous ramifications. The entire cast shines due to an unpredictable narrative that makes your head spin during the final reel, and as usual for Soderbergh, the film is just as interesting for what it doesn’t do than for what it does do. Upending conventions is Soderbergh’s typical stock in trade, and while this film was marketed as one thing, it really was something totally different than what had been suggested or what might be expected. This is one to watch again and again in order to fully appreciate all of the cinematic sleight of hand on display; it’s Soderbergh’s ode to Hitchcock. Also, Vinessa Shaw, as usual, was fantastic – she needs more work!



Rites of Passage (2012) Directed by W. Peter Iliff Shown: Poster Art

If you’re looking for an unpretentious, totally nasty horror thriller with just the right amount of sex and violence,  look no further than Rites of Passage, which was written and directed by W. Peter Iliff, the creator of Point Break. The film centers on a group of Anthropology students who decide to take the wrong field trip, to that of an ancient Indian burial ground, with their sleazy professor in tow, played by a game Stephen Dorff. One of the student’s parents happens to have a ranch which is sitting on the site of the burial ground, and it’s decided, in classic horror movie fashion, that it would be a good idea to hold a sweat-lodge-style ceremony in an effort to contact the spirits. Tea that’s been dosed with mind-expanding drugs doesn’t hurt, either! But all hell breaks loose once the drug addicted older brother of one of the students makes an appearance, here in the form of a severely whacked-out Wes Bentley. It seems that Bentley has a meth-cooking operation happening at the ranch, and he’s mixed up with a mental-case baddie with some intense personal demons played by Christian Slater, who isn’t too impressed to have all these new visitors. Before you know it, the innocent partying is cut short, while the body count mounts, with the attractive cast getting to do their best run-scream-and-fighting. Iliff wastes no time with the fast moving narrative, and takes the film into surreal, wildly tripped out places before its conclusion; the sight of Slater hallucinating a stuffed monkey, which tries to talk some sense into the increasingly unhinged killer, is just as lunatic and hysterical as it sounds. This is one of those low-budget items that loves to be playing in the milieu that it is, filled with some gory kills, some nasty black humor, and a tone that juggles thrills with stoner humor and all sorts of wild and crazy ideas. It’s never boring, it’s frequently ridiculous in an over-the-top-entertaining way, and if you need a down and dirty genre item to fill an evening, this one should do the trick.


PTS Presents Writer’s Workshop with PETER ILIFF


Iliff 1Podcasting Them Softly is thrilled to present a chat with screenwriter and director Peter Iliff, a name many movie fans will likely recognize, as he’s the guy responsible for writing one of the greatest action films of all time, POINT BREAK. The film has become a massive audience favorite over the years, and it’s one of those movies that Nick and Frank have seen so many times they’ve probably got most of it committed to memory! Peter‘s other screenwriting credits include the Jack Ryan adventure PATRIOT GAMES, the teen classic VARSITY BLUES, and the underrated and stylish Stephen Hopkins thriller UNDER SUSPICION. His directorial debut arrived in 2012 with the horror thriller RITES OF PASSAGE,  and he’s got a number of exciting projects on the horizon which are detailed during this exciting discussion! Nick and Frank are both big fans of action movies in general, so this was a real treat to be joined by the creator of one of our absolute favorite flicks in POINT BREAK — We hope you enjoy our latest episode!



Locke is a mesmerizing film to study. Dominated by a spellbinding, tour de force performance from Actor of the Moment Tom Hardy, Steven Knight’s fascinating existential drama Locke is nerve-rackingly intense, fully absorbing and completely unpredictable, due in no small part to the narrative conceit of the entire film taking place from the interior of a car. Confined to the driver’s seat of his BMW SUV, Hardy gives an all-stops-out performance – this guy is the real deal, seemingly capable of any role that’s asked of him, always able to elicit sympathy no matter how ragged the character, going from subtle to big at the drop of a hat. The dreamy, artsy cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos leaps off the screen; it’s London-street-lamp-at-night-gorgeous, cousins with Collateral in some respects, with reflections and window patterns dotting the expressionistic 2.35:1 widescreen space. Because the story is exclusively delivered via a series of desperate phone calls that Hardy is having with a variety of people, there’s always the question of how realistic can this scenario play out. But because Knight is so strong with his words and so precise with his visuals, the film becomes more than just a trick-stunt – it’s a gripping, all-together brilliant ride that will leave you with sweaty palms by the finish.




Directed with his usual brand of stylish, cold, clinical detachment, Steven Soderbergh’s riveting virus thriller Contagion is a thinking person’s horror film, a genre piece that defies genre in more than a few ways, never giving into cheap Hollywood sensationalism or resorting to hackneyed plot twists. With basically everyone in town in a juicy supporting role, Soderbergh surgically raced through Scott Z. Burns’ streamlined, startling, and sensational screenplay, never resting for a moment, aided immeasurably by Cliff Martinez’s pulsating electronic score, which happens to be one of my absolute favorites from recent years. This is procedural cinema at its finest – no bloat, no bull, just the facts – so if you’re into this sort of thing (Zodiac, All the President’s Men, Shattered Glass), it’ll knock you sideways and leave you wanting more. The final moments sting with sly irony, Soderbergh’s always incredible sense of cinematography and editing was fully on display (Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard POWER), and the fact that the movie never once opted for the sentimental (smartly and believably, nobody is safe in this movie…as it should be!) makes the nastiness of the briskly moving plot all the more chilling. Contagion was part of that glorious final roll of movies (The Girlfriend Experience, The Informant!, Haywire, Magic Mike, and Side Effects – my lord!) that Soderbergh embarked on before he began work on the brilliant TV series The Knick, and I really hope that his extended absence from the big screen comes to an end very soon. He’s always been one of the sharpest, most erudite of filmmakers, and his beyond eclectic filmography will always fascinate me; I’m just being greedy — I want more! Contagion takes the virus-thriller tropes and shakes them up, looking at the societal and medicinal ramifications from a plausible angle, with all of the film’s collaborators striving to make something timely, topical, and relevant. I think it’s a great, un-showy, deeply troubling look at what will happen when a virus strain comes along and takes us all by surprise. Because you’re living in denial if you think something like this can’t – or won’t – happen at some point in the future.


O Brother Where Art Thou? -A Review by Nate Hill

The Coen Brother’s O Brother Where Art Thou is just a rush of pure originality, musical genius and inspired storytelling, situated outside the box of used conventions, and rooted deeply in a whimsical realm of absurd, charming characters on an epic odyssey across the American south during arguably the most eccentric time period, the 1930s Great Depression. It’s the Coen’s second best for me (it’s hard to top the Lebowski, dude), and a film that I watched so many time growing up that it’s almost now a piece of my soul. It’s loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey. Three bumbling convicts escape from a dusty chain gang in a delightful opening romp set to Harry McClintock’s The Big Rock Candy Mountain. Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) is their silver tongued, troublemaking leader, on his way to reunite with his estranged wife (Holly Hunter, reliably stubborn and sassy) and little daughters. Along with him is short tempered Pete (Coen regular John Turturro in top form) and sweet, dimwitted Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). Together they get in just about every kind of trouble that you can imagine three hapless convicts on the run in depression era south getting into. They briefly share paths with musician Tommy (Chris Thomas King), cross the radar of a boisterous bible salesman (John Goodman, stealing scenes as usual with his effortless, booming charm), become involved with duelling governor candidates Homer Stokes and Pappy O Daniels (Wayne Duvall and Charles Durning), and have run ins with sexy sirens led by Musetta Vander, the KKK, notorious mobster George Babyface Nelson (Michael Badalucco has to be seen to be believed as the lively, likely bi polar suffering wise guy) and more, all the while pursued by mysterious Sheriff Cooley (Daniel Von Bargen, RIP). It’s quite al lot of goings on for one film, but the Coens are masters of telling zany, eclectic stories that deviate into all sorts of unexpected subplots without ever derailing and losing us. This one flows along wondrously, a wild, funny and haunting fable that almost feels like a dust bowl Dante’s Inferno at times, albeit of much lighter subject matter. Roger Deakins spins poetry with his lens, capturing every chaff of wheat, every ray of southern sun and brown hued set design with painstaking expertise. What really holds it together though, is the absolute knockout soundtrack. There’s so many moments of now iconic musical storytelling that we feel we’re watching a strange bluegrass lullaby that just happens to take place in cinematic vision. The Coens have always known their music, but they transcend to another level of intuition here, gathering an incredibly evocative group of songs and artists together that stir the collective ancestral memory of historical Americana. Off the top of my head there’s You Are My Sunshine, Keep On The Sunny Side, I’ll Fly Away beautifully warbled by the Kossoy Sisters, Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Babe sung by the slinky sirens, In The Highways by the adorable Peasall sisters, Jimmie Rodgers’s In The Jailhouse Now, Lonesome Valley, Ralph Stanley’s two eerie pieces O Death, and Angel Band, also by the Peasall Gals, and the classic Down To The River To Pray, which sneaks up on you and leaves you in rapture from its inescapable grip. My favourite by far though is I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, an endlessly catchy hobo tune of jangling melancholy and highway humour, sung by John Hartford but cheekily lip synced by Clooney and team, an original piece made up on the fly by the three characters that goes on to make them ridiculously famous under the pseudonym the ‘Soggy Bottom Boys’. It’s all an intoxicating wonder to take in, the period authentic screenplay and production a feast for the senses. The Coens seem to be adept at whatever they try; sly satire, period piece, stinging violence, dark humour, and even touching drama when they put their minds to it. This is a career high for them, a totally unique piece of art that demands multiple viewings and a spot in any avid movie collectors pantheon.