ABOUT THE PRODUCTION 1700s Venice – He was the legendary adventurer whose amorous dalliances would go on to inspire countless lovers throughout the centuries. She was the most virtuoso writer of her time who was waiting to find that rare man with a true understanding of steadfastness and passion. When Giacomo Casanova (Heath Ledger) discovered Francesca Bruni (Sienna Miller), he met his ultimate romantic match, succumbing to the only woman ever to refuse his charms . . . until he could prove himself to be the one man worthy of her romantic ideals.
With CASANOVA, Academy Award® nominated director Lasse Hallström (“Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat”) creates a sharp, sophisticated modern comedy from the long-running legend of Giacomo Casanova, the Renaissance-era spy, soldier, writer, philosopher and adventurer who became famed as a notorious lover of women. Though Casanova’s life and loves have been explored in dozens of screen incarnations, he has never been seen in so essentially human a predicament: befuddled by his stolen heart and trying to become a better man in his own clever fashion. The film is at once the director’s most delightfully romantic and comedic work to date – as well as a playful exploration into the timeless conflicts between repression and sensuality, disguises and identity, desire and love.
Key to the vision for the film was creating a Casanova with a contemporary edge: youthful, accessible and emotionally true-to-life. Running away with this imaginative concept, the film’s screenwriters bring forth a very different view of Casanova’s myth. Here, Casanova is not only a dashing rebel and wit, but also a vulnerable man who is chasing after love as Bishop Pucci (Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons) of the Inquisition chases after him. Caught up in a comic whirl of disguises, duels, deceit and love-struck desire, Casanova begins to see the vital difference between the allure of conquest and the power of true love.
A Touchstone Pictures release, CASANOVA is directed by Lasse Hallström from a story by Kimberly Simi and Michael Cristofer and a screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher and Kimberly Simi. The cast includes Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Oliver Platt and Lena Olin. The producers are Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers and Leslie Holleran. Executive producers are Su Armstrong, Adam Merims and Gary Levinsohn.
A highly accomplished team of visual artists bring 18th Century Venice to life from a fresh, light-hearted perspective in CASANOVA, including acclaimed Director of Photography Oliver Stapleton (“Cider House Rules”), Academy Award® nominated production designer David Gropman (“Chocolat”), Editor Andrew Mondshein and Academy Award®-winning costume designer and four-time Academy Award® nominee Jenny Beavan (“A Room With A View,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Remains of the Day”).
The World’s Greatest Lover Trying to Navigate Real Love:
The Story of CASANOVA The notion of the world’s greatest lover falling head over heels for a woman who considers him unworthy – and setting out on the ultimate romantic quest of his life — was first imagined by screenwriter Kimberly Simi. Simi’s early draft of CASANOVA drew the attention of producer Leslie Holleran, whose long-time collaboration with Lasse Hallström has included such films as “The Cider House Rules,” “Chocolat” and “The Shipping News.” Knowing Hallström’s work so intimately, Holleran knew that CASANOVA would be an exciting change of pace, allowing the director the chance to push into brand new directions.
“Lasse has always been known for his unfailing sense of human nature and for being an extraordinary observer of the small moments in life,” Holleran notes. “Now he takes on a larger story full of romance, mischief and humor – but with that same empathy for people and that same fascination with the reasons why people do the things that they do.”
Down the road, the screenplay was purchased for the Mark Gordon Company to produce, and Gordon too was quickly smitten with the story’s potential.
“We felt this story would bring a contemporary and comic spin to the famous tale,” recalls Gordon. “What I thought was so wonderful about this CASANOVA is that you have this great lover who manages to completely lose his heart – yet to the only woman who won’t succumb to his charms. There’s so much going against these two coming together that Casanova has to wage a tremendous and very funny battle in the name of love. From Kim’s original script we did a number of different drafts with Michael Cristopher and Jeffrey Hatcher.”
As the script for CASANOVA was developed, Hallström became even more enamored with its clever dialogue, deliciously pointed humor and light-hearted ambiance of romance. The film was like nothing else Hallström had ever done, yet it also offered the kind of rich characters and magical setting that have always drawn the award-winning director.
“This is a big departure for me because it is probably the most outright comedy I’ve ever made,” Hallström comments. “The final script was rich, comic and very clever – and I welcomed the challenge to create a tone I’ve never tried, mixing a kind of classical comedy together with very strong dramatic and romantic elements. Ultimately, we had a really great script, a really great cast and in Heath Ledger, a superb Casanova.”
The producers in turn were thrilled to have Hallström at the helm of CASANOVA. “There’s always something so magical about his movies,” says Gordon. “They have this almost indescribable quality of joyous wonder to them – and they can be incredibly moving as well as being very funny and charming. Ever since I saw ‘My Life As A Dog,’ I’ve been entranced by his work.”
For Hallström, the story was also a chance to tackle a favorite literary and Hollywood legend from an original and very contemporary point-of-view. Observes producer Betsy Beers: “We present a much more upbeat portrait of Casanova than any that has been seen before – one that is irresistibly clever yet also very believable. In some ways, it’s a very modern story of an extraordinary man who finally meets a woman who isn’t impressed with who he is. By transporting that idea to Venice in the 1700s it becomes something full of surprises.”
Beers continues: “It’s also a timeless story that’s very much about disguises and who people really are underneath the masks they wear. In CASANOVA, you have all of these people desperately trying to be someone else before coming to the conclusion that the only way they can get their heart’s desire is by being themselves. That’s an important theme that is woven throughout the film’s characters, from Casanova to Francesca and beyond.”
Swordsman, Artist, Genius and Fool in Love:
Finding a 21stCentury Casanova He would become known for all time as the world’s greatest lover but Casanova was much more than that. Renowned for his sharp intellect and devastating wit, he was also a doctor of law, a soldier, a magician, a writer, a philosopher and a gifted athlete, among other things, all of which only enhanced his reputation for being irresistible to women and immune to settling down with just one special person.
Finding an actor who could embody all of Casanova’s most extraordinary qualities – and then allow them to fall apart in Casanova’s most poignant moments of heartbreak, while suggesting his potential to become a better man through the auspices of an authentic love – was a challenge for the filmmakers. Early on, they had searched for an actor in his 30s or 40s who could project the feeling of someone who has lived hard and loved a lot of beautiful women but is beginning to feel the twinges of wanting to settle down. But when they saw the far younger Heath Ledger, everything instantly changed.
“Heath walked in the room and he was Casanova,” remembers Betsy Beers. “It was one of those amazing things. He was funny, charming and very, very seductive. But he was also elegant and quite vulnerable.”
Continues Leslie Holleran: “We might have been imagining a man who was a little bit older, but in fact I think it turned out to be much more romantic and more fun to find someone as drop-dead sexy, full of devilish wit and fun as Heath can be. Heath suggests, in a delicate way, the sensual rather than the sexual nature of Casanova.”
Ledger not only seemed to possess the mix of dramatic and comedic skills central to the role, but he also offered a physical prowess that proved invaluable for the film’s sword-clanging, chase-filled action. “Heath is smart, easygoing, captivating and his physical abilities are amazing,” comments Lasse Hallström.
Having previously demonstrated an ability to move from boisterous comedy as in “A Knight’s Tale” to intense drama as in “Monsters Ball,” Ledger was instantly attracted to the screenplay. He also simply couldn’t resist playing one of the most famous seduction artists in history, especially in such a novel way.
“I loved the script and I’ve always really admired Lasse as a director so I jumped at the opportunity to work with him. I thought Casanova as he was written in this screenplay would be an incredible amount of fun to play,” Ledger says. “And of course, I was only too happy to travel to Venice!”
Once he committed to the role, Ledger began to read up on the real Casanova, but he quickly decided not to delve too deeply into his real life. “I tackled some of Casanova’s, journals and autobiography but I didn’t want to follow them to a tee,” he explains. “I wanted to keep my portrait of him more loose.”
In fact, Ledger had a more modern lothario in mind as he began to explore the character on screen. “Thousands of women were falling in love with him all the time. So when he finally finds a woman who isn’t attracted to any of that, that’s what really devastates him – and interests him. He sees that here’s a chance that he can convince Francesca that there’s a worthwhile man underneath the myth, and he’ll do whatever he must to prove that to her.”
The Spark That Lit Casanova’s Fire:
Finding An Actress to Play The Most Independent Woman in Venice After a lifetime of easy romantic conquests, Casanova finally collides with the one woman who is every bit his romantic, intellectual and physical equal: Francesca Bruni, the Renaissance writer whose wicked wit, savvy smarts and classical beauty make her the most formidable women in all of Venice – and the one woman who has little use for Casanova’s initial attempts at conquest . . . until she begins to recognize something sublime in his whimsy.
Lasse Hallström was highly enamored of the character from the minute he read the script, and knew he would need to find a very special young actress to take on the role. “Francesca is the one person with the power to change Casanova’s life. She’s really essentially a modern woman – strong-willed, smart and way ahead of her time,” he observes. “Casanova was, in reality, a man who had a tremendous ability to empathize with women, to really talk to them and I think someone like Francesca would have been very intriguing to him.”
Just as it was a challenge to find a contemporary leading man to take on Casanova’s almost mystical charms, so too the filmmakers searched for a strong-willed actress who could stand up to those charms -- and confidently walk away from them. They found what they were looking for in newcomer Sienna Miller, whose feistiness and fresh beauty seemed to immediately click with Heath Ledger’s swashbuckling style.
“We auditioned a lot of women for the part,” recalls Hallström, “but Sienna had that combination of intelligence, charisma and charm that actually carries the character and makes Casanova’s love for her so believable.”
Adds Mark Gordon: “We wanted to find a relatively new face and Sienna stood out as someone who had Francesca’s strength and fire but also had the beauty and sensuality that was required. She had all the elements that make Francesca an amazing woman and we quickly discovered that she and Heath had a wonderful chemistry together.”
Sienna Miller faced, in Francesca, the greatest challenge of her young career. “I had done a number of contemporary films and was very keen to do something period when along came this role,” she says,” with a woman who is fiery and intelligent and feminist and political all in the 18th Century. So I got my corset and I also got a wonderfully strong female part all in one!”
Miller summarizes: “It is such a joy to play someone who is so passionate and independent. As an actress it was just a dream role. Francesca is a non-conformist in every sense of the word – someone who even in her time was definitely not afraid to speak her mind.”
Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Oliver Platt And More Join The Supporting Cast Joining Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller in CASANOVA is a supporting cast of award-winning actors and comic personalities who bring the wild machinations of 18th Century Venice to life. Academy Award® winner Jeremy Irons (“Dead Ringers,” “Reversal Of Fortune”) takes on the key role of Casanova’s chief nemesis – the Pope’s enforcer and probing detective, Bishop Pucci, who plots to catch Casanova in an act of infidelity. For Lasse Hallström, the juxtaposition of Irons’ trademark, cool “Englishness” with the outrageous situations that Pucci finds himself in suggested lots of comic potential.
“I’ve always admired Jeremy Irons and his very precise command of the English language,” says Hallström. “He may not have done a lot of comedy on film before but I could just imagine him in the Pucci part, being able to have a lot of fun with the dialogue and Pucci’s very dry, sarcastic way of speaking. Jeremy has an amazing talent to bend the language any way he wants.”
As he heads for a collision with Casanova, Pucci’s belief in his own infallibility and his epic arrogance only heightens the humor of his character. Irons was intrigued by the chance to play such a comical role, something he hadn’t done since his early stage days. “People don’t normally think of me as doing comedy so it was nice to be able to do something unusual,” says Irons.
The stumbling efforts of Pucci to snare Casanova also recalled, for Irons, another iconic comic character. “I think there is an element of Inspector Clouseau about Pucci in that he always seems to be barking up the wrong tree,” he laughs. “It is envy of Casanova that motivates him. I think that Pucci would like to be young and have every woman falling into his arms. His morals are very suspect. He is a careerist and has been sent by the Vatican to clean up Venice. But of course he wants to do so efficiently with the least trouble for himself.”
Meanwhile, for the part of the bumbling “lard king” of Genoa, Paprizzio, Oliver Platt brought the requisite elements of fool and farce. Though he is one of the film’s most outrageous characters, the filmmakers felt strongly that Paprizzio should not be a simple parody: he had to be someone who is first and foremost a real human being. They brought in Oliver Platt for his skill at creating a mixture of bathos, pathos and comedy.
“Oliver really makes Paprizzio work and makes him utterly believable,” says Lasse Hallström. “He’s very true to the emotion of the scenes and I think he gives Paprizzio a very authentic presence. He brings the character to life by making him emotional as well as funny.”
Platt quickly made the role all his own. “The idea was that Paprizzio comes across in the beginning as very brusque and confident -- but we soon find out that he actually has a tremendous amount of self doubt about himself,” says Platt. “He is also conned in a very elaborate and amusing hoax by Casanova. He is profoundly duped, but the way he is duped, actually gives him a lot of satisfaction and improves his self image, which is a nice twist on things.”
“Oliver is a scene-stealer,” comments Mark Gordon. “He is so funny you can’t help but be drawn to him every time that he is on the screen. I remember the first day he was working. First of all he looked hilarious: he had these fake teeth and simply glancing at him you just had to laugh. He was magnetic, entertaining and embraced the role of Paprizzio with a relish that really comes across.”
Paprizzio’s unlikely love interest becomes none other than Francesca’s mother, Andrea, played by acclaimed actress Lena Olin. “Andrea is part of one of the more unusual love stories that you might see on screen,” says Lasse Hallström, who never had any doubts about casting his wife in the role. “Lena exudes beauty and intelligence, and that’s not just her husband speaking! I think she is an extraordinary actress and I loved this part for her. Working together with Lena on both ‘Chocolat’ and CASANOVA has been great, and I really want more opportunities for us to work together.”
For Lena Olin, Andrea presented the challenge of playing a formidable and stately lady who finds herself in a highly comic situation. “I think Andrea is sort of imprisoned by the period and her position in life because she is an upper class woman who has no means and no money,” Olin says. “She is an extremely passionate character who is tied down by convention and circumstances. I think she falls in love with Paprizzio because he’s so different. He’s so out of the ordinary, just the physical size of him, he’s real flesh and he’s real passion. He’s a very sensual man and she sees that and wants to marry him.”
To play Victoria, the woman who is first promised to Casanova and then cleverly schemes up a plot against him, Natalie Dormer was the perfect fit. The English actress had only recently graduated from drama school, but Lasse Hallström was emphatic that the newcomer was meant for the part. “She was so right for the role,” says Hallström. “She is smart and funny and a real screen talent. She also has a period look that is just right for the film. I predict a bright future for her.”
Dormer, who graduated from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London in April 2004, is delighted with her screen debut, which also allowed her to put her impressive fencing skills (she studied the Olympic sport) to use. ¯To play someone who is girlie and dedicated to that old school method of drawing men in with her sheer femininity was a lot of fun,” Dormer says. “I get to prance around in ruffle skirts dripping with lace!”
Leslie Holleran agrees that Natalie is a star on the rise. “Natalie Dormer knocked us out with her very first read, and from the moment Lasse looked at her audition she was Victoria. We explained to her: ‘before you were a conniving, sleep-around-with-everybody gal and now you are the complete virgin who gets smitten with Casanova and has a deep sexuality burning inside.’ Either way she was perfect for the part. She could do either side of the character in the most convincing way. And she is so fantastic to look at; the camera just loves her.”
Another rising star, Charlie Cox, was cast as Giovanni, Francesca’s younger brother and the young man who is, in a way, Casanova’s protégé. ¯I auditioned Charlie personally in London,” says Lasse Hallström, “and he immediately got the part. The character is quite interesting; he starts out as an awkward young boy and develops into something very striking: he learns how to handle love.”
Cox, whose last film, “The Merchant of Venice,” was also shot in the famed Italian city, imbues Giovanni with a brashness similar to that of his on-screen sister, Francesca. ¯We have that typical older sister/younger brother relationship where they slightly annoy each other but also really care for one another,” he says. ¯And Giovanni also has a wilder side. Through Giovanni, we get to see what the young Casanova might have been like.”
Rounding out the cast is Omid Djalili, a talented comedian and character actor, who plays Lupo, Casanova’s right-hand man, with whom he shares a witty rapport. Djalili’s comedy background was a great asset in portraying the ¯short, fat, balding” counterpart to Heath Ledger’s tall, blond, good-looking Adonis. “Casanova loves Lupo but is also frustrated by him and, on the other hand, Lupo is frustrated by Casanova but also devoted to him,” explains Djalili.
Most of all, Djalili, like the rest of his cast-mates, was drawn to the film because of its engaging story and exciting mix of new and veteran talent. ¯I think the spirit of happiness and creativity that we all found during the production infuses the film,” he summarizes.
The Look Of Love:
CASANOVA Recreates The Magical World of 18th Century Venice When it came to forging the look of CASANOVA, Lasse Hallström chose to aim for a palpable realism – attempting to recreate the mood and atmosphere of Venice at a time when divided streams sensuality and morality were both flowing through the spectacular, water-bound city.
From the beginning, the filmmakers knew there was only one option in terms of the film’s location: Venice and only Venice would work. Long renowned as one of the world’s most romantic and enchanted cities, it couldn’t be replicated. “It was critical for Lasse to shoot in Venice because there is no place else on earth like it – and Casanova and Venice are inextricably linked,” says Mark Gordon. ¯While it was complicated logistically, Venice is now a major character in CASANOVA and it was well worth the challenges.”
Shooting on location is a trademark feature of Lasse Hallström. “The Cider House Rules” was filmed in New England, “The Shipping News” took him to the arctic climate of Newfoundland and “Chocolat” was made in the picturesque villages of France. “I go wherever the script takes me and then I try to get deeply into the life of that place,” Hallström says. “The best way of getting to know Venice was to experience it in person. I am fortunate to have been able to shoot the script in a location that inspired the story and every single person in the production.”
Hallström was dazzled by the architectural landscape Venice offered. The city’s stirring and varied topography, from its warren of narrow streets and bridges to the sweep of the bay, from the splendor of the Piazza San Marco to the romantic allure of the canals, became a key aspect of the film, lending itself to CASANOVA’s comic escapades and maze-like adventures in identity shifting. “This film is one of the few movies I know of that has been entirely shot in Venice. The city adds the realism we wanted, while providing wonderfully seductive visuals as well,” says the director.
For the cast, shooting in Venice provided constant inspiration. Says Heath Ledger: “It was an absolute dream to shoot in Venice. It was like spending four months in the most amazing museum.”
To further bring out the romance and spirit at Venice’s heart, Hallström turned to production designer David Gropman, for whom CASANOVA marks his sixth film collaborating with the director. “The thing that I love about Lasse is his humanity and how that filters through into his filmmaking,” says Gropman. ¯He always wants the story he is telling to be as honest as possible and, as a designer, this is of great interest to me.”
Gropman scouted as many as sixty locations in and around Venice with Hallström, looking for authentic 300 year-old sites, which he quickly discovered abound. The production utilized such iconic Venetian settings as the Church of Santa Maria della Salute and St. Mark Square -- also gained access to areas that have never been filmed by a major production before, including the Piazza San Marco, which is flooded by every afternoon, and the Palazzo Ducale, the famous pink-and-white gothic palace which is an architectural highlight of the city.
“It’s an incredible advantage to shoot in a city where most of the exteriors and a lot of the interiors look pretty much as they did in the 18th century,” Gropman notes. “Once you eliminate the outdoor plumbing and electrics and signs and shop fronts, so much of the baroque and rococo details are completely intact. The primary resource material is right in front of you, around every corner, in every church or palazzo that you wander into. Everywhere you go you are receiving information that informs the choices that you make. Also, while it is a more abstract idea, we were also influenced by the flavor of being with the people of Venice because the spirit of the city is itself so inspirational.”
Gropman was especially thrilled with the cinematic potential that lies in Venice’s waterways. “I hope that one of the defining visuals in the film will be the water and the boats because that’s so much a part of what makes Venice unique in the world. It’s also interesting to remember that in the 18th century, there were even more canals than there are now and fewer bridges, so traveling by water was even more of a part of the culture.”
Shooting at centuries-old locations did bring its difficulties, however. “We wanted to use smoke for the texture and the period look but we were unable to do that in a lot of our locations because of the worry that it would hurt the Tintorettos or the fantastic artwork,” says producer Leslie Holleran.
There were similar challenges faced by director of photography Oliver Stapleton, who has collaborated with Hallström on “Cider House Rules,” “The Shipping News” and “An Unfinished Life.” Often while shooting in Venice, Stapleton was not able to use his usual lighting techniques in case the ancient and fragile interiors being captured were damaged. Stapleton had to use ingenuity to overcome the obstacles, a process that sparked his creativity, he says. “The limitations pushed me in a non-conventional direction,” he explains.
Lasse Hallström agrees that the sometimes-difficult circumstances encouraged his team to be more innovative in how they shot the city. “Both Oliver and I pushed ourselves to be a bit more daring with the camera and to find new ways of photographing Venice,” he says. ¯We both know that Venice has been captured so well up to now. We wanted to do something different: to portray the ineffable magic and spirit of the city, which is different from what you might see in postcards or books.”
Adds Stapleton: “You could pretty much point a camera anywhere in Venice and get a great photograph: in fact I experimented by taking pictures at random and found that ninety per cent of them were pretty good. That’s the nature of Venice. The challenge for CASANOVA then was to do something that really describes the place in a new way. A lot of the challenge was to take a lot of time in pre-production to absorb the city and find places to put the camera in the big shots. It was very important to us that in those key moments when the film strikes out into the city that it be epic and startling.”
While the filmmakers attempted to bring magic to their depiction of Venice, Venice started working its own magic on them. “Everyone became steeped in a love affair with Venice,” admits Stapleton. “And I think it’s something that becomes apparent in the movie. It doesn’t feel like people moving on sets but rather through a real city in the 18th century.”
One of the key Venetian sequences in CASANOVA comes during Carnevale, the Mardi Gras- style festival during which the rules of society are turned upside down and the city comes alive with bear-baiting, fire-eating, bull-fighting, juggling and all kinds of mischief. This epic festival sometimes lasted for six months and it was a social arena in which all classes could rub shoulders with each other, usually anonymously. Most wore masks, creating an atmosphere in which merriment, mayhem and even deceit often ensued. It was a time of duplicity and deception as well as romance, as torches lit up the waterfronts and the city let its hair down – and Casanova uses this to his advantage in his epic pursuit of Francesca.
Hallström wanted to bring the visceral thrills and wild atmosphere of Carnevale fully to life, so he staged a recreation in Venice’s spectacular Piazza San Marco. Ultimately, the team was so successful in generating the excitement that must have seized the city in the 18th century that the even the local populace was moved.
“To see that local Italians were almost brought to tears when we shot the Carnevale was incredible,” says Hallström. “This was the first time such a thing had happened since the 1800s, so it was quite emotional.”
He continues: “It was another opportunity to really take advantage of Venice’s endless fascination from a visual point of view and let the audience experience something spectacular.”
Britches, Gowns, Wigs and Masks:
The Costumes of CASANOVA In a story where disguises and mistaken identities are pivotal to the plot, the costumes for CASANOVA quickly became another essential element of the film’s creative design. Add to that the fact that Venice in the 18th Century was that fashion capital of Europe -- with its piazzas and palazzos constantly thronged with beautiful courtesans in fabulous creations -- and the costuming challenges for the film were quite clear.
To meet them, Hallström collaborated with Academy Award®-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan (“A Room With a View,” “Gosford Park,” “Alexander”) to recreate authentic Venetian outfits from the 1740s and 1750s. “The idea was not to push for comedy in the costumes but to stay real and portray the dramatic splendor of Venice as it actually was,” says the director. “It’s such a fun period to design and Jenny did a fantastic job in helping me to forge an authentic background. She especially did a great job with the wonderful masks and disguises and some of her dresses are just stunning.”
Beavan was immediately intrigued by the story. “I loved that it was a comedy set in such a fascinating period,” she says. “The script was very funny but Lasse and I agreed that you don’t need funny costumes to highlight the comic elements. It can be much more powerful to remain faithful to such a wonderful period that is filled with interesting fashions in the first place.”
Diving into research, Beavan began by looking at artwork from the period, drawing inspiration from such artists as Guardi, Canaletto and Pietra Longhi. “I gleaned from them the colors of Venice, with burnt reds and amber yellows and turquoise blues, and we incorporated those into the costumes for all the main characters,” she notes.
Beavan was also struck by how romantic and opulent the clothing of the time was – reflecting an increasing tolerance for open sensuality in society. “The men usually have big skirts with a huge amount of fabric in them and they really strutted about like peacocks. This was a perfect era for Casanova, because the feeling of the cloth actually makes you want to swing your hips. For the women it is quite a long-waisted, big full-skirted period.”
She continues: “Venice also had its own peculiarities and special features, mainly to do with Carnevale, where people wore masks so they could go about incognito. They would wear long black capes with a white mask and the look was very ghost-like. I haven’t seen this look anywhere else in Italy. It was topped off with a black tricorn hat. For CASANOVA, we used this strange and sinister Venetian anonymity to also play on the fact that there are so many mistaken identities.”
To dress Heath Ledger as Casanova, Beavan wanted his outfits to be charming and befitting a man of his reputation without turning him into a dandy, so she kept his look elegant but simple. “This is a comedy so our Casanova is not like the tortured Fellini version, for example,” she says. “When our Casanova falls in love with Francesca it’s for real, but he’s also a near mythical character so we played with those lines. I had huge fun with creating his look because it was a wonderful opportunity to make some very beautiful costumes. Also Heath really took to it and loved the heels and lace, and in a way I think he felt that his costumes were a refuge. Heath also studied modern dance for six years so he moves well and makes the clothes look wonderful.”
It was Ledger who suggested to Beavan that Casanova might shift from one color outfit to the next throughout the story. “So he has a red outfit, and a blue outfit, and a grey one as well as others,” she says. “They’re all quite eye-catching and quite sharp. That’s the Casanova look. When he relaxes, his shirt hangs out and he lets his stocking roll down but when Casanova goes out, he’s putting on an act and he dresses accordingly.”
Meanwhile, Andrea and Francesca Bruni, mother and daughter, are a contrast in styles. “The women in CASANOVA are wonderfully strong characters who were a pleasure to dress,” says Beavan. “Francesca’s a scholar and it’s not her way to be interested in clothes, so I dressed her in extremely simple yet quite strong shapes. She could quite easily be a servant but what distinguishes her look is the quality of the fabric. Meanwhile her mother, Andrea, obviously still loves her clothes and, even though they're supposed to be poor, she has kept some wonderful stuff from the times. I think Sienna probably looks more beautiful than if you made her too pretty. And Lena just looks fantastic in anything!”
Dressing the “virginal” Victoria, Casanova’s would-be wife who then schemes to bring about his downfall, was another challenge for Beavan. “Pink seemed to be the right color for Victoria, who may or may not be the purest virgin in Venice,” she says. “Natalie just took to pink like a duck to water and it felt completely right.”
Beavan also enjoyed costuming the supporting male case, especially Jeremy Irons as Bishop Pucci, who is adorned in melodramatic flourishes of purple and black. “We decided to go for a civilian look for the detective-like Pucci,” says Beavan. “We dressed him in black and then got him an extraordinary robe in a rather Anglican purple that looks marvelous on him. Jeremy fancied a waistcoat to go with it and we also found a really eccentric hat for him. Finally I got him a pair of wicked purple gloves!”
On the other side of the comic divide is Paprizzio, the “lard king,” a character that could easily have been way larger than life but one that Beavan wanted to look more down to earth. “It was actually quite interesting finding the balance for Paprizzio,” she comments. “Here is a man who can weigh down a gondola, but we didn’t want him to be too ludicrous. When he puts on these rather brash clothes it actually seems to even out his character. I found fabrics that seemed to be right for him: they’re a little bit garish, but without being pantomime. We had a lot of fun with Paprizzio. We built him a fat suit that’s actually like a cage, so it's not like wearing cushions. It's on a wire structure so it moves a bit and looks quite real.”
While Beavan designed the costumes, Maria Teresa Corridoni also went to town with the film’s dozens of lavishly detailed wigs, which range from the fashionable to the comical to those used as a wily means of disguise. “Maria is just the best and her wigs are phenomenally good and part of what makes the movie look so great,” says Beavan.
The coup de grace for the costumes, as for the rest of the film’s design team, were the scenes of Carnevale. Faced with costuming over 500 extras in vintage 18th century clothes, Beavan had dresses and britches shipped from houses in London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Vienna, Milan and Venice itself. Even with the theatricality of Carnevale, the emphasis was on authenticity. “There aren’t any glittery, decorated modern masks – the look is more haunting and sinister,” notes Beavan.
It is at Carnevale that Beavan also had a chance to play with identity in exciting ways – as the characters, each with their own agenda, begin impersonating one another. ¯Francesca’s simplicity of dress is such that, hopefully, she looks just as great in a boy’s outfit as a woman’s. When Casanova pretends to be Paprizzio, I put him in something that looks tremendously rich. I wanted the audience to believe that these people could be seen as who they are impersonating, but at the same time, I didn’t want to go too far,” she explains. “We were always trying to ride that line between the incredibly fun and the very real.”
A Brief History of the Legend While Lasse Hallström ’s CASANOVA takes off into uncharted territory by having the romantic hero fall in love with a woman who rejects him – the film also pays homage to the richness of Casanova’s legacy. The subject of numerous novels, plays and motion pictures, Casanova has become one of the world’s most enduring modern myths. But he was also a real man with an incredible true history – a spy, soldier, diplomat, writer and adventurer who became of model of living life to its absolute fullest. His memoirs provide not only an entertaining account of his romantic dalliances– they also provide a fascinating snapshot of the Age of Enlightenment and of a man pushing the boundaries of human experiences to their most invigorating extremes.
Who was the real Casanova? A few facts:
Giacomo Casanova was born in 1725 in the city of Venice. His father was an actor and his mother an actress whose beauty was famed across Europe. Though he was a sickly child, plagued by nosebleeds, it was said that he grew up surrounded by strong women who nurtured and enchanted him.
Showing early brilliance, Casanova studied at the University of Padua and entered the seminary at St. Cyprian to become a priest, but was expelled for his scandalous conduct and love affairs. He received his doctorate of law in 1742.
In 1744, Casanova became the Secretary to Cardinal Acquaviva of Rome until scandal again forced him to leave the city, eventually returning to Venice.
Casanova held jobs as a violinist, a clergyman, a secretary and a soldier in several countries. He also wrote prolifically, publishing plays, novels, poetry and pamphlets, though his most famous work would be his epic autobiography, “History of My Life.”
In 1749, Casanova met his first great love, Henriette, of whom he wrote: “People who believe that a woman is not enough to make a man equally happy all the twenty-four hours of a day have never known a Henriette.” She left him heartbroken.
Chased by the Inquisition for years, in 1755, Casanova was arrested for witchcraft and all his manuscripts confiscated. He was sentenced to five years in a dungeon, but he made a spectacular escape, winding up in Paris, where he was greeted as a celebrity. After making a fortune in the lottery there, he continued his adventures across Europe.
Casanova died on June 4, 1798 at his castle in Dux, in what is now the Czech Republic. In death, he became even more famous, enduring as a symbol of die-hard romance and the obsession with love.
Among the films made about Casanova’s life and loves are Alfred Deesy’s 1918 “Casanova,” Alexandre Volkoff’s 1927 “Casanova – The Loves of Casanova,” the 1954 Bob Hope comedy “Casanova’s Big Night,” “Casanova ‘70” starring Marcello Mastroianni and Federico Fellini’s 1976 “Casanova” starring Donald Sutherland.