Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I Saw the Light: Becoming Hank (2016)

I Saw the Light

In I Saw the Light Tom Hiddleston plays the talented, but troubled, country music legend Hank Williams. Tom underwent a full transformation to adapt Williams' gaunt frame, accent, and singing style. The costume department, led by Lahly Poore-Ericson also had a tremendous task of recreating the iconic outfits that Hank Williams wore throughout his all too short career. For research Lahly viewed the original costumes Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame, read "Hank Williams: the Biography" and teamed up with the descendants of Nudie's Rodeo Tailors who created the original outfits (known as Nudie Suits).

Hank's most famous Nudie Suit was the Music Note: The beautiful suit was designed by Nudie, the West Coast tailor who supplied many country stars with custom stagewear. The cream-colored suit features blue musical notes in eye-catching relief. The back shoulder area includes a guitar, an image previously unseen in published photos of Williams. “It’s probably the most famous suit in country music history,”. Here's a look at Hank Williams wearing the suit and it on display along with the replica that was created for Tom Hiddleston to wear in the film. 

A crucial moment in Hank Williams' career was when he made his Grand Ole Opry debut performing Lovesick Blues. Hank was called back out for six encores. Tom Hiddleston was just as electrifying in the scene filmed for the movie! 

Another iconic recreation for the film was Hank Williams' fringed Nudie Suit. Tom Hiddleston wears the suit to perform Hey Good Lookin'. 


A common theme in many of Hank's suits was the Frankenstein Stitching because of the extra-large lacing on the jacket and cuffs. Lahly Moore-Ericson embraced this style for the Luke the Drifter performance. 

Less than three months before his death, Hank Williams married Billie Jean Jones during a lavish ceremony in Louisiana. They had a private ceremony, as well as two additional wedding ceremonies open to the public. Here's a look at archive pictures from the wedding versus the wedding staged in the film. 

Marc Abraham and Tom Hiddleston talking about the costumes in an interview with Cinemacy

As much as Hank Williams and his music are a part of Americana history, so are the clothes. How important were the costumes and their authenticity to the film?
MA: What we tried to do with Elizabeth and Tom, and this was really important to me in the movie, is that these people weren’t the same people when they were not on stage. When we didn’t see Audrey or Tom on stage, we saw them how they normally dressed, and that they weren’t a bunch of hillbillies. They were real people who didn’t wear a ton of different clothes. Hank always had a hat on, Audrey had a good sense of style. The subtlety of if was really important. So, yes, those costumes that we put on stage were really important to get completely right, but when they were offstage in their real lives, it was just as important that they weren’t always dressed up.
TH: When you put those costumes on you just feel different. It’s just like what Marc was talking about- the difference between the public persona of the performer and the private identity of the man.

As Marc mentions above, Hank Williams was rarely pictured without a hat. The production team commissioned Mike Moore of Buckaroo Hatters to for the huge task of recreating them. The hats were separated into two main categories: Fedora style hats (2 5/8" wide brims) and Western style hats (3 3/4" wide brims).   

Tom Hiddleston's commitment to being authentic to the role included him wearing his fedora hat 24/7 in the month leading up to filming so it would have that lived-in look. He even wore the hat during grueling seven mile runs! Below Tom is pictured during pre-production wearing his hat with the Buckaroo Hatters team and the film's executive music producer Rodney Crowell who helped shape Tom's vocals. 

Overall Buckaroo Hatters created more than 300 hats for the film and the promotional tour. The hats were used in contests and also given away to reporters/critics. Below Tom Hiddleston appears on the Today Show.


Costume Designer's Guild
Sony Classics
Hank Williams Museum
Buckaroo Hatters
The Fedora Lounge


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