Anthony Powell (born 2 June 1935, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England) is an English costume designer for stage and screen. He has won three Academy Awards, for Travels with My Aunt (1972), Death on the Nile (1978) and Tess (1979). He has worked with directors such as George Cukor, Roman Polanski, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman and David Lean. Among the stars who have worn his creations are Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Angela Lansbury, Paul Newman, Bette Davis, Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, Roger Moore, Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp.
Powell is a cousin of the costume designer, Sandy Powell.
Raised in Yorkshire and Dublin, Powell began his professional career as a teenager touring with his handmade marionettes. While serving as a wireless operator in the military, he mistakenly lead the British Army of the Occupation in Germany into the Russian zone. After graduating from the Central School of Art and Design in London, he was apprenticed as an assistant to designers including Oliver Messel and Cecil Beaton.
Simultaneously, Powell served as a lecturer at his alma mater. His costume designs for John Gielgud's production of The School for Scandal (1963) earned him a Tony Award, and he also received a second nomination for his scenic design. He was consulted as a designer fashioning men's sportwear during the, as well as working as a design consultant for hotels and restaurants. He assisted in the restoration and renovation of Sutton Place, Guildford during the 1960s and 1970s
Powell made his first Hollywood connection with director Irving Lerner who chose him to design the costumes for The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1969), which required styling both the Spanish conquistadors as well as the native Americans. His first Oscar came for his outlandish designs for Maggie Smith's Augusta in George Cukor's Travels with My Aunt (1972). Powell returned to Broadway as set designer for a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives and Sir Peter Shaffer's"Lettice and Lovage", both starring Dame Maggie Smith.
The Academy honored him with Oscars for his glamorous '30s designs for Death on the Nile (1978), particularly the women's outfits worn in the film by such actresses as Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis and Mia Farrow, and his 19th Century attire for Tess (1979). The latter began a long term collaboration with director Roman Polanski that included the lavish Pirates (1986) and the contemporary Frantic (1988). Additionally, Powell created the costumes and sets for the French stage production of Amadeus, in which Polanski starred as well as directed.
Powell also forged a collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, creating the period-appropriate costumes for both Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989). Powell had spent the better part of two years working closely with David Lean on the director's film project of Nostromo; however the project was halted due to Lean's death. Marlon Brando, Paul Scofield, Peter O'Toole, Isabella Rossellini, Christopher Lambert, and Dennis Quaid had all been set to star in this adaptation. In 1991, he designed the fantastic clothing for Hook, some of which recalled his earlier work for Pirates.
Returning to the stage, his lavish and luxuriant costumes for Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Sunset Boulevard (1993 in London; 1994 in the USA), based on the movie directed by Billy Wilder, earned him another Tony Award. Glenn Close headed the American production and Powell got to create the over-the-top costumes for her Cruella DeVil in the live action remake of 101 Dalmatians (1996), and its sequel 102 Dalmatians (2000); for which he received another Best Costume Design Academy Award nomination. He also reinterpreted '60s mod fashions for the film version of The Avengers (1998).
In 2004 Anthony Powell designed the costumes for Richard Strauss's opera Capriccio for the Paris Opera at the Palais Garnier, starring Renée Fleming, and directed by Robert Carsen. He collaborated again with Robert Carsen in 2010 for the costumes of My Fair Lady starring Alex Jennings and Margaret Tyzack at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. This production also travelled to the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg where it was the first musical comedy ever to be presented on that stage. This production was revived again in Paris in 2012.
Theatre CreditsAcademy Award for Best Costume Design – 1973, 1979, 1981
BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design – 1979
César Award for Best Costume Design (Meilleurs costumes=Best costumes) – 1987
Costume Designers Guild Career Achievement Award – 2000
Tony Award for Best Costume Design – 1963