PHOTOGRAPHY Jessica Gwyneth
WORDS Hatti Rex
Adam Green of Moldy Peaches fame is back at it again: this time with designer hats, his own artsy adaptation of the film Aladdin and all the fun new tunes that come along with it.
We had a chat with him ahead of his headline gig at Manchester’s Gorilla to question him about his styling choices and give us a little bit of insight into the makings of his new film.
Hey Adam. Could you tell us a little bit about how you decided to make your own version of Aladdin and how you came up with the concept?
Adam: Originally I was attracted to the myth of Aladdin because I like what it has to do with love trumping unlimited material wealth. I like that it’s a love story and I was trying to tell a version of love I found on this planet but in another dimension. In this case the movie takes place inside a video game and it’s a way to show something real but in a fantasy world.
How was shooting Aladdin different to creating your last film, “The Wrong Ferrari”?
Adam: Shooting “The Wrong Ferrari” was a lot more improvised and less organised in the sense that all the lines were written on index cards and the actors that got the lines were just getting them on the day of the shoot so they had no idea what they were going to say until about five minutes before they’d start shooting. A lot of the actors reappear in Aladdin and they did so under the precondition that I write a script this time. So I wrote a script, I storyboarded it, it was organised into forty different shoot days and we knew what shots we were going to get every day and we built all these sets that were built by hand out of cardboard. So it had a lot more structure to it compared to The Wrong Ferrari.
But there are these types of people and because I have these special relationships with them, that’s why they’re basically doing this film for free and the performances the they give are improvisations in the way they do it but they knew what they were going to be saying.
There are a lot of familiar faces in the film such as Macauley Culkin, Natasha Lyonne, Devendra Banhart. How did you go about the casting process?
Adam: There’s a mixture of musicians and actors. A lot of them are just people I know, the musicians I’ve met through touring and the actors most of them are New York based.
How did you meet Bip Ling (the actress cast as the Princess)?
Adam: Actually I met Bip Ling in Rome, my manager introduced me to her. We were at a weird party outside of a colosseum, had a wild night and we’ve kept touch ever since. When casting the Princess in Aladdin and I had conceived the character as being a Kardashian-like character and Bip seemed like a subversive version of that. She’s kind of like a pop art Kardashian, I feel like she’d be an Andy Warhol superstar. She has a half real, half delusional quality to the stuff she puts out into the world and “I’m a princess” is almost her mission statement in life. She has an extremely ironic approach to her own persona and that made her suitable for my version of Aladdin and also she’s really beautiful too and she looks like a princess. I think she’s good and her first acting role was this!
The set is outstanding. What made you choose to create the scenery out of paper maché?
Adam: Well it was like that in the last movie and that’s been part of the visual art that I’ve been making. My wife Yasmin produced the movie and she would encourage every solution so I was going to make it or paint it.
At first I thought I would paint the interior scenes and the exterior ones we would shoot in Brooklyn where the warehouse was. She kept being like “no, no, make everything” and eventually it became a list of five hundred objects and thirty rooms that we had to make inside of a warehouse. That wasn’t the plan, when we first started doing it I thought we’d be on locations and probably in Europe. Actually we did end up doing the mountain scenes in the Swiss Alps, that was the one time we cheated.
I was really influenced by the art of Jean Dubuffet, there was a room that he made at the Pompidou in Paris that was sort of a handmade room with very bold black lines around it and it made me realise a sculpture could look like a drawing. I was thinking that the movie could take place inside the world of my drawings and so that was my inspiration.
Were you in charge of costumes too or were there stylists involved?
Adam: I worked with a costume designer named Cara Alpert, she's very eccentric. I was looking to make costumes but a lot of people’s portfolios were every high fashion outfits but her portfolio was like ‘I made a person look like a cell phone pillow or a giant sailboat person’ and I was like oh this person is crazy so that’s the right person for this movie.
We basically went on sketches, a lot of the preparatory drawings were done with crayons and I continued that look as much as I could. She was going off these crayon drawings and trying to realise these costumes, I actually ended up painting on a lot of the costumes myself to make them look integrated into the style.
Would you ever incorporate a fez or a ruff into your daily wardrobe?
Adam: Yeah, I would. I do wear the fez around because this year I’m showing up to people’s towns as Aladdin and I guess that’s the idea of the tour. Tonight I’m not really playing the movie but I’m still going to dress up as Aladdin and there’s a painting of him behind me.
Did you hand paint the back drop as well?
The album that I’m touring is the Aladdin soundtrack essentially and even though I’ll be playing songs from all my albums today.
That’ll be fun.
And with the ruff, if I had my way people would dress like this all the time and this would just be how people dress. I would wear it to special occasions but to just go out like that, I just don’t know if I can handle that much attention. But I really welcome people to wear the ruff.
I think it’s beautiful because it highlights your face like a neck halo.
I have one and the light kind of bounces off it and gives you a really nice lighting around your face.
Adam: Yeah, it’s like a perfect frame around you. It almost looks like you’re at the centre of a hurricane of cloth or an explosion and it’s really cool. At some point I felt really strongly about how that looked and that’s why I wanted everyone in my movie to wear them.
Bell bottoms as well, I only wear bell bottoms in my regular life because I particularly like them. I think they symbolise something that’s missing from the world, almost something that’s lost that should be found again.
They’re definitely coming back in though.
Adam: Yeah for girls, not really for guys so much. But they should!
I think I’ve seen a few guys around Manchester wearing bell bottoms for sure.
Adam: It’s probably a sign that the world’s getting better.
Apparently you’ve been designing hats, could you tell us a little bit about them?
Adam: Yeah, I have my own hat line. I started doing them with Mich Dulce, she’s a hat designer. She’s really very crazy and makes them look really really wild but somehow wearable; hats that are like part George Washington and part animal ear. They’re high fashion, expensive hats.
She came to me about making a hat line and came to my house. She looked at my hat collection and we picked designs based on my hat collection, we drew up pictures of them and made a collaboration of six hats. We sell them at department stores in London and Paris.
Do you have any style icons?
Adam: When I was younger maybe Serge Gainsbourg, Beck, David Bowie, Iggy Pop. I like the Lou Reed style, when he went blonde that was kinda cool. Before Eminem, right? I like Elliott Smith, I like his style.
The lamp in your film is a magic 3D printer that can create anything you wish for. What do you think about 3D printed fashion?
Adam: It’s probably not there yet because the plastic seems so rigid. But it’s a cool idea. If we could print on fabrics and things then that’d be great. You could actually just do the fabrics with a 2D printer. I could see how you could print out a shoe or a clog.
One day it will get to the point where you could just print out a record or anything.
A physical illegal download.
Adam: Yeah, you could print out the grooves.
If you had three wishes what would they be? You can’t ask for more wishes either because that’s cheating.
I would have my own amusement park where I design all the rides, an adult amusement park where I could print out all the rides and sculptures.
It’d also be really cool if I could have a museum of songs. So many songs are to the right of Bob Dylan and to the left of Miles Davis and exist in an art realm that aren’t part of the pop music canon. It’d be great to have a museum that treated those particular songs as pieces of artwork and there could be curated rooms and exhibits.
My third wish would just be to have a lot of sex and I feel like if anyone else didn’t say that, they would be lying.
Oh wait, I also think to solve the global warming thing would be pretty important. Maybe I’d trade the song museum for a global warming solution.
That’s very good of you. Has Adam Green the horror film writer ever been in touch?
Adam: Yeah, we’re friends. We don’t know each other super well but we’ve been in touch, we’ve talked and we’ve partied together.
Do you reckon you’ll ever make a film together?
Adam: That would be great, he’s a really awesome dude. I think if you have to share your name with another guy then he’s a good guy to share it with.
If somebody was going to make a film about you and your life, who would you want to play you?
Adam: I think Macaulay Culkin should play me.
Who would play your parents?
Adam: Alec Baldwin and Blythe Danner.
That’d be a great film.