“He’s one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever studied,” says Christian Bale of Moses, the Old Testament prophet he plays in Exodus: Gods and Kings. “All of his trials, his troubled life and his doubts, his rages and his extremes.” The actor laughs at how Moses—who spoke to God, fought violent battles, parted seas, and struggled to free the enslaved Israelites no matter the cost might fare in the modern era. “Can you imagine if he was alive today? He’d probably be on trial in the Hague.”
Hyperbole aside, Exodus aims to present a more rounded portrait of the man many know only from Sunday school.
That process began with director Ridley Scott. “As a filmmaker I’m always attracted by who the central character is and what they face,” says Scott, who calls Moses’ life one of the greatest adventures and spiritual experiences of all time. “I was knocked out by who he was… and the actual basics of the story.” Scott also knew that Bale, with whom he was friendly but had never worked, would be perfect for the role. “I wanted to save something special for him,” the director says. Scott’s reenvisioning of the biblical story extends to Moses’ onscreen look, achieved with the help of his longtime costume designer, Janty Yates (Gladiator). Below, Yates explains some of the sartorial choices for Exodus.
DRESS TO OPPRESS
Sigourney Weaver’s Tuya is the mother of Ramses (Joel Edgerton), but that doesn’t mean her costumes are matronly. “Ridley [Scott] wanted her to be totally va-va-voom,” says Yates. “She’s still on the prowl. We went more Jessica Rabbit.” Weaver’s red-carpet-ready costumes underscore Tuya’s bold ambitions for her son—even after he becomes Egypt’s king. “We reflected that in her headdresses and her over-the-top jewelry,” says Yates.
Moses’ breastplate, known as a cuirass, is made of pressed leather with carved gold griffins and eagles. Early sketches featured gold lions, Yates says, “but then we decided Moses’ emblem was the eagle. It’s more noble.”