Raised in Yorkshire and Dublin, Powell began his professional career as a teenager touring with his handmade marionettes. While serving as a map reader in the military, he managed to mistakenly lead the British Army of the Occupation in Germany into the Russian zone. After graduating from London's Central School of Art and Design, he apprenticed as an assistant to other designers including 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, Guilford 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", starring Maggie Smith.
The Academy honored him with back-to-back Oscars for his glamorous 30's designs for "Death on the Nile" (1978), particularly the women's outfits worn in the film by such luminaries as Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis and Maggie Smith, and his 19th Century attire for "Tess" (1979). The latter began a three-film 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 four years working closely with David Lean on the director's proposed film "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 on "Pirates".
Returning to the stage, he re-interpreted Edith Head's designs for the 1950 film, fashioning the lavish and luxuriant clothes of Norma Desmond in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Sunset Boulevard" (1993 in London; 1994 in the USA). 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 it's sequel "102 Dalmatians"; 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).
List of CreditsEdit
|1964||Festival (TV series) – The Comedy of Errors|
|1969||The Royal Hunt of the Sun|
|1972||Travels with My Aunt||Won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design|
|1975||That Lucky Touch|
|1976||Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson|
|1978||Death on the Nile (costumes designed by)|| Won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design|
Won the BAFTA for Best Costume Design
|1979||Tess|| Won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design|
Nominated for the BAFTA for Best Costume Design
|1981||Priest of Love|
|1982||Evil Under the Sun|
|1984||Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom||Nominated Saturn Award for Best Costume Design|
|1986||Pirates|| Won César Award for Best Costume Design|
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design
|1989||Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade||Nomiated Saturn Award for Best Costume Design|
|1991||Hook||Nominated Academy Award for Best Costume Design|
|1999||The Ninth Gate|
|2000||102 Dalmatians||Nominated Academy Award for Best Costume Design|
|2004||Capriccio (TV movie)|
- Academy 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