Emi Wada obituary

Costume designer who won an Oscar for Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, and created John Gielgud’s cloak in Prospero’s Books

The costume designer Emi Wada, who has died aged 84, won an Academy award for her work on Ran (1985), Akira Kurosawa’s epic adaptation of King Lear, which transposed the play to ancient Japan. Of the four nominations received by the movie, hers was the only one to be converted into a prize. Accepting the Oscar from Audrey Hepburn, she held the naked statuette and observed: “This figure doesn’t need my costume.”

Wada, who also worked in theatre and opera, spent three years on Ran. She designed and helped to manufacture almost a thousand costumes for Kurosawa’s film, fusing influences that ranged from Noh theatre to the Renaissance. She weaved yarn that she had dyed herself, and drew inspiration for the colour of one character’s costume from Botticelli, incorporating that painter’s influence into a Japanese kimono. “It is really demanding to create costumes that are both faithful to history and innovative,” she said. “But for me, trying something new in every project is a must.”

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