Zombie Apocalypse: ‘World War Z’ Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo

by moviestar couture on June 18, 2013

Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo

Mayes Rubeo has worked on a colorful variety of films as the costume designer for huge Hollywood blockbusters for over two decades.  Famous costuming in films such as “Avatar”, “John Carter”, “Apocalypto” can all be attributed to Rubeo’s skills. She cut her teeth as an assistant costume designer for “Platoon”, “Born on the Fourth of July” and the original “Total Recall.”

Now, Rubeo has another box-office goldmine under her belt, Brad Pitt’s newest action flick “World War Z”  directed by Marc Foster.

World War Z hits theaters June 21st, though the buzz surrounding the film began earlier in the year. Filmed around Europe, the gritty look of the end-of-days thriller is set during the zombie apocalypse—and Mayes Rubeo had to decide what that would look like:

Designed By Hollywood: What was the biggest challenge in dressing the cast, and background on “World War Z”? 

Mayes : Besides shooting in 4 different countries, London, Scotland, Malta, Budapest—finding out that you had to dress 500 more people every day, and try to have a crew together.  World War Z , was truly a good exercise on logistics, staff and  how to go about in a huge project  like this.

There are so many challenges, when doing a movies of this caliber.  One is the look, the biggest challenge was to try to design an original version of zombies, since there have been already so many other zombie shows.   Then the cast, which  was not really that much of a challenge, except for finding the multiples needed. Brad had 25 multiples in his wardrobe which included some for his stunt doubles and action scenes. We had a lot of support from so many companies, like Costume National, who helped us in finding all the multiples. The watch from ‘Terra, Cielo, Mare’ was given in exclusive for Brad, and it was very important for the character, and we needed about 7, and they provided them without a blink.

World War Z – Paramount Pictures 2013


The other huge challenge was the military uniforms. There were so many uniforms from all over the world.  I needed to have a military costume supervisor to help me find all the uniforms from every country that we were using. Sometimes when we couldn’t find them, we had to have them made in London, or in Italy.  Our warehouse just for military uniforms was huge.

The warehouse was in London, but we needed to move the warehouse constantly to where they were shooting or prepping. That was a challenge! you need to have several all the time, closing one, then setting up for the next shoot, and the next. We were moving huge amount of clothes, containers after containers.

Then of course the shooting logistics, in Glasgow we were shooting Philadelphia, in Malta we were shooting Israel and Palestine. Everyday no less than 1700 people and sometimes 1200, and then on the 11th hour dress 500 more.

So you also designed the accessories? I thought the watch was props.

Mayes: In Europe the costume designer also is in charge of the accessories since they are part of the look of the character, so a costume designer also picks the watches, jewelry, eyeglasses, etc.

Is there a piece or costume that you like in particular and why?

Mayes:  Yes, thanks for asking.   There is a little Latino boy that helps Gerald’s family to hide away, he lives in a project housing with his family. I chose for him to wear a ‘Chapulin Colorado’ tshirt.  This was an homage to my culture and to all the Latin American kids who grew up watching the ‘Chapulin Colorado’.  So now people will find the ‘Chapulin Colorado’ next to Brad Pitt.

What was it like working with Brad Pitt?

Mayes : Great collaboration! Brad is a person that takes every aspect of the show so deeply serious, he likes to know all the motives of why to use that garment or not,  he brings a lot to the fitting room , and he’s a very kind person, truly decent and intelligent. I appreciate his interest and research of the character. He is a true artist.       


How do you find your inspiration for a picture?

Mayes : I find inspiration in many things. In anything I see—from a painting of a master artist to the air—conditioning filter – and in having lots of genuine resources that can bring an original touch to the project that I am working on.  I believe in researching a lot!!

The Costumes of “John Carter” at FIDM


Which of your projects has been your favorite?

Mayes : They vary a lot.  I love each one of them ”Apocalypto”, “Avatar”, and “John Carter.” I love my projects with John Sayles and Maggie Renzi.   I think that ‘Apocalypto’ was a real breakthrough, because it was a real challenge in a creative way, and I loved every moment of it,  another project i LOVED was ‘John Carter’, as I think that Andrew Stanton is one of the best directors ever, he is so creative and has a real collaboration with the HOD’s and the whole crew. Each project has a substantial piece of my heart.

How did you get your start?

Mayes Rubeo on the set of “Apocalypto”

Mayes : I went to school at Los Angeles Trade Tech and and took extension classes at UCLA, and many art lessons at Istituto Statale di Spoleto, and Lucca, Florence etc. I then got my first job with Designer Enrico Sabbatini in the movie “Old Gringo.”

Who are your biggest influencers as a designer?

My Biggest Influence were movies in my youth,  ‘Barry Lyndon’, ‘Mission’, ‘Il Gattopardo’,  and the designers that devoted their life to this form of artwork such as Enrico Sabbatini, Gabriella Pescucci, James Acheson.

Learn more on Mayes Filmography at her IMDb page. 

Filmography links and data courtesy of IMDb.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

WWZ October 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm

A really good piece after watching the film, I cant believe how much went into from just one department.
Well done to all the crew for a good job

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