Murray Bartlett grew a moustache to fit in. He was traveling in Egypt at the time, and facial hair seemed like the done thing. But then he got a call—would he audition for Looking, a new HBO comedy drama following a group of gay friends in contemporary San Francisco. Bartlett got the part—along with his stache. “They wound up asking me to keep it, so I had it all last year” he told New York magazine recently. “I kind of grew to love it, too.” Looking’s first season—twinned in the same hour with HBO’s other pioneering comedy-drama, Girls, earned critical praise, and a second season, in which Bartlett will return as Dom, the 40-something still figuring out how to be middle-aged and gay in a culture where youth is king.
One of the most in-demand costume designers in Hollywood, Michael Wilkinson was nominated for an Academy Award this year for his work on American Hustle. A graduate of NIDA in Sydney—the same drama school as Bartlett (and for that matter, Cate Blanchett—the three overlapped), he has designed costumes for movies as varied as Party Monster, Garden State, 300, and the forthcoming Darren Aronofsky apocalyptic spectacular, Noah. In American Hustle the costumes played a crucial role in propelling David O. Russell’s narrative. By drawing on vintage pieces by Diane von Furstenberg and Halston—and scouring old copies of Cosmopolitan—Wilkinson was able to evoke the spirit of the era without resorting to Austin Powers-like pastiche. “How they [the characters] present themselves to the world says a lot about how they feel about themselves,” he told The Daily Beast. “They use clothes to empower themselves.”
For BlackBook the two sat down to reminisce on their time at NIDA (the National Institute of Dramatic Art), and their life as Australians transplants in the U.S.