Last Updated on 7. December 2020
The Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury is currently showing the “Hackers – Costumes from the Motion Picture” exhibition. Roger Burton who created the costumes for the 90s movie with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller takes us to the exhibition.
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Roger Burton bei Meet the Londoner
Roger, please introduce yourself quickly to my readers.
Roger K Burton, 71, 2 kids and 4 grandchildren, costume designer/stylist/collector/writer/drag racing and hot rods.
Where in London do you live?
In Putney in a lovely 1930s apartment.
You were the costume designer for the “Hackers” movie with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Lee Miller.
How did you decide which style each character would wear?
After researching what genuine hackers dressed like I found them really uninspiring, so I decided early on I wanted our cast to have street attitude and be a reflection of the many eclectic style tribes found on the New York and London club scenes at the time, almost like cartoon superheroes, so I put them in a carefully styled combination of past and present sportswear, workwear, militaria, classic punk and vintage street fashion, giving each their own individuality.
Kate (Angelina Jolie): I wanted her to be a real tomboy, a tough kookie who could hold her own in any situation and look the part accordingly. She wears: Rash guard’s, football jerseys, fencing uniforms, punk shirt’s , riding jodphurs, combat boots..
Dade (Jonny Lee Miller): quiet, nerdy, understated, utilitarian clothes, like an urban action man. He wears: Army surplus pants, Café Racer leather jacket, cropped Animal t-shirts, sailing tops, punk pants, combat boots.
Cereal (Matthew Lillard): a real street urchin, like a Magpie, gathering ornamentation as he skates along. He wears: A military surplus flying suit as a coat, hats, belts and attachments, biker pants, biker boots, underground band t-shirts.
Nikon (Laurence Mason): a dark horse truly streetwise character, the very essence of cool..He wears: A military cape, skiwear, pvc pants, 60s t-shirt, football shirts, Adidas trainer sandals.
Joey (Jesse Bradford): trying really hard to be cool, into Death Metal bands, but probably still dressed by his mum. He wears: Dungarees, heavy metal band t-shirts , chinos, baseball cap, dayglo trainers..
Phreak (Renoly Santiago): a colourful Puerto Rican extrovert, the Salvador Dali of the pack..He wears: A combination of Leopard prints in every shade, bold stripes, and that wonderfully trashy t-shirt with a pink lighting up kitten..
Where did you get the clothes from?
Thankfully I have a huge collection of vintage street fashion myself to draw from, and much of this formed the foundations of the various looks, but we also shopped a lot at street markets, vintage shops and trendy boutiques both in London and NYC. We bought a stack of colourful modern sportswear, football, hockey, skate and surfwear, cut it up and altered it to give it more edge. We also bought yards of interesting fabric and made one off specific items for characters like the Plague.
How often did you need to change an outfit because the actors didn’t like it?
Ha ha ha, I don’t think we had to change anything, once the cast got into where I was coming from they loved it all, if anything we had too many looks to choose from, and the few that got edited out by the director usually ended up on a background actor so nothing was wasted.
Which is your favourite outfit in the film and why?
It has to be the USAF flying suit worn by Cereal (Matthew Lillard). That flying suit is quite unique in that it totally unzips so it can be worn as a coat, which he did in the movie, it also works as a canvas for him to display images of his anti-heroes, such as Charles Manson, and Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and other subversive military patches and badges, he wears his heart on his sleeve and is probably closest to an authentic NYC street punk.
Do you own some of the costumes you created?
Amazingly I still have just about every key item from the film, with the exception of a few t-shirts and shirts, which went missing after the shoot.
The upcoming exhibition at the Horse Hospital
In December your exhibition “Hackers : Costumes From the Motion Picture” opened at the Horse Hospital.
I always intended to mount a Hackers exhibition for the 20th anniversary but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule, however its now the 25th anniversary and the movie has once again created a lot of interest, particularly in fashion circles, probably because the looks we created are quite timeless and seem to be inspiring a lot of kids today, so I thought it’s now or never.
How many costumes will be on display?
Approximately 25 full outfits and over 25 important tops and jackets etc..
What else can be seen?
We have all the casts accessories, costume set books, a ton of unseen reference photos, cast fitting Polariods, and all my mood boards that were created before anyone was cast.
Have you invited Angelina, Johnny… to visit?
I have tried to contact them through Iain Softley, so who knows, maybe Jonnie will turn up if he is in the country, he has been involved in various reunions before, but I’m not sure Angelina is that interested in the movie?
Will you have a shop with some Hackers merch, too?
Sadly no, but visitors are encouraged to take photos, and we have plenty of other Horse Hospital related stock in our shop for them to buy.
3 reasons why we should visit the exhibition?
I think anyone who is a hardcore fan of the movie will want to see the clothes in the flesh, so to speak, and those with an interest in historic street fashion and movie costume will have a field day. Interestingly of all the movies I have been involved with over the years, Hackers is the one that I still get most questions about, and whenever the movie is screened there is always an enthusiastic audience who want to know all the minutiae.
The location of the exhibition is a very special one: The Horse Hospital which you founded back in 1992. What was the motivation to do so?
Originally I wanted an interesting space to house my collection and be able to hold exhibitions myself, but over the last 27 years we have also hosted exhibitions and events with over 5000 diverse under-privileged and fringe artists, so its become like a national treasure for subculture and underground movements.
How do you decide which exhibitions to host?
I have always loved discovering work that has never been seen before for whatever reason, but has been created with a genuine passion..
Times are hard for the location, what can we do to support?
For the first time in 27 years we will be asking visitors to make a donation to visit our exhibitions, as they have always been free before and people can also buy mech from our shop and sign our petition to save the building.
If you want to support this unique art venue, please check out the Horse Hospital website where you will find a section for donating.
The Horse Hospital has a long history, was built in 1797 by James Burton.
Was James Burton one of your ancestors or this just a coincidence?
Ha ha ha no relation at all, in fact we were really surprised when we found out we shared the same surname.
James Burton was responsible for many buildings in London. Most of them are grand buildings.
Why did he build a dedicated hospital for horses?
Evidently he had a real passion and respect for working horses, and we think the horse hospital was mainly used by local cab drivers at the time and didn’t belong to some big estate. He also built the Royal Veterinary College in Camden a few years beforehand.
Roger Burton about London
What’s a must-see sight in London?
The Isokon Building in Camden, a 30s masterpiece
3 words to describe London
It has its own unique energy, spirit, and diversity
Where do you go for a nice lunch?
The Green Man on Putney Heath, a proper pub with historic links to highwayman and duellers
Your favourite café?
Patisserie Deux Amis on Judd Street
A place/area/spot to find quiet and peace in busy London?
Any one of its many beautiful squares
Fun stuff about Roger
Gin and Tonic or Pimm’s?
Milk in first or last?
Favourite Tube line?
Piccadilly Line, not only does it run directly underneath the Horse Hospital, it goes straight to Heathrow airport, gateway to the world…
Best advice you were given?
You can do good, you can do bad or you can do nothing…George Kuchar – underground film director
The Horse Hospital on Social Media
To stay up to date with running and upcoming exhibitions at the Horse Hospital, you can sign up for the newsletter on their website. Follow them on Instagram (@thehorsehospital), Twitter (@horsehospital) and/or Facebook (@TheHorseHospital).
Dear Roger, thank you for your time for this interview and the insights into the Hackers exhibition. I so hope that I can visit next year to see all the costumes.
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