Anthea Sylbert, Costume Designer on ‘Chinatown,’ ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘Shampoo,’ Dies at 84

Anthea Sylbert, an Oscar-nominated costume designer who worked on some of the signature films of the late 1960s and 1970s, including “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Carnal Knowledge,” “Chinatown,” “Shampoo,” “Julia” and “King Kong,” and a producer later in her career on a number of films starring Goldie Hawn, has died. She was 84.

Her death was confirmed by Robert Romanus, her stepson.

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Sylbert, subject of a forthcoming documentary by Sakis Lalas titled “Anthea Sylbert: My Life in 3 Acts,” also served as an executive at United Artists and Warner Bros., at a time when there were few women in the C-suites of Hollywood. She also worked repeatedly with director Mike Nichols, both onscreen and onstage, and was Oscar-nominated for her costuming on period films “Chinatown” (1974) and “Julia” (1977).

Assessing Sylbert’s work on “Chinatown,” GlamAmor, a website dedicated to the history of fashion in film, said in 2012: “Sylbert crafted clothes for Faye Dunaway that work within the warm palette of the film while also referencing noir predecessors like ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘Mildred Pierce.’ She effectively brings both the highs and lows of 1930s style to life through each character’s costumes in the movie.”

Nicholson was so fond of his wardrobe from “Chinatown” that he made a special effort to keep it.

Sylbert was the costume designer on 21 films, including period pieces “Carnal Knowledge,” with Nicholson and Art Garfunkel; “Chinatown”; Mike Nichols’ “The Fortune,” starring Warren Beatty and Nicholson; “The Last Tycoon,” starring Robert De Niro; “Julia,” starring Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave; Norman Jewison’s “F.I.S.T.,” starring Sylvester Stallone. Other films included Elaine May’s “The Heartbreak Kid” and “A New Leaf,” as well as “The Day of the Dolphin,” directed by Nichols.

In 1977, Sylbert joined Warner Bros. as VP of special projects; a year later she was named vice president of production at the studio. In 1980, she was appointed VP of production at United Artists. In 1982, she became became an independent producer in partnership with Goldie Hawn. (The two women may have met on the set of “Shampoo,” in which Hawn co-starred with Warren Beatty and Sylbert did the costumes.) Together they produced the Hawn vehicles “Protocol” (1984), “Wildcats” (1986), “Overboard” (1987) and “Criss Cross” (1992) as well as the Steve Martin starrer “My Blue Heaven” (1990); Lasse Hallstrom’s “Something to Talk About,” starring Julia Roberts and Dennis Quaid; and 1997 TNT telepic “Hope,” directed by Hawn.

As an executive producer of the 1995 HBO biopic “Truman,” starring Gary Sinise, she shared an Emmy for outstanding television movie.

With husband Richard Romanus, Sylbert penned two Lifetime telepics, 1998’s “Giving Up the Ghost” and 1999’s “If You Believe,” the latter of which she also exec produced.

Anthea Sylbert was born in New York City on Oct. 6, 1939. She was educated at Barnard College and the Parsons School of Design in New York.

She had her bigscreen debut as a costume designer on Arthur Hiller’s contemporary comedy “The Tiger Makes Out,” starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. She collaborated with then-husband Paul Sylbert, the production designer on that 1967 film; on 1971 comedic road movie “The Steagle,” which he wrote and directed; and on 1972’s “Bad Company,” a Western directed by Robert Benton. But she actually had a productive working relationship with production designer Richard Sylbert, Paul’s twin brother, with whom she worked on some eight films, starting with “Rosemary’s Baby” and including “Chinatown.”

Richard Sylbert died in 2002.

Anthea Sylbert was also a costume designer for the stage, including, for director Nichols, two Broadway productions — Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue,” starring Peter Falk and Lee Grant, in 1971 and Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing,” starring Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons, in 1984, drawing a Tony nomination for the latter. She also designed costumes for a New York production of musical “The Fantasticks.”

Sylbert was interviewed for the 2008 documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”  She won a career achievement award for film at the Costume Designers Guild Award in 2005.

She moved to Greece later in her life. Her second husband, actor Richard Romanus, whom she married in 1985, died in December 2023.

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