‘A Family Affair’ Had as Much Fun Dressing Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron as They Have Ripping Off Each Other’s Clothes

Among many other reasons, we come to Nicole Kidman movies to watch her have fun. And she has a lot of fun as Brooke in “A Family Affair,” her new May-December rom-com co-starring Zac Efron as movie star Chris and Joey King as Chris’ assistant (and Brooke’s daughter), Zara. They live in that luxe world of designer clothes, Vogue freebies, and the perfect evening gown for a gala — but in true rom-com fashion, their lives are a much more relatable mess, just waiting for a meet cute.

Brooke and Chris have a particularly memorable one. Attempting to reconcile with the now-fired Zara, Chris stops by her house and interrupts Brooke cleaning in an oversized Blondie T-shirt and denim cutoffs. It’s a far cry from how we’ve seen Kidman lately, and something that costume designer Luis Sequeira wanted to be as eye-opening for the audience as it is for Efron.

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“We had a few different options for the reproduction T-shirts, and we loved the graphic nature of Blondie,” Sequeira told IndieWire — as did the filmmakers, who added Blondie music to the scene. “That was the first scene in the movie that we actually saw Nicole’s character kind of unwound and very casual, so that was an important statement. And also gives a little bit of history and a kind of kitten sexiness to her. We needed something that was not appropriate to welcome someone in, which would then give us a reason for a costume change.”

That costume change comes with a side of tequila, as Brooke and Chris spend an afternoon doing shots and chatting before their chemistry overtakes them, and they stagger to her bedroom. The dress gets ripped open (Brooke’s gasp echoes that of the viewer), and then Brooke looks down at Chris and realizes something.

A Family Affair. (L-R) Joey King as Zara Ford and Zac Efron as Chris Cole in A Family Affair. Cr. Tina Rowden/Netflix © 2024
‘This is shahtoosh!’ Joey King and Zac Efron in ‘A Family Affair’Tina Rowden/Netflix

“Is that shahtoosh?” she asks, stroking his shirt. It is, and, as established in an earlier scene, it’s one of Chris’ most prized possessions. (As well it should be, considering it’s the world’s softest and most expensive fabric.) “I don’t care,” he says, and we watch Brooke rip it open to expose Efron’s equally ripped torso. That will come back to haunt them both when Zara catches them and, hitting her head, has to be taken to the hospital, accompanied by Chris, now wearing that Blondie T-shirt.

A Family Affair” is a change for Sequeira, who has been working extensively in the horror space for the last few years, designing costumes for everything from “The Strain” to “Nightmare Alley” and the upcoming “It” prequel series “Welcome to Derry.” Rom-coms are not an entirely different skillset from horror, but Sequeira told IndieWire part of the appeal of the film was getting to subtly craft a sense of the characters’ personalities. “I really wanted to live that modern designer experience rather than the building, aging, [and everything else] that comes with period shows,” Sequeira said.

For Efron’s Chris, that meant shopping for designers that would subtly convey his movie star status while also showing that he’s not invested in the lavish lifestyle that his career might provide (shatoosh aside). “[The clothes] were designer, but they weren’t extravagant. They were approachable and beautiful. It really was about finding this throughline of a real person who is not caught up in the fashion aspect of it but ultimately a little bit of ego and other aspects of life. It was really about mid-level designer, Rag & Bone, All Saints, Buck Mason. A lot of the suits were Hugo Boss or Paul Smith.”

Not that Efron was easy to fit, given that most designers don’t design for his body type. In fact, he was in training for another project while making “A Family Affair” and ended the shoot a different size than he started. “We had to get a few different sizes and mix the Paul Smith suits,” Sequeira said. “We actually went up a couple of sizes for the top half and went down for the bottom half. He has quite a physique in this film.”

“A Family Affair” is now streaming on Netflix.

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