Grande plays pop diva Riley Bina in the film, who raises awareness about the world’s impending doom by hosting a concert with her on-again, off-again boyfriend DJ Chello, played by Cudi. For her performance, costume designer Susan Matheson chose a white dress with plumes of feathered embellishments. Unfortunately, this choice came with some safety hazards.
“The producers had the effects people running over to me to say they’ve got fireworks going off next to Ariana who was suspended in the ceiling,” Matheson said in an interview for Vogue. “They’re telling me that we have to fireproof the feathers, and I had to go, ‘Do you know what happens to feathers when they’re wet?’ Plus, I couldn’t let them touch it or get firework sparks anywhere near Ariana.”
Matheson got her way in the end, and the fireworks were moved away from Grande and the designer dress. “We had to figure out ways to do everything safely,” says Matheson. “I may have yelled, but that’s a museum piece; I felt incredibly protective.”
This wasn’t Matheson’s only challenge when building the look for Grande’s character. One of the main difficulties was finding outfits recognizably different from the pop star’s real-life image. “I knew I had to do something that was contrary to how Ariana looks in real life,” Matheson said. “I went through everything she’d ever worn in a music video or was photographed in during an event. I wanted to do something much edgier than what we’re used to seeing her in.”
Matheson did an incredible job designing Grande’s unique look for Don’t Look Up, and the fire hazard dress was well worth the risk. Matheson achieved a unique look for the rest of the characters, and she hilariously revealed Timothée Chalamet’s mullet was inspired by Tiger King.