TRUMBO – Fashion Fling with Hedda Hopper Heavenly Hats

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Hedda Hopper

by Staci Layne Wilson


Trumbo, starring Bryan Cranston in the title role, follows the life and strife of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Though it’s faithfully based on the biography by Bruce Alexander Cook, the touches of humor and heart are no doubt due to director Jay Roach, who is best-known for his comedies.

The story is no joke, though. In 1947, Trumbo was the top screenwriter until he and other artists were interrogated, arrested, jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs. The biopic recounts how Dalton, in spite of having lost everything, used his words, wile, and wit to win two Academy Awards and expose the absurdity and injustice under the blacklist.

One of the most arch, formidable characters in the movie is famed, fashionable Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who did everything she could to destroy Trumbo, and she’s played with panache by Dame Helen Mirren.


Hedda grills Dalton in TRUMBO

Hedda “The Hat” Hopper began her column in print and on the radio in the late 1930s, after her acting career came to a halt (she appeared in 120 films, and later played herself in 1950’s Sunset Blvd.). Her longstanding feud with Louella Parsons isn’t covered in the true drama, but her friendships with fellow communist crushers John Wayne (David James Elliott) and other Hollywood hotshots are touched upon. What’s really front and center are Hedda’s heavenly (or heinous, depending on your POV) hats.

Hedda Hopper from screen to page

Hedda Hopper from Screen to Page – this TIME cover was recreated, showing Mirren as Hopper, for the movie.

Award-winning costume designer Daniel Orlandi, whose recent credits include Saving Mr. Banks and Jurassic World, lovingly recreates many of Hedda’s terrific toppers in detail from black feather to frilly bow. Long before she started her column, Hedda was called “The Hat.” As a young actress in New York, she became known for her love of high-fashion fascinators. She once said, “I can wear a hat or take it off, either way it’s a conversation starter.”

According to the press notes from Trumbo, Cranston wore more than 60 costumes. Orlandi explained, “His life goes from the height of his success to going to prison and to trying to scrape up money to keep his family afloat. He has three different tuxedos and casual clothes and dressy clothes and pajamas.”

Orlandi scoured his sources for period items, but much of the wardrobe was created especially for the film from vintage fabrics. “I have a collection of vintage buttons and jewelry and feathers and flowers that we used to make made Hedda Hopper’s hats.” Orlandi provided a new hat for each of Mirren’s scenes. “I have an incredible set of costumes and an amazing array of hats,” says Mirren. “I love hats and I used to wear hats much more than I do now. I made the huge mistake of wearing a hat to the Oscars the first time I was nominated, as if I was going to an English garden party. I looked ridiculous, but I enjoyed myself.”

“I think Hedda’s wardrobe was the most fun for Daniel,” says Roach. “He really did a phenomenal job with her character. It may seem like an exaggeration, but Hopper really dressed like that, and it’s fantastic.”

Both Hopper and Mirren published their memoirs.

Both Hopper and Mirren published their memoirs.

Hopper’s fans, publicity-seeking stars, and millineries would send her hats by the score hoping that she would be photographed wearing one of them or perhaps offer a thanks in her column. The pre-TMZ dirt-digger was known for buying up to 150 hats per year and wasn’t afraid of donning the most extravagant or ridiculous creations made.  Silver screen sex-kitten Mamie Van Doren said, “Adorned with everything from feathers to cityscapes, Hedda’s hats were as wildly outrageous and eccentric as she was.”

Mirren herself is known to love wearing hats – just go to Google Images and do a search! She’s been out on the town fearlessly donning everything from cloche hats, to wide-brimmed straw, and even a ship captain’s cap worn at a jaunty angle.


Mirren at the TRUMBO (L) red carpet premiere, and (R) at Royal Ascot’s Ladies Day

Be sure and check out Trumbo when it opens in limited release on November 6, 2015. (But please – if you’re sitting in front of me, don’t wear a hat.)

Find times and tickets for TRUMBO and the fabulous Hedda Hopper hats at

TRUMBO – Fashion Fling with Hedda Hopper Heavenly Hats

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

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