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Reconstruction of Moctezuma’s headdress

‘Heroes & Villains’: Reconstructing Moctezuma’s Headdress

Back in 2007-08 the BBC and Discovery Channel International commissioned a new docudrama series for TV called ‘Heroes and Villains’, featuring different historical figures, including Napoleon I of France, Attila the Hun, Spartacus, Richard I of England, and... Hernán Cortés. Filmed in Mexico, the episode on Cortés required an actor to play the part of Moctezuma II. Modelmakers Whetton & Grosch and costume designer Ros Little were commissioned to build a reconstruction of his famous headdress. We are hugely impressed with the quality of work that went into this project, and we’re sure you will agree. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore; special thanks to Karen Grosch)

The back of the headdress
The back of the headdress (Click on image to enlarge)

The team at Whetton & Grosch tackled the headdress project by using pheasant feathers sprayed green with fabric paint to represent the quetzal tail feathers on the original. These were backed with ostrich plumes to bulk up and hide the cane and reed support frame - this is just visible in Ros Little’s photo (see last link below). The black feathers were cock hackles and it was all constructed onto a steel helmet. The reed support frame was stitched together with a binding tape and the ostrich plumes were stitched to this as well as liberal use of hot glue.

The pectoral and smaller mosaic headdress worn by Ramon Tikaram (actor playing Moctezuma)
The pectoral and smaller mosaic headdress worn by Ramon Tikaram (actor playing Moctezuma) (Click on image to enlarge)

The orange squirrel cuckoo feathers and the turquoise cotinga were even less glamorous: dyed goose/duck feathers! As Karen Grosch told us, ‘As prop makers working on historical projects like this there is always a fine balance between authenticity and the theatrical, especially for film.’
Considering, though, that the budget for the headdress - excluding the feathers and the leather helmet/head cap that it was all built on which was supplied by the Art department on the series - was a mere £600, it’s extraordinary what was achieved...

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Jan 18th 2015

Vienna’s Mesoamerican Featherworks

‘Ultimate headgear’

See the Whetton & Grosch costume props portfolio...
See Ros Little’s flickr album documenting stages of the filming in Mexico
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