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For Your Consideration – The Oscar-Nominated Hair and Makeup Artists

February 17, 2016 | By

Siân Grigg on the set of The Revenant. TM and © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.  Not for sale or duplication.

Siân Grigg on the set of The Revenant.

Often, the specific release date of a feature film is the result of many factors: the length of a film’s production and, more importantly, postproduction schedule, the studio’s internal marketing strategy and external factors including weather complications, performer injuries, the availability of locations, and other aspects. As such, in any one year, a list of films being considered for Academy Awards might fully include multiple past winners in a particular category, all typically from a Hollywood base. Conversely, due to the aforementioned conflagration of elements, a year in question might have newcomers to the Oscar nomination process from countries around the globe. In makeup and hairstyling, the films under consideration for the Feb. 28, 2016 Oscars all feature newcomers to the Academy Award process. Moreover, the three films in question represent three distinct and decidedly international nominees.

In point, Australian-based Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega and Damian Martin are first-time Oscar nominees for their character work in the fantasy realms of Australia’s Mad Max: Fury Road; Love Larson and Eva von Bahr are similarly new nominees for their realistic old-age makeups in the Swedish production, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; lastly, the British-based team of Siân Grigg, Duncan Jarman and Robert Pandini are nominated for the first time for their accurate period makeups in the American-based wilderness-themed epic, The Revenant.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

Given the Australian, Swedish and British nominees, none ever before nominated, 2016 is already a special year for this category regardless of the ultimate best makeup and hairstyling winner. Yet how can these wholly singular films be judged against one another? What makes a winner in this category?

One initial factor to be considered is the previously awarded films of a like nature which garnered due attention for their makeup and hairstyling achievements. With regards to Mad Max: Fury Road, the nominees are in relatively fresh territory. Decidedly a post-apocalyptic action film, Mad Max, the fourth film in the titular franchise, is a subgenre within the action film category. Vanderwalt and her team conjured a diverse group of futuristic war-torn characters unlike many seen previously on film, especially with the last Mad Max film being released some three decades ago at this juncture. Featuring a wide array of specialized characters, Fury Road is notable in presenting otherworldly individuals, both male and female, bringing director George Miller’s vision to new heights. Few Oscar winners have been cited from the pure action arena, with the infrequent exception be relegated to films such as 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which presented a host of unique characters, and was being considered for an Oscar.

Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr

Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr

Of particular interest is that films from the past which contained special characters in the same basic vein as Fury Road, being in a hyper-real setting — Star Wars, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are three among dozens of examples — existed in a time before makeup and hairstyling were an official Academy Awards category. As such, prior to 1981, almost no attention was paid in a formal capacity to a film’s makeup and hair work. The only exceptions were 1964’s The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao and 1968’s Planet of the Apes which offered honorary awards to those films’ key creators: William Tuttle and John Chambers, respectively.

With regards to “what makes a winner?” in terms of The 100-Year-Old Man, age-makeup has significant precedents in recent Academy Awards history. Notably, Dick Smith created old Salieri’s makeup stage for 1984’s Amadeus, bringing Smith the Oscar for that year’s work, along with the overseas supervisor of all of the other makeups in the film, Paul LeBlanc. Largely regarded as the premiere makeup artist of his time, Smith’s work followed unawarded age-makeup achievements of his own in films which include Little Big Man and The Godfather. Surely, Smith’s age makeups have been studied and scrutinized by all of those who followed him, including Greg Cannom with Oscar-winning age work in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Smith himself succeeded earlier key age makeups in the era before makeup Academy Awards, including Robert Schiffer’s groundbreaking age makeup in 1962’s The Birdman of Alcatraz. Thus, The 100-Year-Old Man’s makeup is remarkable in the same stead as the work of Smith, Schiffer, Cannom and others which came beforehand.

LR-Allan-7-9

Period makeups have long been lauded by the Academy, with The Revenant following awarded work, for example, by Michele Burke in 1982’s Neanderthal epic, Quest for Fire; by Lois Burwell, Peter Frampton and Paul Pattison with their myriad makeup successes in 1996’s Braveheart; and by Peter Owen and Richard Taylor in 2002’s Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. As a result, The Revenant has victorious Oscar-winning company in its execution of period character work, not only adding on a vicious bear attack and the resulting tissue damage to star Leonardo Di Caprio, but also rendering co-star Tom Hardy wholly unrecognizable with makeup and hairstyling work.

Therefore, 2016’s nominees, though all new to the process, have a healthy degree of contemporary winners to look towards in their upcoming ceremony to attend. All three films represent celebrated historical types within the makeup and hairstyling process which goes back 80 years prior to the first official Academy Award for the category. Regardless of the eventual winner, the three named films and their artists epitomize a newfound celebration of the various genres and international flavor which currently populate the best feature filmmaking at all levels.

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