Yesterday, in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one of the Academy’s makeup branch governors, Leonard Engelman, presented the three films nominated for best makeup artistry and hairstyling for tonight’s Oscar awards to a sold-out audience of fans, students and numerous cinema artists.
First up were the two artists responsible for the character work in the musical hit Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julia Dartnell. Westcott, who designed the hair and makeup for the film, and Dartnell, a key artist on the makeup and hair crew, delineated the work required to bring the film’s early 19th-century characters to life. As Engelman presented photographs overhead on the Goldwyn Theater’s large screen, Westcott and Dartnell alternating in explaining the rigorous techniques mandated by the period film. For the factory scene where Anne Hathaway’s Fantine character worked, Westcott noted how half of the actresses wore wigs and false teeth. In the scene where Hathaway has her hair trimmed, Westcott explained how the decision was made before she started work on the film that Hathaway’s actual hair would be cut. “It was Anne’s idea. She wanted her hair cut,” said Westcott. “She was quite determined. The schedule was arranged accordingly.”
For the scenes early in the film, Westcott and Dartnell described Hugh Jackman’s rugged appearance with hair extensions added to his growth with laid-on hair. “It had to be waterproof and stay,” said Westcott. “He wore contact lenses and prosthetic scars. It was meant to be quite shocking and brutal. He went on a strict diet as well.”
Dartnell added that, “Hugh had seen the concept drawings. We discussed what would look great. You have to be brave and go in and do it. Hugh was all for it. It was all on paper and discussed – the director was extremely involved as well. It was a team effort.”
Other makeups included those on young stars Amanda Seyfried and Eddie Redmayne. “Amanda is very beautiful anyway, so you have a good canvas to start out,” Westcott stated. “We used a natural makeup base – enhancing what was already there – making sure that her skin bounced.“
For the comical scenes involving Helena Bonham Carter, Westcott and Dartnell related that those scenes were “an opportunity to show off. We took no prisoners there. The worst you could do was be boring, so we had a bit of fun. Every time through the film, they look different. They had four different looks, but the fourth one didn’t make it into the film.”
Westcott was initially offered six weeks to prep the film without a crowd supervisor, no less, but she found that unacceptable. “Eventually, I got eight weeks and went into heavy negotiations in numbers of my team and dailies,” she said. “ I had to be very careful about where I put my money. The entire budget was $60 million.”
Following Les Misérables was Hitchcock, the story of director Alfred Hitchcock’s struggle to make his classic, Psycho. Representing the film at the symposium were a surprise guest, Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi, plus makeup artist Peter Montagna, hairstylist Martin Samuel, and makeup designer and artist Howard Berger.
Of the genesis of the unique project, Berger said, “I had met Sacha through Peter Dinklage. He was doing another project and I get a phone call out of the blue [from Gervasi]. He had Tony Hopkins with him and put him on speaker. It was a great conversation. We talked about the potential of the film. I thought we could come up with something that worked.”
After Hitchcock finally received its green light, Berger had artists begin doing makeup tests over several weeks at his KNB EFX Group Studios. Through a series of sculptures, various looks on Hopkins were attempted and evaluated. “Richie Alonzo was my key sculptor,” said Berger. “Richie can do anything in the universe. I had guys at KNB troubleshoot the makeups so that they were perfect every day.”
Achieving the final Alfred Hitchcock visage was challenging, according to all involved. “We went through an interesting process,” said Gervasi. “Hitchcock has a specific incredibly particular look. Because there was a mischief and irony to the film, it was important that the audience had a sense of Alfred Hitchcock, but that we found the balance of Tony Hopkins playing this incredible man – Tony’s version of Hitch. We came out in the right place. You felt Hitchcock right there – the warmth and the madness.”
Berger further detailed the process of turning Hopkins into Hitchcock on a daily basis. “Tony would come in in the morning,” he said. “Martin would shave the top of his head and cut and color his hair. We would start with a horseshoe piece, the nose tip and earlobes. Marin would then glue the lace piece on top.”
Samuel, who also supervised the hair for the many actresses and supporting actors in the film, contended with Hopkins hair, blending Samuel’s handmade hair work into Hopkins’ own hair. “I gave him that wispy balding effect,” said Samuel. After hair, costume designer Julie Weiss would put Hopkins into a fat suit.
Also on Samuel’s list of tasks were the transformations of Jessica Biel into Vera Miles – recreating the manner in which the actress looked in Psycho – in addition to the film’s other actresses. “Scarlet Johansson, Toni Collette and Helen Mirren all wore wigs,” Samuel said. “Julie Hewitt was the department head of makeup to recreate the period makeups. I would go into Peter and Howard’s trailer to do Anthony. It was a wonderful reconstruction of the original things that happened.”
Berger added that the end result in the film was duly collaborative. “Tony really wanted to keep it alive,” said Berger. “It’s a partnership amongst all of us including Tony. He was as invested as we were.”
Representing the first in a new J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, were the head hair of and wig styling, Rick Findlater, makeup department head Peter King, and prosthetic makeup supervisor Tami Lane.
Another surprise guest, actor Graham McTavish who played the dwarf Dwalin (one of 13 in the film), described his makeup breakdown and application. “It was three pieces – a foam cap, a silicone cap, a piece from the nose and bridge,” he said. “We got it down to just over an hour. The hair was six separate pieces that were applied that took 45 minutes, then the costume after that. When we all got together and got to see each other in our makeup – it was like seeing completely different people.”
King further detailed an aspect of the process. “These guys are meant to be four-foot-tall,” he said. “To achieve the fact that they looked like dwarves, we squashed them and widened them. We tried to lose their necks, and widen them with hair.”
Elaborating on the technique, Lane said, “The caps were all different sizes to create this illusion, so we widened their heads, lowered their ears to create this squatted look.”
King also noted that the film included a tremendous amount of wigs. “Everyone in this film is wigged,” he said. “Even the extras – 85% were wearing wigs. We had walls and walls and rooms and rooms of wigs, beards and eyebrows.”
Lane, who supervised a team which applied the dwarves’ makeups, noted several quirks in their methodology. “11 of the 13 dwarves wore silicon T-pieces,” she said. “We had to add in their eyebrows. I didn’t feel lace pieces would be good enough to get the closeups, so they were hand-punched. The only dwarves that did not have punched eyebrows were Fili and Kili.”
Alas, another issue arose later in the process. “Once they were in their costumes and wigs with full makeup, their hands looked really tiny,” she revealed. “Weta manufactured these gloves and arms that the dwarves wore.” For one character whose arms are exposed the entire movie, Lane had to hand-punch all of his arm hairs. “I had a team doing that on rotation,” she concluded.
Finally, Findlater stated that creating Ian McKellan’s look as Gandalf was slightly modified from the original Lord of the Rings films. “Some of the dwarves beards were heavier,” he said of McKellar’s lengthy beard. “Ian was always very patient with it. We had to add weight to them to get this bulk. We had to do an old-fashioned thing and put straps to the top of their head and then put the wig on!”
Before the afternoon closed, Lane shared a story when she toured KNB EFX Group Studios as a Midwestern college student and met Howard Berger. “I didn’t know that these places actually existed,” she said. “Once I saw Howard’s studios, he encouraged me to finish university. Then he offered me a job cleaning out molds and sweeping floors. That’s what I did for seven dollars an hour.”
In turn, Berger stated, “I met her when she was 21 years old. It’s been really great to watch her grow. We have been working hand-in-hand for years. I get to be in the same category with my best friend.”