From dozens of prominent 2014 films, seven contenders were being considered for best makeup academy awards this winter, eventually whittled down to the three projects finally nominated for an Oscar: Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy. On hand at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Feb. 21 for a pre-Oscar symposium about those finalists’ makeup and hair styling artistry were all six nominated craftspeople. In an extensive two-hour seminar, Academy makeup branch governor Leonard Engelman, also a vice-president of the Academy, presided over a lively discussion of the three films’ inherently innovative qualities.
As with the earlier “bakeoff” in which the seven contenders were presented to voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ makeup branch, and the recent Makeup and Hairstylists Guild awards, many notable members of the makeup arts community were on hand to support their fellow artisans.
Actor Michael Rooker who played a key “makeup character,” Yondu Udonta in Guardians of the Galaxy, said, “You read the script and it either turns you on or it doesn’t. Whatever it calls for is what you do, whether it’s a seven-hour makeup as in Slither or a four-and-a-half-hour makeup as in Guardians. It’s kind of interesting that I get to do this.”
Speaking about working on an otherworldly project as with Guardians, Rooker revealed that his process begins before sitting in the makeup chair. “I use everything that’s inside me and my imagination,” he stated. “That happens when I wake up the morning of, and I start getting ready for work. Driving in, I’m already in my mind, getting ready and preparing.”
Regarding working with Guardians’ director James Gunn, Rooker noted their unique relationship. “I’ve done four projects with this guy – two little ones and two pretty good sized ones,” said the actor. “He’s a great buddy. We really connect very well. That’s been the goal. Right away, before we even worked together, we connected. As soon as I walked in the room to audition for Slither, we had a connection there, and it’s been going strong ever since.”
Last year’s best makeup winner, Robin Mathews (Dallas Buyers Club), noted that “the competition this year was so intense and wonderful,” though she indicated that last year’s competition was equally challenging. “This year, I did makeup supervision on Wild with Reese Witherspoon with the same director as Dallas Buyers Club, Jean-Marc Vallée.” In 2007, Mathews had also created makeup for a similarly-themed film, Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn.
Oscar winner for best makeup in the first Narnia movie Howard Berger noted that traditional prosthetic makeups, which were crucially featured in Foxcatcher, Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy, are not being fully replaced by digital artistry. “That’s all part of the umbrella of makeup in general, be it straight makeup, beauty makeup, prosthetic makeup, and hair,” he said. “As long as there’s makeup, it involves everything, and it includes everything. It’s all-encompassing. That’s what’s so great about this. There’s always a big variety. It just so happens that this year all three films that are nominated have prosthetic work – some heavier than others. The other films that were being considered during the bakeoff, some didn’t have prosthetic work, so it was really a great mix-up, and it is every year. It’s a great combination of makeup and hair, and this is a celebration of the arts that we do for film and how we make it all mesh together.”
Berger also pointed to the integration of prosthetic makeup and visual effects which has become commonplace on science-fiction and fantasy films, a reality that Berger embraced on 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2. “With visual effects, some stuff like Guardians of the Galaxy have intermixed digital augmentation as design,” he said. “It truly is the new magic trick. It’s great to see filmmakers like James Gunn want to use makeup. He loves it so much. There’s so many great filmmakers that want makeup, and so many actors that want makeup. It’s so encouraging and refreshing. It’s back to where it should be, where the makeup artists and hair stylists are important on the film. They’re not these annoying gnats flying around that producers are trying to swat, but a very important part of the team in filmmaking.” Berger has done three recent films with Mark Wahlberg – The Gambler, Ted 2 – coming out in June, and Daddy’s Home, which will be out for Thanksgiving, 2015. In April, Berger will start an action-adventure film, The Long Night, starring Wahlberg, to be directed by Peter Berg.
Also joining the event was hair stylist Johnny Villanueva who has been working 22 years as Wahlberg’s hair stylist. “I started off doing just fashion with him – print work,” he said. “Eventually, we started working together in films. He’s like a brother to me. We’re really good friends. Mark is a very loyal guy, but, overall, he’s all about the work. Mark is always hiring me to do stuff. We’re constantly busy. He does three movies a year.”
Winner for best makeup for 1988’s Beetlejuice, in addition to providing practical effects on blockbuster films including E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial and Splash, Robert Short is a regular attendee at Academy events, and reflected on the state of his craft. “It’s a whole new world due to the fact that a lot of what we used to do makeup effects-wise is now done with CGI,” he said. “It’s great that there’s still a use for prosthetics directly applied to actors that allows the actors to emote and become a character. I hope that that remains for quite a while even though the technology is catching up to where it may just end up in the near future just tracking marks on actors. I’m hoping that day doesn’t come very soon even though I know it’s on the horizon. But for now, this is a great showcase for what can be done with very minimal makeups and yet create a memorable character such as Steve Carell from Foxcatcher.”
In the event, each pair of artists illuminated in meticulous detail his or her contributions to the nominated films’ makeup and hair styling execution. Makeup/hair/prosthetic designer Frances Hannon noted the careful attention to all visual details of the final look of Ralph Fiennes, star of The Grand Budapest Hotel. “We decided that he should have a blond-toned wig which was fairly full,” she said, explaining that the wig partially blended into his own hair. “He loved blonde women, so we wanted him to have a blond tinge. Every day, Ralph was wigged, foundation, eyebrows, mascara, blusher – it was the full works. It was based on a 1930s Hollywood star, but in a very subtle way.”
Prosthetics supervisor Mark Coulier fashioned appliances for Tilda Swinton to play an 83-year-old woman for Budapest though she was only 50 at the time of filming. “Dream job,” said Coulier. “Anyone who’s a makeup artist knows that working on someone with great bone structure and a really fine look is the perfect person to age. Tilda is such a lovely creative person as well, it was a great joy to work on her.”
Without access to Swinton in advance to prepare his concepts, Coulier found a woman with a similar look to spend time in his workshop to test the makeup. “We did various tests on various old-age stipple makeups around the eyes,” he said. “We really didn’t want to put prosthetics under her eyes. It’s such a great technique, the old age stipple on certain skins. If somebody is over 50, it works particularly well. We kept the prosthetic cheek piece really low under her cheekbone – Tilda has really wide cheekbones. We also didn’t want to add any material to the outside of her cheekbones to create that sallow look. Duncan Jarman and Stephen Murphy did an enormous amount of work on this makeup, and Josh Weston [uncredited in the film] sculpted the hand prosthetics for it. In combo with Fran’s beautiful wig, we stuck the prosthetics on and painted everything into her skin. Wes Anderson wanted loads of liver spots, and Julie Dartnell did the straight makeup – the lipstick and eyeshadow. The whole thing really came together. Once you were married with Milena Canonero’s sumptuous costume, it was a real striking character.” Of note, Hannon, Coulier, and Canonero all won Oscars on Feb. 22.
Considering that Guardians of the Galaxy’s script featured numerous alien races and otherworldly creatures, makeup and hair designer Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou knew that she would have to present director James Gunn with singular looks for the many characters in the project, dictating unique approaches to her department. “James always used to come right up close to the actor and say, ‘I can still see that this is a human being,’” she recalled. “We tested so many different products, and in the end, we knew that we’d have to make our own. We knew that we’d be shooting in the heat of the summer, big leather costumes, and we didn’t want the makeup to come off. We knew we wouldn’t have time to be messing around with lots of makeup checks. Once these guys were on, they were on. High definition cameras and no specific lighting for the actors; everything was lit for the movie. That’s when we decided to make our own product. It’s got a gas-permeable layer. On the first day that I actually used it on Michael Rooker, we applied it in four layers and painted on the little blood vessels and roughened it up a little bit with different colors. You can perspire through the makeup. We had to develop our own wig-glue. It lasted it all day long.”
For Zoe Saldana’s character, Gamora, co-nominee David White created a thin silicone prosthetic forehead head and silicone cheeks, adhered with Telesis with Pros-Aide used in combination. “It gives a lineage and direction, very symmetrical,” White said of the appliances. “A biomechanical structure was sculpted in. She’s out there, but you can still relate to her. We tried lenses – you needed to relate to her, so we took off the lenses. What you see in those comic books can be too extreme for a movie. We had to tone things down. It’s got to work on that massive scale. It has to be really believable.” Additionally, Gamora wore a two-tone hair color to make her feel particularly contemporary.
Shown on video, Steve Carell said of Bill Corso, makeup department head of Foxcatcher, who designed and applied Carell’s makeup on the film: “Working with you was a fantastic experience. I think that you are a true artist. You are clearly a leader in your field. The time that we spent together was collaborative. More importantly, I feel like I gained a really strong friendship. It’s been an honor to work with you.”
Corso’s main challenge in creating the character of John DuPont with Carell was the fact that the comedian is currently widely known to the public. “You hear on every movie as a makeup artist, ‘Whatever you do, don’t lose the actor,’” Corso conveyed. “This is one of those amazingly rare opportunities where I had a conversation with the director and said, ‘I can’t picture Steve Carell in this movie when I read the script,’ and he said, ‘Steve Carell cannot be in this movie. John DuPont needs to be in this movie – the character of John DuPont. I hired Steve because I thought as an actor, he’s going to bring something interesting to the role, but it cannot be Carell at all.’ And I said, ‘Well, that makes me nervous. Any time we do a makeup on somebody, no matter how good the makeup is, the public, the press, is very quick to point out, ‘Wow, it’s a famous guy covered in prosthetics.’’
“That’s nerve-wracking for a makeup artist. You don’t want to be responsible for taking people out of the movie, or not serving the story. You’re always walking a fine line. But Bennett Miller, the director, said, ‘That is not your problem. Your problem is to do the best makeup you can, and make him a believable character. If I direct it properly, and Steve acts it properly, hopefully in about three seconds, we’ll fake the audience into thinking that he’s this character – and they won’t be looking at Steve Carell.’” Corso’s ensuing prosthetic makeup on Carell involved sculpting multiple facial appliances and included a painstaking paint scheme that Corso actuated once he adhered the appliances.
Fellow nominee on Foxcatcher was Corso’s key makeup artist, Dennis Liddiard. “When Bill called me and talked to me about the project and told me that I would primarily be taking care of Channing Tatum,” Liddiard recollected, “and I kind of knew the story from when this first happened and I remembered when the Schultz brothers had won the gold medals, I started to look at a lot of pictures of wrestlers, fighters, who live in the world of combat. One thing really jumped out to us when Bill Corso and I would talk about it: the cartilage in a wrestler’s nose starts to break down, the noses flatten out, the chins start to really protrude, the foreheads kind of protrude. They get this really flat profile. In talking to Bill, we decided to try and go after that look – to make it look like our movie stars had grown up in the world of combat, of fighting.”
In order to realize Tatum’s makeup, subtle appliances and devices were utilized. “We started out with a nose appliance on Channing to give him a broken nose,” Liddiard said. “We also put plumpers up his nose to widen the base of his nose and pull the tip of his nose down. With all the makeups on Channing and Mark Ruffalo, [playing Tatum’s older brother], these guys had to go wrestle. We couldn’t tell them to not do stuff in the ring. They couldn’t think about the fact that they were in makeup.” Prosthetic cauliflower ears and lower lip plumpers enhanced Tatum’s look. Ruffalo wore upper plumpers which flattened out his nose and jawline, his hairline was shaved back, his nose was painted to reflect a broken nose, and prosthetic cauliflower ears were also added.
Significantly, Corso has recently joined Engelman as a co-governor for the Academy’s makeup branch.