The nominees for the 2016 Academy Award for best makeup and hairstyling are few: Love Larson & Eva von Bahr for The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; Lesley Vanderwalt, Elka Wardega & Damian Martin for Mad Max: Fury Road; and Sian Grigg, Duncan Jarman & Robert Pandini for The Revenant.
Jarman: Sian and I were working on “Suffragette” — we were actually doing the scene outside the Houses of Parliament at the time. She mentioned that she had been given the script for “The Revenant” and would I be interested in doing the prosthetics. She has been Leo’s make-up artist since “Titanic,” and I have made prosthetics for him since “The Aviator.” We flew out to L.A. a week or so later to have our first meeting with [director Alejandro G. Iñárritu]. I have done a lot of blood gags on films like “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers.” But it was the idea of taking that out of the studio environment and into some really harsh terrain and temperatures that really interested me.
Grigg: I have to say the whole film was a huge challenge, knowing that the make-up was so integral to explaining (fur trapper Hugh Glass’) journey and recovery. If his make-up was not convincingly natural, then it could undermine the film. You have to believe he has been savagely attacked by the bear, that his wounds have turned gangrenous, that they recover in the sweat lodge and that he has real ice in his beard — not paraffin wax — and frost nip on his face and lips — not prosthetics pieces. If it starts to look like make-up at any time, you could take the audience out of the immersive quality of the film; it’s staggering how Alejandro and (D.P. Emmanuel Lubezki) manage to make you feel like you are there in the film with Glass, not just watching him on the screen. You even start to feel cold so the naturalism of the make-up is integral and essential.
Inarritu insisted that the wounds not only look realistic, but also appear to bleed freely – and then be stitched up by actors in the same long take. Impossible you say? To make this happen, the makeup artists used copious amounts of fake blood, created silicone neck equipment that could “bubble and bleed” and added wig lace that could be “stitched” back together by Leo’s cast mates. Poor Leo had to lie in freezing mud connected to dozens of blood lines, covered in cold blood for hours. But it looks damn real in the movie.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared:
The 100 year old man is portrayed in the film by a well-known comedic actor less than half that age. Larson & von Bahr were apprehensive about taking on the task. “When they called us, we thought, ‘Thank you so much for asking us, but no thank you,’” said Larson. “It’s such a hard thing to do with a character in daylight. It’s a suicide mission. If we failed, we would never get a job again.”
It took four and a half hours to get the actor into 100-year-old mode. “We started off with a back of his neck,” she explained, “a front piece, a neck piece, silicone baldcap, which covered his whole forehead and eyebrows. The edge included parts of his upper eyelids. We added cheek pieces, an upper lip, a chin, a nose piece and ear pieces, as well as lace eyebrows that were laid and lace sideburns. The whole baldcap was punched with strands of hair individually. We didn’t use any lace pieces on the baldcap. He had contact lenses made by the Reel Eye Company in the U.K. and vacuum-form pieces for his teeth that looked more gray and old-ish – really thin but pretty much like dentures with a 0.2mm thick plastic layer. It doesn’t affect his speech and you can tint and color them.”
“All the pre-paint was mainly done with silicone paint mixed with oil paint and a Paasche brush utilizing spackling techniques, layers and layers,” Larson stated. “In the trailer, I added castor oil, airbrushed with a Paasche airbrush. If you add castor oil to the Illustrator colors, it becomes a bit more flexible. Then, we added all of the fine details and sealed it with silicone caulking.” Silicone caulking guys – imagine sitting through that! (Well, technically, Matt and I almost can – if you missed the piece where we sit through our own makeup ordeal, check it out.)
Mad Max: Fury Road:
In total the makeup, hair and special effects personnel were a 35 strong crew, headed by Lesley Vanderwalt who knew she wanted Damian Martin as her prosthetics guy. A typical day on the set meant doing “60-120 of the background ‘War Boys’, mainly stuntmen, and about 8-10 close-up War Boys in prosthetics in the tent. We would allow 2.5-3 hours for prosthetics and two hours for the background boys, stunt doubles and picture doubles.” The make-up team actually taught the War Boys actors how to do their own makeup as director George Miller wanted them to be able to individualize their own looks. It must have been grueling to do so many looks on so many people, but the real challenging was getting the make-up to stand up in the desert conditions without getting lots of gritty sand stuck in it – keeping the War Boys white in such a dirty environment was near-impossible, she insists.
You may remember from the movie that the Max\Furiosa team encounter lots of different tribes during their trek out in the desert, and Vanderwalt remembers being inspired by “the oil fields in Angola, the workers of Salgado, the rubbish heaps in the Philippines, and other bleak environments. I also looked at African tribal and Indian religious festivals and Polynesian and Maori scarification.” All the tattoos sported by Max and the like are obviously makeup applications as well, not to mention the horrific genetic anomalies that many characters sport. The most time-consuming of all the characters was the old lady who was covered in tattoos, Miss Giddy. It took a 6 hour application to get her fully coated, done the day before, and the actress (Jennifer Hagan) would have to sleep in them – very carefully! Now that’s dedication.
Which team would you give the Oscar to?