September 24th, 2013
She’s one of Hollywood’s most respected MUAs, a real Goliath of a creative. Warpaint had the true pleasure of talking to Vivian Baker, the make-up maven behind Disney’s block buster Oz: The Great and Powerful, but it was her stunning transformation of Drew Barrymore in Grey Gardens that got us all excited.
WP: The Wizard of Oz has become such a culturally recognised image over the years. How much leeway did that give you over make-up design in Oz: The Great and Powerful? Did it make it easier as a springboard or was it restrictive?
VB: It certainly came with its pressure to follow such an iconic film and one I’ve loved for years. As Disney produced my movie and MGM the original, we did not want to copy those designs. While that did have its challenges, Frank Baum creates such a great world in his writings and new technology in make-up allowed us to come up with some great looks. Director Sam Raimi wanted it very whimsical and I believe we achieved that.
WP: Who was the hardest character to design?
VB: I don’t think that I could say any of them were hard or easy. As each team, production design, costume and hair bring what they do to the table, we each find what is right for the movie. It’s actually the most fun part of the job because you are collaborating with other artist. You’re building it together with one goal in mind – the finished film. Each character’s design affects the other characters design. I view the whole of the film then move into the details to accomplish each character.
WP: With the development of 3D and HD technology, how have MUAs had to adapt?
VB: The detail that is seen in such low light is incredible. Finesse has become the name of the game and this new technology into HD and 3D has spawn a host of new products and prosthetics to keep up with the demand. I love it! Prosthetics look as real in person these days, you would never know. It can handle all lighting situations. I’m really glad to be a part of the era of make-up artist to make such great strides in the industry. I think lighting in our workspace has become more crucial than ever. For me, gone are the days of accepting incandescent light bulbs. I’m all about lighting in my workspace. What has not changed is the speed at which we have to work.
WP: You achieved amazing aging effects on Drew Barrymore in Grey Gardens. What techniques and products did you use?
VB: Grey Gardens was one of the first films to use Bondo Transfers for aging. It was still new and wrapping 3D transfers with a paper backing around a curvy surface has its headaches. Christien Tinsley, who created the process, was helping by developing a fabric for some of the more difficult pieces. I loved the material once you got it all on. It has great flexibility and can hold all day even in very mobile areas. Bill Corso who did the original designs, got the film green lit with the promise of the speed of transfers. Drew has 13 pieces on her face, and it was done in three hours.
WP: You’ve worked on some amazing projects – what has been your favourite job?
VB: Each movie brings something so amazing. I loved Grey Gardens for the prosthetic demands, Charlie Wilson’s War for just working with Tom Hanks and Mike Nichols, Amelia because I loved the transformation on Hilary Swank and Oz: The Great and Powerful, well… There were 60 of the world’s best makeup artists in the team. What an experience.
WP: How did you get into film and theatre make-up?
VB: My mother would tell you that I leaped out her womb wanting to be a makeup artist. I think she had a good relationship with God and He heard her prayer to let me find a job!
WP: What are your saviour products?
VB: Wow, what a list I could have. Each movie brings with it products that you could not do without. I really love MAC micronized bases for men and depositing colour, Individual Lashes and Duo glue, Skin Illustrator everything and especially their glazing liquids. I do beauty makeup with these lovely tints. I’m totally into Sensai Skincare these days.
WP: What exciting future projects are you working on?
VB: I just wrapped a picture with Tommy Lee Jones, as star, director, producer and writer, with Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank as the female leads. It was an 1850s drama and the daily conditions were some of the toughest I’ve ever experienced. I LOVED IT!!!