February 26th, 2014
This Sunday sees the best of Hollywood and the cinematic world over attending the most prestigious award ceremony of the year for films. The 86th Academy Awards promises to be a night filled with glamour, surprises and thunderous applause, and we at Warpaint can’t wait to see who will scoop the award for Best Make-Up and Hairstyling. With only three nominees the competition is fierce, with each of them having different demands and achievements on set it’s set to be a closer race than perhaps anyone was expecting, considering the variety of film.
Dallas Buyers Club
Hairstylist Adruitha Lee and MUA Robin Mathews were undoubtedly thrilled to receive their nomination, considering the extraordinary pressures of the shoot. Reportedly only having a $250 budget, the film was also packed into a tiny 23 day shoot, and had no lighting department to help realise the looks on film – a decision made by director Jean-Marc Valée to create the most realistic look possible by using only natural light.
Valée’s insistence on complete realism required a lot of research on their part to accurately portray the deterioration of the body due to AIDS. While Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto have been rightly lauded for their commitment to their roles and their incredible weight loss, it is Robin Mathew’s make-up which completes the transformation. Guiding the actors – and the audience – through the progression of the disease, the actors appear to become more skeletal, incur skin lesions and develop dermatitis as their immune system struggles under the strain. “I really throw myself into the research,” she says. “It had to be pure realism – that’s how Jean-Marc shoots.”
Due to the film being shot non-sequentially, the make-up became a key part in helping the actors determine where to pitch their character’s performance. “Everyone surely thought these actors lost a bunch of weight, then they gained some back and then they get really skeletal and they’re about to die,” Mathews explains. “That’s entirely make-up making them look, say, 25 pounds heavier. There wasn’t enough time for them to gain or lose weight. It was really make-up that was part of the transformation. They came to us pretty much skeletal.” The gaudy look of Leto’s character, Rayon, was a combination of ‘60s and ‘80s influence, with Mathews taking inspiration from Bridget Bardot and Twiggy, but combining it icons from when the film is set, such as Dolly Parton. The main character, Ron [McConaughey] is the antithesis of Rayon, a masculine Southern cowboy who can’t accept the devastating effects of his diagnosis.
Jackass Presents: Bad Grampa
The polar opposite of the heart-wrenching drama of Dallas Buyers Club, outrageous comedy Bad Grampa features the talents of Stephen Prouty, who has worked on a huge variety of projects. Having covered everything from the demigod Thor to the risen dead in Zombieland, this surprise contender for the Oscar actually showcases the extent of Prouty’s prosthetic prowess.
Having originally suggested applying for Oscar consideration as a joke halfway through the shoot, Prouty and the rest of the team soon realised how integral and demanding the make-up for the film truly was, leading to them being seriously nominated. As a hidden-camera comedy, Jackass ringleader Johnny Knoxville was transformed into the inappropriate and outrageous character of Grandpa every day, relying on the reactions of clueless bystanders to help create the film. “It had to play, inches from real people, every day,” Prouty explains. “And if it didn’t work, they didn’t have anything shot – the scene’s done! So it had to be successful each day, and that was a lot of pressure.”
Like Dallas Buyers Club there was no help from a lighting department, due to the hidden-camera element, and so the ageing prosthetics had to look realistic, up-close and in natural lighting – no easy feat! Thanks to Knoxville’s acting and Prouty’s team, the film was a success, with real people fooled and unknowingly helping to create comedy gold.
The Lone Ranger
The only nominated film to be helmed by a previous Oscar-winner, The Lone Ranger featured a huge variety of make-up skills – aging prosthesis, period and also cultural make-up. Joel Harlow was department head, along with Gloria Pasqua-Casny as head of Hair, and they both made sure to consult with experts and do plenty of their own research. The inspiration for the look of Johnny Depp’s quirky American Indian character, Tonto, came from the painting I am Crow by artist Kirby Sattler. Depp and Harlow both liked the look of the white and black striping, and Harlow consulted with a Conmache expert to make sure the look was both accurate and respectful.
Reassured, Harlow created a series of prosthetics for Depp which looked like cracked clay, which had been applied wet but had long-since dried and started to disintegrate. “I wanted to avoid any continuity issues,” Harlow said, to explain his use of prosthetics rather than repeated manual applications.
Tonto appears much older in the film as well, and Harlow described how he and his team created a series of 17 prosthetic pieces, to cover Depp’s face, chest and arms, which would take up to seven hours to apply. The process was clearly worth it, with incredible detail being painted onto the prosthetics, enough to change the director’s mind as to how they would create the aged Tonto: “Our first test of the face was done on a double as well. Not ideal, but it was enough to convince Gore [Verbinski] that a practical make-up, as opposed to digital aging, was the way forward.’ Clearly the effort paid off, rewarding Joel Harlow with his second Oscar nomination.
Three very different films, three very strong contenders. We can’t wait to see the results – break a leg everyone!