March 18th, 2015
When it comes to an actor portraying someone else, the make-up artist has their work cut out. Whether it’s in film, on TV or in the case of Kevyn Aucoin for his books Making Faces and Face Forward. Films featuring larger than life characters from Queen Victoria, Churchill and Liz Taylor to the likes of Myra Hindley, Fred West or Liberace, Stephen Hawking and Margaret Thatcher clearly demonstrate how much we love a biopic and a good look alike. Making someone, usually famous in their own right, look like someone else equally famous or infamous is littered with pitfalls. Warpaint looks back at some of the best doppelgangers in recent years.
In researching the best look alikes, in strikes me that those actors who have played famous faces in movies and television shows rely on the skill of the MUA to do just enough to allude to the character. The audience are likely to know what these people look like, the challenge is always to make sure the make-up does just enough so that you see that character rather than the actor dressed up as the famous person they’re playing.
This balance is helped when an actor can add voice and mannerisms to trick the audience into believing they are watching the real person. This however is completely thrown out the window when it’s a photographic still that is to be achieved, for this it’s possible to completely transform a face into someone else, a skill Mr Aucoin had down to a fine art.
Some of our favourite celluloid transformations have happened very recently, Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything earned Jan Sewell and Kristyan Mallett a BAFTA nomination and an Oscar long list inclusion. Meryl Streep’s Iron Lady won the make-up team of Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland the Oscar in 2012. Michael Douglas as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra was a make-up marvel thanks to Kate Biscoe and Marie Larkin. On the small screen, Helena Bonham Carter as Liz Taylor alongside Dominic West as Richard Burton in Burton and Taylor was the work of Lucy Cain and West again was just a little bit frightening as Fred West alongside Monica Dolan as the equally sinister Rose in Appropriate Adult, the uncomfortable make-up fell to Janet Horsfield to create. Few can forget the haunting mugshot of Myra Hindley, and two actresses have played the child murderer on TV – Samantha Morton in Longford and Maxine Peak in See No Evil: The Moors Murders, the make-up artists here were Karen Hartley-Thomas for Longford and Allison Elliot for See No Evil.
Royalty is popular to play, most notably Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II and earned Dan Phillips a BAFTA nomination for The Queen, there were look alikes a plenty in this film, from Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair, Helen McCory’s Cherie and James Cornwell’s Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth has proved a popular character, although the make overs have been a little hit and miss over the years and whilst Katie McGarth as Princess Margaret in a TV miniseries The Queen was good, other notable royals were asking the audience to suspend their disbelief a little too much. Naomi Watts portrayal of Diana in the film of the same name opened to mixed reviews, love her or hate her, she was one of the most photographed and publicly mourned figures of recent years, portraying her was always going to be a challenge, however from a make-up perspective, Noriko Watanabe did a good job. The woman who stole the heart and the throne of Edward VIII Wallace Simpson has been prolifically played by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Joely Richardson, Jane Seymour, Fay Dunaway and most recently Andrea Riseborough in W.E. but it’s Gillian Anderson who played Wallace Simpson in Any Human Heart that I like the best and was the work of Karen Hartley-Thomas and Lois McIntosh.
Politicians both male and female are a popular choice of film subject, Margaret Thatcher played by Fenella Woolgar and Stella Gonet in the stage play Handbagged alongside Claire Cox as the younger Maggie the most recent. Meryl Streep aside our only female Prime Minister has appeared in everything from blockbuster to TV miniseries and the odd comedy sketch thanks to Jennifer Saunders. Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou had the task of turning Miranda Richardson into Barbara Castle in Made in Dagenham. Nelson and Winnie Mandela played by Naomi Harris and Idris Elba in Long Walk to Freedom were expertly created by Mark Coulier and Megan Tanner. Winnie was also played in a TV movie Mrs Mandela by Sophie Okonedo, the make up this time by Lesley Lamont-Fisher. Churchill has been played over and over but particularly convincing is Nicholas Asbury in 37 Days, make up courtesy of Valerie Butler.
Some screen idols are more popular than others and without doubt homages to Marilyn Monroe have appeared more times on film and in print than most, some with more success than others. Most recent was Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn. Jenny Shircore was nominated for a BAFTA for the hair and make-up. Another blonde bombshell Anna Nicole Smith was immortalised for the TV movie Anna Nicole. Co-Department Head MUAs Todd McIntosh and David De Leon were tasked with re-creating the famous face for this TV film. Glamorous and decadent, young star Agnes Bruckner was transformed from small-town Texas girl into a beautiful, glamorous and glittering socialite. They then turned their hand to artfully de-constructing the same face they had created, as her life began to spiral into drugs and depravity. The precise lipstick starts to smudge, the lines become harsher, and the mascara tear tracks speak for themselves. A uncanny blonde resemblance comes from Sam Spiro as Barbara Windsor in the TV film Cor, Blimey! make-up courtesy of Anne Oldham and Alex Volpe.
La Vie en Rose is the life story of Edith Piaf and its star Marion Cotillard shaved both her hairline and eyebrows for the part. The make-up could take up to 5 hours, painstakingly applied by Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald who won the Oscar for their efforts in 2008. Frieda saw Salma Hayek as the striking Frieda Kahlo and also won the best make-up and hair Oscar for John E. Jackson and Beatrice De Alba.
Ian Dury’s life and loves were played out on screen by Andy Serkis in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. As Dury had contracted Polio as a child and had withered limbs on one side, Serkis deliberately trained hard to build up his right side to give the illusion of this but his make-up was also designed to mimic the urban poet, created by Jacqueline Fowler with prosthetics by Paul Hyett.
Kevyn Aucoin was one of Hollywood’s top make-up artists, almost a celebrity on his own right (he even did a cameo in Sex & The City as himself), who had the power of not only beautify but also, completely transform people. He began showing interest in make-up from a very early age and went on to work with hundreds of A-list celebrities, consult for Revlon and Shiseido, create his own makeup line and become a regular at Vogue until he died in 2002 due to complications from a pituitary tumour. He published three make-up books, in two, Making Faces and Face Forward, he not only shares make-up tips but reinvents some well-known celebrities in the image of some iconic ladies.