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And The Oscar Goes To…2024

March 15th, 2024

March 15th, 2024

Last Sunday saw the 96th Academy Awards held in the heart of Hollywood, celebrating the artistic and technical merit which has come out of the film industry over the last 12 months.  With names such as Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Da’Vine Joy Randolph winning their first Academy Awards, and Christopher Nolan finally winning best director, the Oscars captivated the media.  Amongst the hubbub, our interest lies in one category – Best Makeup and Hairstyling.  Read on for a breakdown of all the nominees and the winner.

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Golda – Karen Hartley Thomas, Suzi Battersby and Ashra Kelly-Blue

Guy Nattiv’s biopic of the late Golda Mier, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who sat in office throughout the 1973 Yom Kippur War, is one of the first all-female crews to receive a nod in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category.  The task of transforming Helen Mirren into Mier was lead by Karen Hartley Thomas, the Hair and Makeup Supevisor, and supported by Suzi Battersby and Ashra Kelly-Blue, Prosthetics Designer and Artist respectively.  Being biographical in nature, crucial to the success of Golda was an authentic portrayal of Mier, especially in a physical sense.  Mier herself was a highly photographed and documented women, so the reproduction needed to be believable.  Hartley Thomas explained how she was careful to give Mirren the “silhouette and essence of the person … and not a caricature”, she told Vanity Fair.  Precision was key.  For instance, Mier had brown eyes whereas Mirren has blue, which may seem a small hurdle to overcome, but took careful work as brown contacts can appear to be quite flat when worn over blue eyes – something the team wanted to avoid.  Of course, there was only so much that could be transformed by makeup alone and the prosthetics team were instrumental.  Designed by Battersby and supported by Kelly-Blue, the team worked on Mirren in the chair for two and a half hours each day, applying lenses, silicone eye bags, nose and cheek pieces, whilst leaving her mouth free to allow for Mier’s chain smoking.  A huge amount of research was put into recreating Mier’s look as authentically as possible, with her grandson, Gideon Mier, advising the team on how his grandmother had looked, such as her signature hair look which was plaited and then twisted into a bun.

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Oppenheimer – Luisa Abel

Picking up seven awards on Sunday night, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, Oppenheimer was also nominated in the Makeup and Hairstyling category.  The Makeup Department Head, Luisa Abel, has collaborated with director Christopher Nolan on many of his films, including Dunkirk (2017), Interstellar (2014) and Inception (2010).  Being a period piece, the makeup and hairstyling was fundamental in setting the scene and conveying authenticity.  It was also used as a plot device, particularly in the case of Emily Blunt’s Kitty Oppenheimer, underpinning and reflecting her downward’s spiral as her husband’s career and motherhood drive her to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.  There was also the added pressure owing to the fact the film was filmed and intended for viewing in IMAX, meaning every detail will be magnified on the big screen, leaving no room for error.  The hair and makeup team used a variety of techniques and methods, including digital rendering, silicone and transfer prosthetics, alongside the months of preparation which went into designing the looks and creating prosthetics.  Watch the video below for a behind the scenes look at the hair and makeup.

Society of the Snow – Ana López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé

This 2023 adaptation by Juan Antonio García Bayona of Society of the Snow, based on Pablo Viereci’s 2009 book in which is detailed the true story of the Uruguayan ruby team after their plane crashed in the Andes Mountains in 1972.  The makeup team was lead by previous Oscar winner David Martí, who has worked with Director Bayona since his 2007 horror piece The Orphanage, as well as makeup artists Ana Lòpez-Puigcerver and Montse Ribé.  From the outset, the difficulties which the team faced were evident.  The level of accuracy needed in depicting the multitude of injuries suffered by the 16 survivors over their 72-day ordeal lead the team to consult medical professionals to make the wounds appear as believable as possible.  The end result was so believable that one shot of Numa Turcatti’s ankle injury was cut from the final edit over fears it was too gruesome.  In addition to the injuries, the makeup team also had to recreate the effects of exposure to the elements and of extreme hunger.  Director Bayona strove to exude realism, spending hours interviewing the survivors and preparing for filming as if he were going to create a documentary, thus the work of the hair and makeup team was pivotal in achieving this goal.

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Maestro – Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell

Having just won big at this year’s Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards (read this article for more),  Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, a biopic of famed composer Leonard Bernstein and his relationship with wife Felicia Montealegre, also received an Oscar nod for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.  As with Golda, the film is a biopic which requires the cast to be transformed into their real-life counterparts, as well as the 30-year time period under the lens requiring significant ageing making for the different stages of the characters’ lives.  Kazu Hiro, a prosthetic makeup artist who has previously won two Oscars for Darkest Hour (2017) and Bombshell (2019), worked closely with Cooper, who was the director and principal actor, to transform himself and Carey Mulligan into Mr and Mrs Bernstein and age them throughout the three decades over which their relationship spanned.  Cooper had done years of prep for the film and had a specific vision of how he wanted the film to look and therefore how the characters would look.  He also maintained a good relationship with Bernstein’s children who aided in his researched and voiced their support in the team using prosthetics to recreate their father’s physicalities.  Spending over 5 hours in the chair on the more labourious filming days, Hiro worked alongside Kay Georgiou in the makeup department and Lori McCoy-Bell in the hair department to transform Cooper and Mulligan into their characters.  Through a collaboration between prosthetics, ageing makeup and the hair department, the team was able to nail the looks.  See the video below for a look behind the scenes.

Poor Things – Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston

Emerging triumphant at the 96th Academy Awards, the trio of Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston took home the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for their work on Poor Things.  A few weeks earlier, the team won the BAFTA for Make Up and Hair (read more about it here) and have continued their winning streak.  Poor Things director, Yorgos Lanthimos, famously takes a stripped back approach when it comes to hair and makeup in his films, preferring artists to adopt a less-is-more ethos, with natural makeup (unless the character requires more) and a ‘no wigs’ rule.  In the team’s acceptance speech, Stacey thanked Lanthimos “for making films like nobody else”, as well as the cast for making their work environment so enjoyable.  Click here to watch the full acceptance speech, or watch the Oscars Press Room Speech below.

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By Frankie Hardy

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