On Saturday, March 3, a crowd gathered at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts in Beverly Hills for the annual Pre-Oscars Hair and Makeup styling panel. This event was an exclusive chance to hear from 7 Oscar-nominated hair and makeup stylists as well as several special guests and veterans of the industry. Academy members, Lois Burwell, Leonar, and Kathryn Blondell welcomed the audience to the special evening saying, “We are here tonight to celebrate some exceptional work.” Then they gave a special acknowledgment to several famous names in the audience including Christian Smith, Robert Bandini, Dan Streetbeck, Rose Wilson, Randy Saer, and Randy Habercamp.
Then the audience heard a brief history of the beginning of the Hair and Makeup Oscars starting with Planet of the Apes in 1968 and the tradition has continued to this day. According to Kathryn Blondell, each year the committee meets in April and October to discuss films released in the previous months that show outstanding work. Then the group meets again in November and December where they vote to narrow down the selection to the top 7 films. This year those films were Bright, Darkest Hour, Wonder, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, I Tonya, and Victoria and Abdul. Artists from each film are then invited to what the committee refers to as the “bakeoff” in January where each team gives presentations about their work. Then the final votes are cast.
The panel kicked off with the makeup and hairstyling team from Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, the prosthetic Makeup and Hair manager for Gary Oldman, David Malinowski, and Lucy Civic. The three spoke about their work with Gary Oldman who played Winston Churchill and the unique challenges they faced working on a period film. The team discussed their work with Gary Oldman and how they tackled the challenge of designing his very fragile wig to give the appearance of thin and wispy hair. It was a challenge because, according to the team, the wig only lasted for 10 days at a time. Also, the wig was incredibly thin and see through so it meant that they had to be creative when finding inconspicuous ways to attach it. The team described the short time constraints they worked under saying that they ended up designing a few looks over one weekend! The life of a makeup artist is challenging and fascinating and the work requires more than just knowledge of hairstyles and makeup palettes. Gary Oldman recommended the team saying, “the only way I’ll do it is if Kazu does it” and his confidence paid off with an Oscar nomination. When asked how he first got into makeup and hairstyling by the audience, Kazu said he had been looking for a path to pursue after high school when he came across a magazine article describing the work. He instantly fell in love with the work and hasn’t stopped since. Civic shared her path as well saying she started out as an artist but found out studio art wasn’t her passion during college. She said, “I knew I loved painting and I thought I would like painting faces”.
When asked about his method for creating the looks for Darkest Hour, Kazu explained saying, “I always try to understand who the characters are not just what they look like. So, I could put the essence of Churchill in the makeup.” He also used a 3D body scan and books and DVDs to understand who he was.
Next, we heard from Daniel Phillips and Lew Shepard, the team behind the Victorian masterpiece Victoria and Abdul. The panel also welcomed special guest, Ali Fazal the actor who played Abdul. Daniel and Lew described the trials of working on location laughing about the giant mosquitos they had to deal with in one scene filming in a harbor. Ali chimed in saying, “sitting in the boat we couldn’t finish the scene. I come from India, I’ve seen mosquitos but these, these were something new.” Daniel and Lew talked about working with local makeup artists in all the locations as well saying, “We’re both really hands on we had little workshops and we had lots of prep on the job.” Daniel added, “It wasn’t about making a book alive it was about portraying relationships. We’re all slightly control freaks as makeup artists or at least I am.” His comments got a laugh and resounding agreement from the audience. Daniel said, “We’re lucky if we see an actor once and then you start the day of.” The quick pace of set always keeps makeup and hair workers on their toes but it definitely worked out beautifully for this team. According to Ali, despite a lot of improvising they made movie magic happen and it was an “experience”. Ali said, “It was phenomenal because every look was different.”
The fun part for Ali and the makeup artist, was that since these characters existed in the 1800s they really got to use their imagination and fuse the looks with modern times. For Ali, “It was really the makeup and the costumes that told the story of this entire movie because the entire relationship spanned 14 years.”
For Daniel something he felt was unique about getting to work on this project was the wig work as there was so much involved to create the delicate hairpieces and coiffeurs for each scene. Daniel said, “There is a skill in wig work and it’s kind of a dying art. People underestimate how important good wig work is.”
When the audience asked how the two had initially gotten into hairstyling and makeup work they both had similar stories. Both Lew and Daniel had started out as hairstylists and eventually just fallen into working on films. Of course, not without years of hard work, that definitely served them well as they accepted their Oscar nomination.
Finally, the lead makeup artist from Wonder Arjen Tuiten accompanied by director Steven Shabowski spoke about their work transforming Jacob Chamblay into Auggie the boy with Treacher Collins syndrome. Director Steven told Arjen, “You’re the reason I did this movie. I wanted it to feel real like a real childhood, with a real boy. And I knew that you were the only person that I met who could pull this off.”
Arjen used a prosthetic, basically completely covering the actor Jacob. According to Arjen, it took some time to figure out and working with a young actor was especially complicated since he was growing the whole time they were filming. The prosthetic had 3 settings to give the appearance of an asymmetrical face. The most challenging part on set was the early morning set up. Each day Arjen and Jacob spent 1 hour and 15 minutes getting into full makeup and costume before heading to set. Steven noticed the effect the makeup had on Jacob as well saying, “he would transform into character. He went into the trailer as Jacob and he came out as Auggie.”
When asked how he got into the hair and makeup business, Arjen told the audience he had known what he wanted to do since he was 9 and now he truly is living his dream as an Oscar nominated stylist. After finishing school in Amsterdam, he came out to LA at 19 and hasn’t looked back.
The panel was definitely a success, and everyone enjoyed hearing from all the talented artists who came out. Everyone was anticipating the Awards ceremony the following day and after hearing speeches from everyone it seemed more a mystery than ever who would be the final winner as they all showed such an incredible talent.