Film Hair & Makeup Artist

Film Connection graduate David Presto doing makeup on-set. Wins Emmy for Fosse/Verdon

Film Hair & Makeup Artist

On one side, we have the hairstyles of Edward Scissorhands, Harry and Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber, and who could forget Mary’s “gelled” hair in There’s Something About Mary? Charlize Theron in Monster, Brad Pitt’s Benjamin Button, and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter all take a seat in the makeup chair. Queen Amidala, of the Star Wars franchise, as well as half the cast of Hunger Games, show up in both the hairstylist’s chair and at the makeup counter.

What does a Film Hair and Makeup Artist do?

Hairstylists and makeup artists are responsible for making the glamorous even more so, the unthinkable a reality, and turning natural beauty into anything but. Like costume designers, hair and makeup professionals help bring a character to life and can set the tone for a movie.

Wolves, Grinches, and Other Everyday People

The most successful makeup and hair designer, at least when it comes to the Academy Awards, is Rick Baker. His work on An American Werewolf in London earned him the first Oscar awarded for his field. His seventh and final Oscar to date, perhaps fittingly, was for The Wolfman.

But it wasn’t all creature features for Baker who also did Ed Wood, The Nutty Professor, Men in Black, and Harry and The Hendersons. In How The Grinch Stole Christmas, he transformed actors into the mythical Whos of Whoville from the Dr. Seuss book and the most famous of all the meanies—the Grinch. His most popular work, however, might be as the special makeup effects guru on the Michael Jackson Thriller video.

And where Baker found success with masks, fake hair, and pointy teeth and claws, other artists excel at making sure stars look even better on-screen than they do in real life. Working on a set for 12 hours a day, under the lights, can wear anyone down. But when Julia Roberts needs to look like Julia Roberts, key hair and makeup artists go to work.

Taking the shine off a forehead or adding shimmer to the hair, these crew members make sure every blemish is covered and no follicle out of place. These people make sure the actors look great no matter how many takes are needed for a particular scene.

What tools do Film Hair and Makeup Artists use?

While motion-capture filming and CGI is becoming more prevalent in Blockbuster movies, traditional tools are still the standard when it comes to hair and makeup special effects. Fake hair, makeup, prosthetics, and lots of plaster and latex are used to make the movie characters we remember the most. Turning Robin Williams into Mrs. Doubtfire, creating cartoonish characters for Dick Tracy, or fabricating fiendish faces for Pan’s Labyrinth is all par for the course in a film career.

For the most outlandish costumes, makeup artists begin with a sketch, outfitting a monster or alien with fangs, scowls, large ears, or small eyes. Then working with clay or putty, the mask becomes 3-D, giving depth to the drawing and a form for the plaster. Silicone rubber is then brought in for the final mask.

Then the coloring begins. After a base color is applied, teeth, ridges, grooves, warts, and anything else that needs to be accentuated, are given tones and hues. Hair is placed where needed and the whole mask is then fitted on to the actor. Depending on the number of masks needed, it could take months to be ready for filming.

And that doesn’t include the time it takes to put the mask on so that it fits right and remains in place for the entirety of the scene. Imagine poor Bill Skarsgård wearing the Pennywise mask all day during the making of IT Chapter 2.

When done right, the audience completely forgets about all the work performed by the hair and makeup artists. So lifelike, yet so unbelievable. Even when it appears the actors aren’t wearing makeup or 100s of hairpins at all. That’s when you know the hair and makeup artists are true professionals and invaluable members of the production.

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