When the trio of films nominated for hair and makeup Academy Awards this year was announced, one title stood out. “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant” were not surprises – but “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” was of a shocker.
Unless you were in the hair and makeup branch. The reliance of that group of artists on its annual bake-off system (only hair and makeup and visual effects use it), in which an in-person presentation and shot reel before peers precedes voting, means a tiny film like “Man” (which is actually the top box office grosser ever in its native Sweden) has a fighting chance.
“If there hadn’t been a bake-off, it would have been impossible to get a nomination,” says Eva Von Bahr, who shared hair and makeup duties with husband Love Larson. The pair and their four-person crew took a 47-year-old actor through nine stages of aging (backward and forward), matured five other actors and made up eight additional actors to look like famous politicians – all this on a budget a fraction of what their Hollywood brethren are used to.
The bake-off is the conduit, experts agree, through which peers – untainted by marketing and star power – truly choose the greatest based on artistic merit, and it’s one of the highlights of the year for the artists.
“Branch members are not impressed with the size of a trade advertising campaign or the number of special screenings,” says Edward Arentz, managing director for Music Box Films (“Man’s” U.S. distributor). “Strong results can come forward despite not having a monetarily big campaign.”
“We all know what it’s like to not have the time for retouches, or that it might be moments or hours before the actors go on camera,” says Robert Pandini, head of the hair department on “Revenant.”
Among his biggest challenges were dealing with freezing temperatures and director Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s desire to schedule long shots around the time of sunrise or sunset.
“I loved listening to other peoples’ stories (at the bake-off),” says Lesley Vanderwalt, hair and makeup designer for “Mad Max.” She also dealt with harsh environments (in her case, the desert) but also had up to 140 stuntmen to prepare and some extensive body tattooing on one character that took seven hours. “I enjoyed that part as much as the technical things I loved.”
“Man” stepped up marketing following its nom, but the budget is small and the outreach is limited to an e-blast to the Academy of official screening dates and a link to view the film. This means that Larson and von Bahr are keeping their expectations under control.
“I don’t even dare to think the thought,” says Von Bahr. “We’re up against two powerful movies that did good work and had a lot of money. The chance we will win is very slim. But you never know.”