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Makeup-Hair Designer Specializes in Bruising Looks for ‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘Stronger’

This is a busy year for makeup and hair designer Donald Mowat, who worked on two major releases: “Blade Runner 2049” and “Stronger.”

Mowat was a big fan of Ridley Scott’s original “Blade Runner,” released in 1982, so he was psyched when helmer Denis Villeneuve asked him to lead the makeup department for the sequel — a revisiting of the L.A.-based futuristic tale set 30 years later. Mowat overcame initial anxiety over the epic scope of the project and was happy to reteam with the director and cinematographer Roger Deakins, with whom he had worked on “Sicario” and “Prisoners” as well.

“Blade Runner 2049” required every type of makeup application: character, aging, beauty and fantasy. Mowat and Villeneuve met to discuss initial concepts. The designs found inspiration in many sources, including Alexander McQueen’s fashions, Jack Nicholson’s torn nose in “Chinatown” and Rutger Hauer’s bloodied face in the original “Blade Runner.”

Some design elements were left in limbo due to scheduling conflicts and the remote Hungarian locations. Jared Leto was available only one week prior to his scene, and Mowat wanted to make sure he’d be able to blend his concepts with the actor’s vision for his character. “We shipped 12 cases of makeup from L.A.,” he says, “just to make sure he’d have everything he needed. It was terrifying.”

Mowat came aboard “Stronger,” a film about Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, when Jake Gyllenhaal (who plays Bauman) introduced him to the script and to director David Gordon Green. The makeup artist carefully researched every aspect of leg amputation, speaking with surgeons and studying musculature and tissue damage.

Gyllenhaal’s amputations were sometimes hidden by practical objects, but many scenes required that they be visible, and Mowat worked with Autonomous FX to design visual effects specifically to convey the look of a double amputee. First, a life cast was made of Gyllenhaal’s legs. Tight green socks were created for green-screen-like and seamless substitution of visuals.

Mowat worked with local crew in Boston to source materials for his creations. He also met with Bauman. To capture what he noticed, he outfitted Gyllenhaal with hazel contacts for the pre-bombing scenes and dark contacts for the scenes that unfold after the incident.

“Jeff is charming,” says Mowat, “but you see the trauma in his eyes.”

Clockwise from left: Donald Mowat and the makeup team prep Jake Gyllenhaal in “Stronger”; Jared Leto in “Blade Runner 2049”; and Emily Blunt in “Sicario”.
Courtesy of Lionsgate/Warner Bros./

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