You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Hair and Makeup Oscar Nominees Sculpted Their Films’ Distinctive Looks

Just what constitutes an Academy Award nomination in the hair and makeup categories is a strange alchemy — nominees can be both department heads and individuals; prosthetics and mechanical devices count just as much as old-school color, light and shading. And all three styles ended up represented in this year’s selection of films: “Victoria & Abdul,” “Darkest Hour” and “Wonder.”

For “Victoria and Abdul,” hair and makeup artist Daniel Phillips and co-hair designer Loulia Sheppard traveled a traditional route, in showing how elderly Queen Victoria’s friendship with servant Abdul Karim helped put color — literally — back in her life. They first emphasized facial creases and eye folds; Victoria’s long life was meant to seem monochromatic and heavy. Even her wig was a cold, washed-out gray. But as her personality warmed, her wig took on a softer tone, and gentle color was introduced again as she visually and emotionally warmed up. Meanwhile, key actors’ beards were created or enhanced with a daily layered-on technique — virtually a requirement for 4K images.

Darkest Hour” took a man who didn’t much resemble Winston Churchill — Gary Oldman — and transformed him with a full body suit, facial and neck prosthetics, all topped off by careful makeup application for those extended, extreme close-ups. Kazuhiro Tsuji was the only one Oldman would work with to create the transformation; David Malinowsky supervised the prosthetics while Lucy Sibbick served as prosthetic hair and makeup artist.

They worked like three sculptors. The facial prosthetics and makeup had to be both smooth and mobile: Churchill was a man in motion, with expressive facial gestures, glasses that sometimes needed to be torn from his face — and there could not be a seam visible. Meanwhile, he wore a wig made of baby hair, but the piece was so fragile it had to be remade every 10 days.

Special makeup designer Arjen Tuiten was the only one to be nominated from “Wonder,” but it’s easy to see why: During the 40-day shoot he also had to transform a 9-year-old boy (Jacob Tremblay) who had to reasonably look as if he had a rare facial disease — without letting his strings show.

Tuiten created a complete silicone cover for Tremblay’s head and neck, installed prosthetic teeth to make them crooked, and rigged a wire system on his eyes to be able to make them droop (or rise) as needed. The contraption was hidden under his wig, and was so seamless that he’d received comments from doctors experienced with the condition who thought the actor actually did have the condition. But he also had a different challenge in that “Wonder” is not a movie of atmosphere and shadow — Tremblay’s Auggie had to seem real alongside non-afflicted children, in full clear daylight while still appearing to wear no makeup at all.

All of which emphasizes the truth of all of these nominees’ art: If any of what they do calls attention to itself, they have not succeeded in their ambitions. At the same time, there’s clearly more going on under the skin, the hair and the powder than any average viewer can possibly take in.

More Film

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Green Book' Lands Post-Oscars Theatrical Release in China

    Fresh off Monday’s news that it had picked up five Academy Award nominations, best picture favorite “Green Book” is set for more good luck. The film will hit Middle Kingdom theaters on March 1, the first weekend after the Oscars, which fall on Feb 24, Alibaba Pictures said on its official social media account, on [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Chinese Celebrities Pay $1.7 Billion in Back Taxes Following Fan Bingbing Scandal

    Chinese film and TV stars have paid some $1.7 billion (RMB11.7 billion) of additional taxes, following the mid-2018 scandal surrounding actress Fan Bingbing. The figure was announced Tuesday by China’s State Tax Administration. Chinese authorities launched a probe into the taxation affairs of the entertainment sector in October. Companies and individuals were asked to examine [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED Related Oscar Nominations: Biggest Snubs and Surprises Playing a British Monarch Is a Step on the Road to Oscar Glory [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. Related Oscar Nominations: Biggest Snubs and Surprises Playing a British Monarch Is a Step on [...]

  • Paul DavidsonVariety Big Data Summit Presented

    Listen: The Orchard's Paul Davidson on Surviving Sundance Bidding Wars

    Hollywood heads to Park City, Utah this week in the hopes of finding the next big Sundance Film Festival breakout. Paul Davidson, executive vice president of film and television at The Orchard, plans to be in the thick of it. In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Davidson opens up about The Orchard’s strategy [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

  • Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born

    The Message of the Oscar Nominations: You'd Better Have a Social Message

    Each year at the Left Coast crack of dawn, when the Oscar nominations are announced, there’s generally at least one major nomination many pundits were predicting that fails to materialize. When that happens, entertainment media tends to rise up as one and say the s-word: snub. In truth, it’s not usually a snub; it’s just [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content