Rather, director Aaron Sorkin instructed hair department head Teressa Hill and makeup department head Ana Lozano, “We are not taking a photograph; we are painting a picture.” The approach is generating awards buzz for the below-the-line duo.
The film, opening Dec. 10, centers on a week of filming “I Love Lucy,” from table read to shooting an episode. Sorkin also re-creates memorable moments from the series, which ran on CBS from 1951-57, and provides snapshots of the couple’s marriage.
That plotline meant creating numerous looks for the TV stars and their real-life personas: Lucille Ball/ Lucy Ricardo and Desi Arnaz/Desi Ricardo, as well as dual looks for the other cast members (including J.K. Simmons as William Frawley/Fred Mertz and Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance/Ethel Mertz).
Hill and Lozano scoured books and watched video and film footage of Ball and Arnaz, working with costume designer Susan Lyall.
The biggest challenge, explains Hill, was determining what Sorkin was shooting on that day and whether he was using black and white or color. The famous grape-stomping scene aired on television in black and white, but Sorkin also shows the offcamera moment, so it had to be shot in color as well. “Every day we would have a powwow about those challenges and how to tackle that,” says Hill.
Lozano considered how reds would play on-screen during those black-and-white moments, discovering that if she didn’t find the right combination, colors would not translate. “If you use red-brown lipstick, your lips are going to be really dark gray. If you want normal lips, you use a red with pink so it appears to be a lighter gray. If you use blush, there’s going to be a shadow. And we didn’t want shadow; we wanted contour. If you want to highlight the face, what’s best is light green, so we used powder with some green tone in it.”
The characters’ wigs helped show the progression of time. “With Javier, I made changes to the density of the hair and hairline,” Hill says, noting that a subtle alteration could make a big difference in helping age the actor.
Hill included tiny details to convey the essence of the characters, who were household names. For Ball, she says, “I looked at how she pulled her hair back with the piece in the front and that little ponytail in the back.”