Matteo Garrone’s retelling of “Pinocchio” got a surprise boost when his spin on the children’s classic made the Academy shortlist for hair and makeup.
Rather than rely on visual effects, he called on Mark Coulier to realize his vision and transform the actor into the puppet who becomes a boy.
Coulier, who has worked on “The Mummy Returns” and “The Iron Lady,” says, “We wanted to keep it grounded in performance rather than in complex technical effects.
His process began taking a computer scan of actor Federico Ielapi’s face and shoulders. Coulier spent months on a sculpture from the scan, making tweaks and changes. “We looked at everything, from the length of the nose, the angle of the eyebrows, the nose, the gap between the nose and his upper lip.”
Four weeks before filming Garrone signed off on the sculpture and Coulier began building silicone pieces for the actor.
“You have to have separate pieces, so you can apply it,” Coulier says. “We broke it down and we had to paint it to look like wood, and then came the application process, which took three hours to stick on, and it’s a new set of pieces every day because you destroy them when you remove them. The only pieces we reused were the ears, the back of the head and the legs.”
There were six pieces for the face alone. “There was a tubular neckpiece that pulled on and went around his neck,” Coulier says. “We had a back of headpiece, a forehead, a nose, a chin, a top lip and cheeks, earpieces.” Additionally, there were separate hand pieces for the front and back and individual fingers.
Coulier admits working with a child actor was testing.
“Trying to keep him engaged and amused every day for three hours was a bit of a challenge. He was jumping around, he was fantastic, but we did that makeup around 50 times. It was the toughest job I’ve ever done in terms of managing an actor.”
When it came to creating Pinocchio’s look, Coulier says Garrone showed him a piece of wood he liked. “Matteo loved this piece of wood that he had in his office. We spent a month doing paint trials and painting wood in all different kinds of ways until we found the right one.”
The Oscar makeup and hairstyling branch is renowned for favoring the transformation process. Hence the surprise entry of “Pinocchio” on the Academy shortlist. Interesting to note, the film also landed one Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild nomination. “Hillbilly Elegy” has been a front-runner in the category with Glenn Close transformation into Mamaw. Her longtime go-to for prosthetics, Matthew Mungle, helped built the pieces, and makeup head, Eryn Kruger Mekash completed the facial look.
On track to make Oscar history whether it lands a nomination or a win is the team behind “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Mia Neal whose name is on the Academy shortlist, would become the first Black woman nominated in the category if she makes it. Neal, Sergio Lopez Rivera transformed Viola Davis into Ma.
Others on the shortlist include “Mank,” “Birds of Prey” and “Jingle Jangle,” as well as surprise entries in the shortlist and Guild nominations, “The Glorias” and “The Little Things.”
Oscar noms come out on March 15, the guild winners will be announced on April 3.