Over four decades of acting, Richard E. Grant had never done drag until he was cast in the new feature “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” premiering Sept. 17 on Amazon. Grant plays Loco Chanelle, a mentor to young Jamie (Max Harwood), a 16-year-old who dreams of becoming a drag queen.
But what exactly is Richard E. Grant’s drag look? “It was hard hitting the right note,” says the film’s hair and makeup designer, Nadia Stacey. “His drag needed to be old-school British working men’s club drag, and not as seen on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and modern.”
Once she nailed it, the transformation took 90 minutes, including the application of leopard-print nails and gluing down eyebrows. His wig was “sprayed with starch so it wouldn’t move,” she notes.
The first time Stacey and makeup artist Guy Common put Grant’s look together, the actor was facing away from the mirror. “We didn’t let him see it, and when he saw himself for the first time, [the reaction] was brilliant,” Stacey says.
For Harwood’s transformation, Stacey turned to MAC Cosmetics, which she had used for another recent makeup-heavy film, Disney’s “Cruella.” “MAC is such an accessible product. I believed a boy in Sheffield could get hold of it,” she says of her decision to rely on its bold and vibrant colors. Glitter, shimmers and high sheen were key to Harwood’s drag transformation. He represented a younger drag style, Stacey explains — someone who watched Instagram videos and “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Based on a true story, “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” was a West End musical before being adapted to film. Jamie had platinum blond hair onstage, and Stacey wanted to keep it that way since audiences were familiar with the look. But that meant bleaching Harwood’s brunet locks throughout the shoot. “The biggest challenge was to not break his hair,” she says.