SPOILER ALERT: Do not read unless you have seen “Don’t Worry Darling,” in theaters now.
Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling” is set in the blissful utopia of the Victory Project in the 1950s. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are residents in the insular desert town, where husbands routinely drive off to work, wives wave goodbye, take ballet lessons and prepare dinner. It’s a “Stepford Wives” scenario.
But all is not right, as the women must stay away from their husbands’ office building, Victory HQ, and aren’t allowed to know what they do for work. Soon enough, Alice starts to suspect that even bigger secrets lie underneath the surface of their idealistic life. After a neighbor disappears, she digs deeper.
In the film’s second-act twist, viewers learn that the Victory Project is a present-day VR world where men can control women and turn them into “perfect wives.” In the real world, Jack is unemployed and sits at his computer all day, listening to a cult-like podcast as Alice works long hours in the emergency room — until he takes her captive and forces her to enter the simulation.
Incel Jack is vastly different than Victory Jack. Gone is his slick, dapper “Mad Men”-like look. Instead, he’s unattractive with ill-fitting clothing, long hair that’s limp with grease and a face full of acne.
Hair department head Jaime Leigh McIntosh and makeup head Heba Thorisdottir spent two hours working on giving Styles the look that has the internet abuzz.
The key, McIntosh says, was not to push Styles to the point where his new appearance would be a joke. “It was about finding that balance and a fine line of pushing him in a different direction, but not so far,” says McIntosh.
Her first challenge was the singer-turned-actor’s thick head of hair. “I wanted to make it lank and more lifeless,” she says. But despite flat-ironing his hair, McIntosh jokes, “I fucking couldn’t. Harry’s hair is just so full of volume.”
In the end, she resorted to having a wig made. “When it’s long and scraggly, that was two pieces stitched together. When he has the short back and sides, I used the top of the wig and trimmed it to blend with Harry’s own sides and back,” explains McIntosh.
The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Thorisdottir. When production shut down for two weeks, she had Styles grow a beard. Thorisdottir says she would “cut into it to make it look scraggly and sparse. We just cut holes into it.”
The team frequently discussed ideas with Wilde about what else to do with his incel persona. One that quickly got nixed was the idea of giving Jack a scar. Thorisdottir says, “It’s so obvious to do that. We felt that if there was a scar, we would need a backstory about where he got it from and how it happened, and you would not understand why he did what he did.”
While brainstorming, Wilde suggesting giving Jack acne, but Thorisdottir suggested going one step further and giving Jack’s character acne scarring instead. Says Thorisdottir, “I know people with acne scars, some are super insecure and self-conscious. So, I called Jason Collins.”
Collins, an Emmy-winning special effects makeup artist, created the acne scars that riddled Jack’s real-world face. “He put them together really fast, and we tested them on Harry and he went for it,” Thorisdottir says.
Again, it was about finding a balance of just how much acne to give Jack’s character, staying within Styles’ comfort level and making sure it wouldn’t distract from his acting. Thorisdottir went through different versions of building out an acne-scarred face. She recalls, “One [version] was worse than the other. I remember he didn’t say anything, but I remember feeling, we might be going too far with it.” She adds, “I feel we were able to tell the story with it. We were not trying to make Harry look bad, we were explaining his insecurities and why Jack is the way he is.”
Costumes by Arianne Phillips completed the look. Thorisdottir says discussions centered around how big the clothes needed to be. “It was always hoodies and baggy clothing, like a person who doesn’t want to be noticed,” she says.
Adds McIntosh, “Harry loved it. He really leaned into the character makeup. He had a lot of fun and was really up for it.”