Sometimes a well-placed prosthetic or a stylish mustache are just what an audience needs to buy into a story, as evidenced by this year’s Oscar nominees for makeup and hairstyling: “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Foxcatcher” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
One quality seems to unite the craftspeople in this select group: a willingness to try anything — from chemistry experiments to baby-bottle nipples — to get a character right.
Here are edited excerpts from those conversations.
“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier
Much like the period film itself, the stylized looks of the inhabitants of “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” directed by Wes Anderson, were inspired by famous faces of bygone days. “Gone With the Wind” star Leslie Howard is a reference point for the perfectly appointed hair of M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes); there is a touch of Queen Anne in the octogenarian Madame D. (Tilda Swinton); and even the tattoos of Ludwig (Harvey Keitel) were inspired by Michel Simon’s in the 1934 French film “L’Atalante.”
But Frances Hannon, the film’s head makeup and hair designer, warned against going too far with a famous face or period: “Never put the actor in the period, but rather make the period work for the actor. Never get stuck on a look-alike or in a certain time. If it doesn’t work, look elsewhere. There are so many looks in the world.”
A Wrinkle, in Time: One of the film’s standout transformations is the taught-skinned Ms. Swinton. Ms. Hannon commissioned Mark Coulier, a prosthetics specialist, to create the 11 pieces of fine silicone carefully placed on Ms. Swinton’s cheeks, chin, neck, hands, arms, nose and earlobes, creating an aged look that was both exaggerated and believable. Ms. Hannon then used five wig pieces to add a towering layer-cake of gray hair to her head and two long triangles of nape hair at the bottom of her neck to elongate the silhouette further. “If I had used a French bob with her dress and those prosthetics, her head would have turned into a little pea,” she said.
For makeup, Ms. Hannon turned to her own mother as a model. “I wanted her to look like somebody who never goes without her lipstick but doesn’t necessarily look in the mirror anymore to apply it, so it’s always a little wonky, which my mum’s is. Then there’s the touch of blue on the lids and a little too…