Oscar season and prestige dramas about real-life personalities go hand in hand. This awards season is no exception, bringing with it films about televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, comedy icons Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and the family behind the Gucci fashion house, to name just a few. The Envelope spoke with some of the hair and makeup artists responsible for the transformation of Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), who spent about four hours a day having the makeup applied, and Lady Gaga and Jared Leto (“House of Gucci”) and Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos) in these three biopics to find out more about their process and inspirations:
‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’
One of the key goals of the team responsible for creating the overall look of Bakker in director Michael Showalter’s biopic was to avoid presenting the lead character as a caricature. As makeup department head Linda Dowds, who had collaborated with Chastain in 15 prior projects, points out, “Tammy Faye had a very iconic look and it was really important for Jessica to make sure we got the beauty element right. We knew going in that there is always a challenge when you mix prosthetics and beauty makeup. We worked closely with our costume designer, Mitchell Travers, to take the beauty element right to the edge, but never cross that line where it becomes a caricature.”
Dowds and the film’s hair department head, Stephanie Ingram, relied heavily on the Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato 2000 documentary of the same name to come up with the looks for the character, who ages over three decades in the film. “The more I read about her and watched the interviews with her, I came to understand she loved to go shopping for makeup every month,” says Dowds. “We also needed to make sure we got the period details right and paid attention to the aging details throughout the movie. For Tammy, we also had the added element of finding the products that she actually loved and used: I used a lot of drugstore brands because she loved shopping at Target and Marshall’s. We looked at a famous ‘Nightline’ interview, and tried to match as many elements with the real footage as we could.”
Ingram used multiple wigs, three of which were custom-made, to create the televangelist’s trademark hairstyles. She even relied on Clairol’s Frost and Tip for her blond highlights. “We looked at the video clips to see how she achieved her famous look, especially during the 1990s when her hair was sparse and falling out, and she used to wear a hairpiece on top of it,” Ingram says. “We had to make sure the colors and styles matched each decade’s looks. It was quite a challenge to find a wig that looked like her hairstyles from the 1980s — she had dark roots and a curly blond perm. I had to combine different wigs and use little tricks to get the shape and fullness that Tammy’s hair had at the time.”
Both Dowds and Ingram mention that they were taken by what an interesting, independent character Bakker was. “I loved some of her quotes,” says Dowds. “She said things like, ‘You don’t have to be dowdy to be Christian’ and ‘Who says you can’t put mascara on false eyelashes.’ She simply didn’t understand why people made fun of her. She also said, ‘My look is my trademark and they can’t take that away from me.’ That’s why we all wanted to make sure we got everything right about her and ‘authenticity’ became the key word for us.”
‘House of Gucci’
When Jana Carboni and Giuliano Mariano came on board to head the makeup and hair departments in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” they knew they had their work cut out for them. Not only did they have to make well-known actors such as Lady Gaga, Jared Leto, Al Pacino and Salma Hayek look like the real-life people they would portray, they also had to deliver the right visuals for what Italian fashion icons looked like in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. “For me, it was amazing to observe how it all started with a rather conservative and natural look in the early ’70s and went on to be braver, crazier and more colorful in the decades that followed,” says makeup artist Carboni.
Carboni says she was relieved when she met Lady Gaga and discovered that her eye color was an exact match for that of Patrizia Reggiani, the wife of Maurizio Gucci (portrayed by Adam Driver). “She looks very much like the real Patrizia, and she has the same violet eyes, similar to Elizabeth Taylor’s, so we didn’t have to worry about color contact lenses. Her transformation was incredible, and she and her makeup artist, Sarah Tanno, and I were all on the same page and took our cues from iconic stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren.”
She describes Patrizia’s look in the ‘70s as “very natural and peach-colored,” but when she goes to meet the Gucci family, she makes the effort to look like them and be accepted. “However, when she goes to New York with Maurizio, she discovers the freedom to be an independent woman, so her makeup is more shimmery. By the final act of the movie, everything is about her eyes. She’s very strong and knows exactly what she wants, so we used lots of eye makeup, eyeliner and gave her strong eyebrows.” Gaga spent at least three hours a day with the hair and wigs and makeup, Mariano says.
“Jared Leto’s character was a different challenge, with all the prosthetic work and the hair extensions. He looks so different in the movie and it usually took about four or five hours to prepare him for the shoot.”
Carboni and Mariano dug deep into vintage copies of Vogue Italy, Marie Claire and Amici, as well as Richard Avedon’s fashion photography to get all the right details for each era. They knew Scott wanted the actors to look as close to their real-life counterparts as possible. “He always knows exactly what he wants,” Mariano says. “He would even sketch what he was looking for right on the spot, so there was no mistaking what he was after.”
‘Being the Ricardos’
Makeup department head Ana Lozano and hair department lead Teressa Hill knew what a huge responsibility it was to create the look for TV legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos.” “Our job was to make them look real,” says Lozano.
“For me, it was a dream to go back to the ‘40s and ‘50s because everything seemed so glamorous then. You see Lucy Ricardo cooking in the kitchen and she has this bright red lipstick on. Overall, our goal was to stay away from caricatures. We wanted people to remember these original icons when they see Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem on the screen.”
Kidman’s makeup for the movie was created by Kyra Panchenko and prosthetic makeup artist Michael Ornelaz added some pieces for her face, which were mostly applied to the eyebrows. “Lucille was a big fashion icon, and she had very characteristic eyebrows, lashes, lip shape and lip color. She had lots of women copying her in those days. I used Besame Cosmetics for lip coloring, eye shadow palettes, blushes and false lashes.”
Lozano points out that Bardem’s facial structure was quite different from Arnaz’s. “Desi had a happy, round face, while Javier has a strong, hard face. I had to change the eyebrows and eye shape, skin tone and the teeth. I darkened the skin and whitened the teeth. Desi used lip liner when he was filming the show. Back then, men used to wear lots of make-up for TV.”
“This movie was a hairstylist’s dream,” says Hill. “Lucy and Ricky’s hair is as iconic as the characters themselves. So, as soon as I was offered the job, I got on the phone with wig makers and costume designers. We weren’t just doing a movie about these characters, we also had to recreate the ‘I Love Lucy’ show and the set of the 1940 film ‘Too Many Girls’ where they met.”
Hill says Sorkin told the team early on that he wasn’t after an exact photograph of the couple. “He wanted to capture the essence of the performers on the screen,” she says. “However, what is Ricky without that dark hair and the big wave in the font, and Lucy without the famous red curls, the ‘50s dress and lipstick and eyebrows. For the film, we used four wigs for Nicole and two wigs for Javier, and all the other actors had two wigs at least, so by the end of the night, we had lots of wigs to clean and dress.”
For Hill, everything came together the first day Kidman came to the set dressed in her ‘I Love Lucy’ costume. “Everyone just stopped what they were doing and looked,” she recalls. “We were all so pleasantly pleased because she had truly brought Lucille Ball to life. There was this other day when they were filming a famous episode of the series where they’re all supposed to be on a train in Italy. I was standing behind the camera guys and I looked at the black-and-white image on the monitor. For a minute, I really thought I was on the set of the old ‘I Love Lucy’ show in the ’50s.”
This story originally Appeared on LATimes