Ever Wonder How Makeup Artists Create the Looks For Period Films? We Asked 3 of Them
In order to make a historical film believable, getting the hair and makeup right is vital. That's why a movie's beauty team will spend hours researching, designing, and planning how they can execute looks no one has worn for dozens, if not hundreds, of years.
We spoke with the talented hair and makeup leads on three huge era-specific movies out right now — The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots, and Mary Poppins Returns — to find out how they went back in time. Keep reading to discover just how challenging Hollywood magic really is.
The Favourite Hair and Makeup
While filming The Favourite, makeup artist and hair lead Nadia Stacey was given a lot of creative freedom due to the comedic nature of the movie. "I learned everything about the makeup that they would have used and the hairstyles [at that time], so I started to pick those to pieces and add my own slant," she said.
The best example of this is in regard to the white wigs people wore during the 18th century: Stacey wanted to create the same general silhouette of the original ones, but with her own twist. "I changed the color, the shape, and the material. We put bows on the bottom of some of them. One of them was a big, thick, orange wig with curly side pieces, but then the back has just got a ponytail with a ribbon. Things like that wouldn't have been correct."
Adding her personal touch to the wigs was no easy feat — Stacey was in charge of the more than 100 wigs used on the set, some of which she had to create herself. "There wasn't enough of those wigs in circulation in the UK for me to get a hold of, and so there were lots of nights [where the team] sat watching TV stitching these wigs and making all the versions of them because we just didn't have the money to buy them."
Despite the many wigs they had on set, there still weren't enough for the entire film. While shooting, the team had to take the wigs they'd already used and repurpose them for other characters later in the film. Each wig took three to four days to create, which made this a very time-consuming process.
Mary Poppins Returns Hair
While Mary Poppins Returns takes place in a more recent past and isn't necessarily considered a true "period" piece, the film's hair and makeup artist Peter Swords King told POPSUGAR he used a vintage tool dating way further back than you'd think. To get hair reminiscent of the finger waves Julie Andrews wore in the original film, he used old-fashioned methods.
To create the style, King pushed the finger waves into Emily Blunt's hair with his hands, secured them with clips, and dried each section. Then, he used an actual tool from the late 1800s — which looks like a medieval torture device — called Marcel Tongs to make her hair a bit curlier. This is an early version of a curling iron and has to be heated up on a stove. It was important to King that Blunt's look in the movie was authentic. "You can't re-create any period unless you did what they did in that period," he said.
Mary Queen of Scots Hair and Makeup
For head hair and makeup artist Jenny Shircore, bringing an Elizabethan look into modern-day cinema was a challenge — especially when transforming Margot Robbie into Queen Elizabeth. "Women plucked away their eyebrows and the front of their hairlines because it was beautiful to have a high forehead and almost no eyebrows," she told POPSUGAR. Queen Elizabeth already had a high forehead, and she set the trends during her reign. "Of course, her features were very, very different from Margot's, and that was a bit of a challenge. When you're working with a modern actress who's got thick, beautifully shaped eyebrows, we've got to try and get rid of that in order to achieve the feel of the period."
In addition to eyebrow erasing and forehead expanding, Shircore had to resist making the actresses (Robbie and Saoirse Ronan) look like the "modern" versions of themselves. "You could be so tempted to use eyeliner and mascara because we're so used to that pretty definition, but you have to resist that because otherwise you just don't get the period feel," she said.