Behind the Looks That Earned Pinocchio's Hair and Makeup Team an Oscar Nomination

Working with prosthetics is probably difficult on any day, but for Academy Award-winning prosthetic makeup designer Mark Coulier, his work on last year's live-action adaptation of Pinocchio provided him with a completely different kind of challenge.

"I've never done makeup this intensively on an 8-year-old; that was quite daunting at the beginning," Coulier told POPSUGAR, referring to the film's young lead, Federico Ielapi. "I've never made a wooden character before, especially one that's a lead character. The makeup's gotta be on all the way through, and he has to carry the film. That was a daunting task, but [Ielapi] was amazing, and he dealt with it all so well."

Coulier, who's been responsible for using prosthetics to transform key characters in cult films such as The Mummy Returns and the Harry Potter series, helped bring the characters from the classic Disney story to life with help from makeup artist Dalia Colli and hair designer Francesco Pegoretti. The three of them recently earned an Oscar nomination in the hair and makeup category, and considering the behind-the-scenes workload, it's easy to see why. Coulier designed full prosthetics for 25 characters including Pinocchio, whose prosthetics had to be remade 50 times.

"There wasn't a single makeup in the project that was easy," he said. "We were altering [Pinocchio] every day for several months to achieve the look that the director wanted, and it took a long time. The subtle nuances of how the nose is and the length of the nose, the arch of the eyebrows, the shape of the ears — everything took a long time."

According to Coulier, the team applied new prosthetics to Ielapi every day for 50 days to make it look like his character was aging. "We altered the paint job so that the paint runs off," he said. "Geppetto painted his hairline, but that kind of rubs off, and the redness in his cheeks wears off, so he's kind of more muted when you see him at the end of the film. He's very pristine and precise when he's created."

Roadside Attractions

For Pinocchio, Coulier worked with a team of nearly 30 people for several months to perfect each character's final design: Colli oversaw the transformation of characters like the cat, the fox, and the turquoise fairies, while Pegoretti handmade 30 wigs for everyone, including the extras.

"All the characters and special extras wear a wig," Pegoretti told POPSUGAR. "It was essential to me in order to transform the actors into the characters because I personally believe that the transformations required for this project were drastic and relevant. I think wigs are the best way for the construction of a character."

Pegoretti made it a point to avoid using synthetic hair for each wig to give the transformations a more realistic feel. "[I wanted] a natural texture that would allow me to reach an antique matte effect that would blend with the costume and set design and match the color palette chosen by the director," he said.

For both Pegoretti and Colli, the transformation of Blue Fairy (Marine Vacth), Pinocchio's guiding fairy, was a standout among the rest.

"The achievement of the blue color was a challenging visual process," Pegoretti said of the wig he made for her. "I had to repeat different tests before I was happy with the result. In the book, the color of the blue fairy is told to be a very dark blue, almost black." Thinking that dark-blue hair would harden the character too much, Pegoretti created a light-blue color for the fairy out of a mixture of white, blue, and gray dye and white dust.

For makeup, Colli created her own color palette inspired by the icy look of the wig.

"[Director Matteo Garrone] asked me to find a way to embody, with makeup, the beauty of death, which is a little bit of a paradox," she said. "I thought about a cold color palette, based on the shades of prussian blue and cyan blue for the shadow as well as porcelain, ivory, and ice white."

Roadside Attractions

Pinocchio officially premiered on Christmas in 2020. In the hair and makeup Oscar category, Coulier, Pegoretti, and Colli sit alongside the lead hair and makeup teams for films like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Mank, and Hillbilly Elegy. You can find out if they take home the award when the show airs on April 25.