How did you come to work on The French Dispatch?
Wes Anderson contacted me in November of 2017 for filming, end of 2018 on The French Dispatch. It is my sixth film with Wes, and I have also had the pleasure of being part of various commercials for Wes.
Wes Anderson films have a very stylized look, what is the collaboration like in terms of makeup and hair design?
As I’m reading Wes’s script, it is so detailed you can begin to visualize the characters as soon as you start to read. On The French Dispatch, I started by researching historical people with similar characteristics to his characters. Once I have my background character references in art or photography, I share with Wes and our dialogue begins. Wes likewise may already have references he likes
Whose makeup did you do?
In The French Dispatch, I made up Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Rupert Friend, Tony Revolori, Liev Schreiber, Griffin Dunne, Mathieu Amalric, Hippolyte Girardot, amongst many others. This film was very different from my previous films with Wes, in that it could be described as four films within one. Each film we completed before moving on to the next, so I was in the very unusual situation of filming every day whilst designing the next new film. Because of this format, it made my availability to do artists less than I would like. In collaboration with Wes, I designed the look and fit all the principle actors. Often, I have wigs made without ever having met the actor once Wes and I have found the look of the character.
How large was your team?
I had the most fantastic team. Sian Miller was my key makeup and hair artist, Laura Solari, the most talented crowd supervisor for hair and makeup. Zoey Stones, Monique Giamattei, Cheryl Mitchell, Jeanette Brown, Manon Orance and our very talented French crew headed by Romaric Colombini and Fabienne Robineau under Laura. My UK crew all do hair, makeup, and prosthetics.
Does it make it easier or harder to collaborate with a cast of actors whom you’ve worked with before?
It is so much easier to collaborate with an actor if you’ve worked together before. I already know what colors suit them and the sort of styles that work on them, so I have time on my side when I need to get wigs or prosthetics made. The actors on Wes’s productions usually arrive a day or two prior to shooting so it’s important to preempt work that’s needed on them.
How much does the lighting and Anderson’s limited color palette for sets/costumes play into the makeup and hair design?
It 100% has an effect on the makeup and hair design as much as it would with the color choice for costumes. An example of how the lighting affects my work is when considering aging an artist, and if one needs to take the level of aging a step more than usual because the lighting can often make a subtle aging makeup look washed out.
For Tilda as J.K.L Berensen, I met with Milena Canonero and Wes in Paris. We discussed the set palette, the spotlight to be used, fabric colors and hair color. In the scene, every department complements the others work.
Were there adjustments in the application that were needed for the changes of filming between monochrome and color?
Adjustments in the application didn’t apply to this production but I did make many adjustments in color choice for hair and wigs as hair can look very dense and flat in
What did you enjoy the most about working on The French Dispatch?
I loved Wes’s concept. It was the most intense film I have ever done with regards to levels of design and work needed, and that made it even more enjoyable. When we completed filming, I felt a huge sense of achievement.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos courtesy of Searchlight Pictures