You’ve worked with Quentin Tarantino for more than a decade and designed the makeup for The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds and Kill Bill Vol.1 & 2. How did you start working together?
We met through a mutual friend, Julie Dreyfus, while he was writing Pulp Fiction. Then he seemed to be in every restaurant in Hollywood that I went to, and we would say hi. A couple of years later, Julie and I went to visit the set of Jackie Brown, and it was so much fun! I told Quentin when we left that I wanted to work on his next film, and I did not care if I was sweeping floors! He called me six years later and told me he was ready to do his film and reminded me that I had offered to sweep his floors. But I would not need to, instead I was going to department head Kill Bill.
With your history, how does the process of working on a Tarantino film differ from working with other directors?
No matter how well you know him, you never just relax – he gives 250% and I do not want to give him less. But, of course, you do develop a shorthand and understanding that is helpful. He also starts having screenings of films that are nspiring him way before we start shooting. It glues everyone together and makes it easy to talk to people and work together.
What was your makeup design process like for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?
Quentin is not traditional, and for some of the actors he preferred their iconic looks rather than the correct time period. It is his love story to Hollywood, his hometown, and how he remembers it. As soon as I started prep, the first thing I did was go with Janine Rath-Thompson, the hair department head, and visit costume designer, Arianne Phillips. She had been on the film for months before we started and we went over wardrobe choices and what Quentin had approved already, and we create from there.
What were the keys to transforming Margot Robbie into Sharon Tate?
We all, me included, think of Sharon Tate being glamorous with the Greta Garbo makeup in The Valley of The Dolls, which she took and owned for a couple of years after. When we pick up in 1969, she had let go of a lot of the made up look, and was embracing motherhood, and looking more like a gorgeous hippie than she had previously. She was made up for parties and photo shoots which is what most of us see, but not in her personal life.
Sharon’s eyebrows were thin, although she had started growing them in a little. When I started plucking away at Margot’s brows, I saw that the thinner I was getting, the further I was getting away from her being Sharon. Eyebrows are strange that way. They are my favorite because it is our only feature that can completely change a face without surgery. But they do not stand alone and Margot is “more Sharon” if you will, with more brows than Sharon had. I don’t think Quentin wanted any of the actors, Margot included, to disappear. Then we would have had prosthetic pieces which he did not want. I hope I succeeded and people who love Sharon will love Margot, and Margot’s fans will love Sharon. It is never just one thing. It is truly teamwork which makes filmmaking so exciting to me. When costumes, makeup and hair, production design, lighting, etc., come together and the director calls action, magic happens.
What were some of your must-have products on this set?
Red Cherry Valley of The Dolls eyelashes were a must, of course! Most of the actors who played hippies wore no makeup so skincare was number 1,2 and 3. I love Emma Hardie skincare. We used Pur Erb Rose Toner, Le Mieux Eye Firming Masks with TGF-B, Bioderma Sensibio goes everywhere with me. Foundations by Chanel, Hourglass and SUQQU; SUQQU Eyebrow gel; MAC Fling brow pencils for darkening lines in the crease of the lid for a ‘60s look, as well as for eyebrow shapes; Artis Brushes; lots of Chanel black mascara; light lipsticks and eye shadows from MAC, Hourglass, Viseart, Glossier and Charlotte Tilbury; Illustrator Palette for whatever last minute tattoo covering, cuts, dirt blood and bruises.
Who made up your core team?
Besides Greg Funk, my assistant department head, we had two or three with us most of the time. We had the legendary Kathy Blondell, who actually did Sharon’s hair on Valley of The Dolls, doing Leonardo DiCaprio’s hair and Sian Grigg his makeup. Jean Black has been doing Brad Pitt’s makeup pretty much since he was born — ha ha — and our department head Janine Rath-Thompson did his hair.
Who’s makeup were you responsible for?
I did Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Dreama Walker, Lorenza Izzo, Margaret Queally and Maya Hawk as well as some of the hippies.
Best part about working on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?
Besides this being my favorite era, and shooting Hollywood for Hollywood on film, it was to get to create with friends.
Words Shannon Levy
Photos Courtesy Sony Pictures