Oscar nominees for hair and makeup share wisdom

Lauren Spencer

Oscar nominees in makeup and hair offered tips of their trades and advice for wannabes at a symposium the day before the big event. At Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Feb. 23, the nominated films for makeup and hair were “La Vie En Rose,” “Norbit” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” (POTC3). Each nominee spoke about their experiences on the movie set, followed by a 10-minute clip of the movie they were nominated for and an open discussion for the audience to ask questions. “I was star struck. Everyone aspires to be them,” said attendee Erin Blume.The first to speak were the nominees for “La Vie En Rose,” Didier Lavergne, key makeup artist and Jan Archibald, hair designer. Their work was recognized for the flawless transition of main character Edith Piaf, from an 18-year-old street performer to her death at age 47 from cancer. For Lavergne, his challenge was transforming lead actress, Marion Cotillard, into Piaf, who share no resemblance. Cotillard agreed to shave her hair back one centimeter and completely shave her eyebrows, making his process easier.Archibald explained how she wanted to help tell the story and show Piaf’s life progression through her hair. “Norbit,” nominees Rick Baker, special makeup effects and Kazuhiro Tsuji, prosthetic makeup supervisor, spoke about changing lead actor Eddie Murphy into Mr. Wong, a Chinese man – and also changing Murphy into Rasputia, a 400-pound woman whose wardrobe included revealing clothes such as a swimsuit and sexy lingerie.Tsuji explained that his difficulty was changing a black person’s facial features into an Asian person’s facial features. He had to make Murphy’s face proportional but could not make the prosthetics too thick or else the facial expressions would not show, making it hard to find a good balance. Baker has a history with Murphy, also working with him on previous movies like the “Nutty Professor” movies and “Coming to America.” He explained that there is only so much you can change while still making it look different and have it not look like the nutty professor character.The final nominees to speak were Ve Neil, makeup effects creator and Martin Samuel, chief hair designer and stylist for Johnny Depp, for their work in POTC3. Everyone on set had anything from tattoos to silicone to foam latex, Neil said. Every single character had contacts, teeth and wigs. Samuel said there were 300 wigs created and many hairdressers. The following night was the award show and the announcement of the people who took a golden statue home. In the category of Makeup and Hair, the winners were Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald for “La Vie En Rose.” After the symposium, a reception took place in the lobby of the theater that included a display of wigs and prosthetic masks used in each film.”The event was pretty good,” said attendee Scott Mueller. “It was laid out nicely and ran smoothly.”The “La Vie En Rose” table had the progression of wigs and photo albums full of pictures of Cotillard’s transition to Piaf. The “Norbit” table had easels displaying frame-by-frame pictures of Murphy’s transformation to Mr. Wong. There were prosthetic facial pieces along with the entire facial mask used for Mr. Wong. The POTC3 table had the wigs used for the main characters in the movie, including Depp’s Jack Sparrow wig. In an interview with the nominees, they were asked for their words of wisdom and offered advice to those wanting to work in the movie industry. “Take advantage of opportunity,” said Tsuji. “Rick brought me from Japan and if you’re good enough, there is someone looking.” “There are a lot of hours of work and know there is no life other than the industry,” said Baker.”You need to have passion to get through the lengthy process. Get involved in anything – print, music videos, film, anything,” said Samuel.”Be rounded, work with effects, hair work, have a wide variety and people skills,” said Neil. As the time started to pass and people began saying goodbye to others that attended, the event ended on an informative note leaving people anxious for Oscar night.