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From “Miles Ahead” To “The Hateful Eight”: Head Hairstylist Camille Friend

By: Marjorie Galas

Miles Davis in his psychedelic funk phase and dueling bounty hunters in post-Civil War Wyoming seem worlds apart.  However Camille Friend, head hairstylist on Don Cheadle’s biopic “Miles Ahead” and Quentin Tarantino’s western “The Hateful Eight,” found selecting hairstyles that grounded each film’s larger than life characters was a factor both film shared.

Friend had worked with Don Cheadle in the past on “House of Lies” and knew about his plans to direct a biopic.  When the project was greenlit, her desire to be involved was what she describes as a “no brainer.”  A self-proclaimed “die hard” Davis fan, Friend knew Cheadle was the perfect fit of an actor to bring the trumpeter to life.  Working directly with the Davis family, including Miles Davis’ sister, son and nephew, Friend had extensive research and first-hand knowledge that allowed her to recreate authentic looks.

Because the movie follows Davis’ rise through his career, Friend did had to recreate styles that defined his different ages and stages of life.  While she had a handle on his more natural likes, recreating the wigs the star wore during his 70s experimental theatricality stage performances proved trickier than it may appear at first glance.  Friend overcame the challenge by striving to balance his stage persona and humanity within each look.

“You want him to be in character, but not so much a character that he becomes more like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” said Friend.  “Miles was chaotic in his head, so I flowed with his state within the scene, punctuating his highs and lows.”

With ideas clearly outlined and measurements gathered, Friend worked directly with Robert Stevenson, a hair and makeup icon who’s been in the movie business for over thirty years.    The two collaborated on ideas they brought to wig maker Victoria Wards who hand crafted all the finished pieces.

“We designed the wigs together; I wanted to see with his eye,” said Friend.  “I was so nervous on the first day of camera tests.  We did many fittings with Don.  It was instrument to hear what he liked for the character along with what looked good.”
While it was important to define Davis, there were many other characters that appeared throughout the story, including his wife whose look had to change with each time period.  Working with a tight independent budget, Friend used the actor’s natural hair whenever possible.   Utilizing period products and popular styles for the day, Friend focused on creating natural looks that both served the actors and the time period.

“Make it very stylish, but keep it simple,” said Friend in reference to her process.  “When a character is not on screen a lot, this helps avoid confusing the audience.”

Friend initially heard about Quentin Tarantino’s period western “The Hateful Eight” through Samuel Jackson’s reps.   Having worked on “Django Unchained,” Friend discovered she loved the director’s commitment to story and detail, as well as his incredible enthusiasm towards the creative process.  While he can be very specific about certain qualities he expects in his films, he also allows each department head to fully explore their creativity.

“There are some characters he is very specific about, and others he’ll ask you to create,” said Friend.  “Quentin gives you space and time; you don’t have to be safe with him.”

Despite Tarantino’s highly animated visual style displayed within his films, the director strives for natural, realistic characters.  While no individual in “The Hateful Eight” has clean, well-coifed hair, Friend and her team had to find a way to make the character’s styles look naturally unkempt while maintaining continuity.   Jennifer Jason Leigh’s dirty, greasy locks, for instance, required a special combination of dry shampoo and pomade.  Breaking the look into sections, Friend’s team made extensive notes that deconstructed the processes, ensuring Leigh’s hair continuity was maintained throughout production.

Friend also devoted a great deal of time to developing styles for each male lead, defining daily wear as well as how the styles change through the story’s run.  For Samuel Jackson, Friend merged the suggestions made by the actor and the director to create a unique, frosted look.    For Bruce Dern, Friend chose to style the actor’s natural, famously wispy hair.

“Bruce is top-lighted, and I didn’t want it to appear too thin.  With some styling and volumizing I was able to give it some guts,” said Friend.  “There aren’t too many people his age working in Hollywood.  He’s quite the character and tells such funny stories.  I enjoyed working with him.”
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