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Bald Heads, Shell People, Killer Croc: Academy Celebrates Makeup And Hairstyling At Symposium

Makeup artist Christopher Nelson hand-painted the details in “Suicide Squads” Killer Croc. Photo courtesy: Warner Bros.

By: Marjorie Galas

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offers unique opportunities throughout Oscar week to see some of the fine, Academy Award nominated craft work up close and personal.  Their last event of the week featured applications, molds, wigs and stills from the three films nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

A number of the bald caps created by Love Larson and wigs created by Eva von Bahr were on display from “A Man Called Ove.” Several molds and applications designed by Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo for the creatures in “Star Trek Beyond” could be marveled at, and an installation including clippings, drawings, tattoo transfers, wigs and applications Alessandro Berolazzi and his key team members Giorgio Gregorini and Christopher Nelson used during “Suicide Squad” helped guide attendees through the process of designing what would ultimately become the 2017 Oscar winning work.

Prior to a three part panel presentation that allowed each team equal time to discuss their process, AMPAS Governor for the Makeup Artists and Hairstyling Branch Louis Burwell, along with trailblazing branch members Kathryn L. Blondell and Leonard Engelman, outlined the Academy’s nomination process for its hair and makeup nominees.   The branch narrows down all eligible entries to a short list of seven films (the four additional early contenders included “Deadpool”, “Florence Foster Jenkins”, “Hail Ceasar” and “The Dressmaker.”)  Once the short list is announced the branch holds a “bake-off” where the department heads are invited to conduct a presentation highlighting their processes, video clips, photos and examples.  The three contenders were chosen from their presentation in the bake-off.

During the panel presentation of the symposium, Larson revealed director Hannes Holm made an early decision not to use any of actor Rolf Lassgard’s natural hair for “A Man Called Ove”, a film that chronicles the life of Ove from young man to old man.  This meant that last year’s Oscar winner for “The 100 Year Old Man who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared” had to incorporate bald caps and wigs throughout the production.  To hide Lassgard’s generous hairline, he had to build a prosthetic that came down to the actor’s eyebrows.  Noting this application had the potential of affecting the actor’s expressions, Larson experimented with thinning the latex along the forehead until he found the percentage that would be strong enough to remain intact, while allowing for movement that mirrored the actor’s facial expressions.

While a full hair piece was used for Ove’s youthful scenes, von Bahr spent a great deal of time punching hair into each bald cap used on the shoot, highlighting the progressive aging of the character.  The team made over 70 bald caps and shot in roughly 24 days. This resulted in von Bahr often punching multiple caps a night.

Joel Harlow wanted to pay homage to the legacy of hair and makeup design that originated in the late 60s.  Despite having to conceive and create roughly sixty unique characters scene throughout the film, the 2010 Oscar winner for “Star Trek” insisted all makeup and makeup effects were done with practical applications.  One of the most elaborate pieces involved a massive, conk-shaped head, built out of lightweight latex and foam inserts and layers of shell-like appliances.  This particular creation took over six hours to apply.

While the more elaborate characters were worthy of discussion, Harlow pointed out the simplicity of the “Spock” makeup should not be overlooked.   His makeup team constantly, and accurately, transformed the recognizable physical attributes of actor Zachary Quinto into his character’s pallid, point-eared facade.

Alessandro Berolazzi, a professional makeup artist who got his start in Europian theater during the 70s, was thrilled to be celebrating his first Oscar nomination.  The thirty-year film vet not only turned to classic cinema such as 1927’s “Metropolis” when researching his character’s looks for “Suicide Squad”, he also went shopping at hardware stores and going through bits of “trash” to get inspiration as he refined his vision.  Looking closely at a character such as Harley Quinn a viewer will see rubber stoppers were used to hold her pony tails in place, while the “Enchantress” has a mop that has been cut, shaped and distressed for her stiff locks.

Christopher Nelson was in charge of creating the prosthetic for “Killer Croc” – a character with a strange skin ailment.  In addition to overcoming actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s skin allergies to the adhesive, Nelson also found himself hand-painting much of the details onto the appliance once it was affixed to the actor.  The process consistently took five hours.

To learn more about this event and see a complete presentation of the Makeup & Hairstyling Symposium, please visit: