The Magic Wand of Make Up Artists


I look up to my tinsel world. I idolize their luxurious hair with the perfectly coloured roots and highlights. Their cupid’s bow is always shaped perfectly, their eyebrows are on fleek. Their noses are always sharp, cheekbones well defined and every eyelash is visible with high clarity. In their distress too, I can’t help but wonder at their utter perfection.

I don’t want reality. I’m a child of the Cosmopolitan culture; I’ve been flooded with perfect people, and the ways to achieve this perfection for such a long time now, that the concept of imperfections is indigestible. Such is the power of makeup, the extent of its influence, the mastery and concealing powers of those liquids, the ability of the crayon to add a whole new dimension of appeal to a person.

Make-up artists, as well as hair stylists, work tirelessly in a movie to create this level of perfection. A perfect makeup adds credibility to the character; this, in turn, helps the actor to portray his role to perfection. A glamorous role for an actress with eye bags is quite as silly as a robot with zits on the skin. It doesn’t make sense.

The make-up artists working for a film are hired by the actors personally (personal makeup artist) or by the production company. Airbrushing, prosthetics, special effects make up are all works needing special skill and experience. To break into the makeup industry, it is preferred that the aspirant take up a course on cosmetology beforehand, to become familiar with various textures, features, colours etc. The hierarchy of makeup artists is as follows:

Key Makeup Artist: The key makeup artist ensures that the makeup performed on the actors and side actors is appropriate to the script; he also designs the makeup that is to be used by the artists.

Makeup Artist: The makeup artist is the individual who applies makeup on the actors.

Makeup Assistant: The makeup assistant applies makeup to the body parts or other lesser tasks.

Makeup Effects Artist: The makeup effects artist works on creating and applying prosthetics, special effects, etc.

The importance of makeup and hair styling is so significant to a movie that it has its very own Academy Award. While horror movies are the frequent nominees (and winners), a lot of movies have won on the merit of their larger than life effects as well.

Below is a list of the most gifted and prominent makeup artists in the industry, who happen to be the recipients of the Academy Award, and have created the most legendary transformations to bless the screen:

Greg Cannom:

One of the most versatile makeup artists in the industry, Greg Cannom is the recipient of three Academy Awards. His makeup has added life to several characters.

Greg Cannom worked with Dick Smith to create the masks for Mrs.Doubtfire. The makeup of Robin William’s adorable nanny avatar was performed by Ve Neill for four hours every day!


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the story of a man who ages backward. This movie had a lot riding on the make-up to make this phenomenon feel real. Cannom’s Academy award for the movie was well deserved.


Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a curious mixture of terror and sadness. His high wig, terrifying fingernails, deformities is the combined creation of Greg Cannom, Michele Burke, Mathew W Mungle.


Jack Pierce:

Jack Pierce is one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. He created iconic pieces and his signature latex rubber nose, widows peaks, elaborate makeup that took hours to apply and wash off is memorable to this date.His most exceptional creation is that of Frankenstein, with his flat-topped, angular head and electrodes attached to his neck.


Mark Coulier:

Mark Coulier has created several creations that grace the halls of unforgettable characters of all times. Think Harry Potter, X-Men, Iron Lady (shared an Oscar with J Roy Helland) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (shared an Oscar with Frances Honnan).

Eyebrow blockers, body makeup, fake teeth and fingernails and a CGI enhanced nose were the additions to actor Ralph Fiennes appearance to transform him into the fearsome Lord Voldemort. This impressive feat is rendered even more remarkable by the fact that it was all done in a span of 2 hours every shooting day.


Inflatable Aunt Marge, with her mean insults and endless consumption of beans is one of the Harry Potter franchise’s most entertaining scenes. Her inflatable suit was not a work of CGI but the work of several hours of makeup. She had prosthetic pieces and rubber tubes installed on her face and neck before wearing her bodysuit, which weighed close to 50 pounds.


“We looked at hundreds and hundreds of photographs during our research for the project, trying to work out what were the best features to pick to fit onto Meryl Streep,” says Coulier. “There are several things that struck us initially. At the top of Meryl’s nose, we created an arced piece, on the inner brow of her nose. Meryl’s got quite a thin [nasal bridge] really, so she looked completely different. We blocked it out on the cast and we said, ‘That really does make a difference.’ We didn’t do the whole nose, purely to avoid commentary. Meryl was quite delighted that no one really noticed it.”- Mark Coulier.


Lisa Wescott:

Lisa Wescott has worked on several noteworthy movies and is well-known for her proficiency in recreating period pieces. With her excellent eye for details and accuracy in creating and nailing these looks, she’s a natural choice for many directors who wish to recreate the charms of the bygone years. Here’s an excerpt from her interview, extracted from :

“Before I started the film, I have a ritual worked out over the years, where I read the script with tremendous attention, taking notes the whole time. I then break down each individual character and their journey throughout the story, so with Jean Valjean, for example, Hugh has four different looks: the convict look, the look when he comes out of the convent, the mayor look and the dead look.”

“I knew that Hugh started growing his own beard before I was on the film, so by the time we met, he already had a good beard that we were able to extend, making it more scraggly, adding extra hair and color. We then shaved it off, adding all sorts of scarring, as well as shackle-mark prosthetics around his wrists, collarbone, and ankles. I broke down the story for every character that way.”

For her core team, Westcott drew on veteran make-up/hair artists with whom she had collaborated on several previous films.

“The people I use are designers in their own right,” she said, “but they seem to like working for me, and I try to be really fair. I know everybody’s strengths and weaknesses and who should work with whom, which is really an art. Hugh Jackman, for example, was done by Julie Dartnell, who is my superstar. I use her whenever she is available, and always give her my main lead.

“Anne Hathaway wanted Paul Gooch because she had worked with him before. Paul is ex-BBC as well, so he’s very much on the same page as us. Anne Hathaway was actually the simplest of the lot. She didn’t have a wig, so it was pretty straightforward. And although we didn’t have any personals on this film, Russell Crowe wanted approval, so I sent him CVs for some of the girls on my team and he chose one of them.

“I also had Kristyan Mallett as my prosthetics guy, Chris Lyons making my teeth, and my wigmaker, Jeanette Brown, from Ray Marston Wig Studio. My crowd supervisor was Julia Vernon, who brings in her own team as well, and keeps a very happy ship.”



Stan Winston:

A four-time Academy Award winner, Stan Winston has created some of the most recognizable characters of all time. Edward Scissorhands and The Penguin….there. I rest my case.


A makeup artist is an important component of the movie. In this blog, I’ve tried to illustrate the role of an artist, which goes beyond selecting the perfect highlights. The creation of characters, the confidence it imparts and the role it plays in the immortality of a character is beyond the scope of our comprehension.

- Open Face Team


* This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinians expressed in the text belongs solely to the author, and not necessarily to Openface Media Organization, or any other group or individual.*


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