Awards season is heating up. And this past Saturday it got even hotter for the seven films in the running for a hair and make-up Oscar nomination. In the annual event known as the “bake-off,” representatives for Bright, The Darkest Hour, Ghost in the Shell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Victoria & Abdul, Wonder; and I, Tonya faced the membership of their academy branch and made their pitch as to why their work should get the vote.
And for the fourth straight year, Make-Up Artist magazine recognized these achievements. In a lively afternoon filled with food and drinks at the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the magazine’s publisher, Michael Key, led the celebration honoring the participants.
“This is a really important time. We get a chance to honor the seven films from the bake-off earlier today,” said Key. “This is the strongest year I’ve ever seen. Is it not, guys? All are absolutely excellent.”
Approximately 100 make-up professionals filled The Spare Room and The Oscar Room. Spotted among the crowd were Leonard Engelman, Sue Cabral-Ebert, Steve Johnson, Tami Lane, Robin Mathews, Tracey Anderson, Mike Hill, Barry Koper, Bart Mixon, Robert “Kato” DeStefan, Richard Redlefsen and Cary and Kim Ayers. M.A.C. Cosmetics, represented by Director of Artist Relations Monique Boyer and Director of Makeup Artistry Gregory Arlt, co-sponsored the event.
“M.A.C. has always supported the industry. It’s close to our hearts as a brand,” said Arlt. “We like to celebrate people in different categories and this is certainly one of the highest caliber.”
“It’s my first bake-off and I’m having a lovely time. It was absolutely wonderful that our work was recognized. It’s been nerve-racking, but they’ve made us really comfortable,” said hair designer Lou Sheppard, who was there along with designer Daniel Phillips for Victoria & Abdul. She then added with a laugh, “It will make the next one easier.”
Adruitha Lee, who won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, enjoyed her second bake-off appearance for her I, Tonya hair designs. “For some reason, I think I was more nervous this time,” said Lee, who made her pitch with make-up designer Deborah Lamia Denaver. “I didn’t know what to expect the first time. This year, there’s such good work. Everything looked great.”
“I didn’t think I’d be here. I’m proud to be associated with so many great films,” Darkest Hour’s David Malinowski said humbly about his first bake-off appearance. He presented with Lucy Sibbick.
In charge of the complex application that transformed its lead actor into one of Britain’s most recognizable prime ministers, it was easy for Malinowski to pinpoint his favorite part of the process. “Every day when we finished a three-hour make-up, and Gary leaves the bus,” continued Malinowski. “He arrives as Gary Oldman, shaved head, a little bit tired and he leaves as Winston Churchill. It’s a pretty good feeling.”
Key brought the participants of each film into the spotlight. Christopher Nelson and Alessandro Bertolazzi, Oscar winners last year for Suicide Squad, represented Bright.
“I have absolutely no idea,” replied Nelson when asked why he thought the film’s make-up was garnering attention. He took the opportunity to give a shout-out to his impressive crew that included Greg Cannom, Jamie Kelman, Craig Reardon, Greg Funk and Ed French. Bertolazzi credited Los Angeles’ eclectic looks as the inspiration for his unearthly designs.
Malinowski and Sibbick followed, detailing the challenge of applying the complicated Churchill make-up for Darkest Hour as just a two-person team.
Sarah Rubano, Jane O’Kane and Lamia Denaver took the stage for Ghost in the Shell. “It was cool to shoot in Hong Kong because there is such a diverse demographic. We were able to tap into authentic, traditional and futuristic looks,” said Rubano. “Colors vibrant and rich, shapes bold and deliberate—all those elements. For a make-up artist and a hairstylist, it was a feast.”
“It was great fun trying to be true to the fans because the anime was so popular … besides the fact that I had to answer to my son,” added Lamia Denaver.
On hand for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, department head Brian Sipe noted the mammoth number of make-ups needed for the futuristic comic-book sequel.
Making her second appearance, Lamia Denaver joined Lee for I, Tonya. “It was trying to take something that looked bad and make it look good,” said Lee about their work. “I tried to find things that I thought Tonya would have used.” Lamia Denaver discussed the intricate prosthetics created to transfer Margot Robbie into an older, modern day Tonya Harding.
Next up were Phillips and Sheppard for Victoria & Abdul. Phillips explained the vision for Victoria, Judi Dench’s character. “Stephen (Frears), our director, wanted her to start out looking very bored, very tired, and then have this gradual flourish and blossom when she meets Abdul, then the gradual decline. It was really back to basics … just light and shade … straight make-up, enhancing lines.”
Arjen Tuiten, who designed the make-up effects for Wonder, explained the challenges of making 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay appear as if he had Treacher Collins Syndrome, a condition where the facial bones aren’t fully develop. Tremblay wore prosthetics from the neck up, necessitating a practical make-up that wouldn’t be prohibitively confining for the young actor.
Key capped the afternoon by raising a glass for a toast. “Congratulations for being in the bake-off,” he said. “We wish you the best of luck on the 23rd when the Oscar nominations are announced.”