Nana Fischer is one of those make-up artists who has had such a whirlwind career that less fortunate souls are forced to believe she was born under a lucky star. And maybe she was. But one cannot deny the true artistry of her work and the unique culmination of her life and career experiences that set her apart from the crowd.
The Lost City of Z
In a recent interview with Fischer, she revealed that one of the most challenging films she has worked on to date is James Gray’s The Lost City of Z. “It was an amazing feast for hair and make-up,” says Fischer. “It was also an interesting location.”
The film was shot in the Amazon rainforest where floods and tsunamis occurred regularly. Where hikes during the blackest of night through the middle of the jungle were a necessity and where snake bites and water-logged tents were commonplace. “I came back one day and there were wigs floating in the water around camp.”
There was aging make-up to be done, indigenous people to wig and tattoo, a huge opera scene to create and, to make things even more challenging, customs ended up holding their supplies on the way over—Columbia’s drug problems have resulted in strict customs law. “We had to go back to basics,” recalls Fischer. “We went to the beach and found charcoal that we could use as make-up. We mixed the charcoal with Vaseline and water and pigments and painted with that. We crushed berries and made pastes. It worked out because the director wanted things not to look like make-up, and to be as authentic as possible. I think this forced us to do just that.”
The Lost City of Z was released on DVD July 11.
You can hear a true love for her work when she talks about it. A real sense of pride for overcoming the challenges in the Amazon, a true joy when she discusses working on other projects and an honest admiration for those she’s worked with along the way.
“Ridley Scott [Prometheus] is a bit of an idol because aesthetically it always looks so beautiful,” says Fischer. “He is the most incredible guy, such a leader and creative. He pushes you and makes you look at things in a different way, but gives you freedom. He is a true artist.
Fischer says she feels lucky to work with such creative people and to love her job so much. Her job which is in an industry she refers to as “the circus.”
“I call it the ‘circus’,” Fischer explains, “because we are all different kinds of people that come together to work on a project. It is so inspiring to work with such amazing people.”
All photos in gallery courtesy of Nana Fischer.
Becoming a Make-up Artist
Fischer trained at Shiseido in her native country of Japan; studying both hair and make-up. After this, her sights were initially set on pursuing experience under Joe Blasco in the United States, but Cobella—a hair and beauty salon in London—steered her in a different direction.
Cobella was looking for someone who was bilingual that could teach (Fischer speaks Japanese, English, German and a little French). “London was cool and creative,” says Fischer. “I did a lot of platform and educational shows all over Europe. I wanted to go back to my roots in theater.”
Fischer grew up backstage: Her mother was in theater production and management and Fischer spent a lot of time admiring characters. She loved the different colors, textures and designs. And it would be her work in theater that would change the course of her career by presenting her the opportunity to work on Troy (2004).
Helen McRory, an actress she met in London while working in the theater, introduced her to Daniel Phillips—a hair and make-up designer—and he introduced her to film. He was working on Troy and got her initially hired for one day to do hair for the background crowd. However, from her previous experience she was not only good but she was fast! So, they kept asking her to come back. After that, she says, “It went one after the other.”
Running Away With the Circus
Fischer has worked as hairstylist, make-up artist, key hair designer, personal hairstylist to James Franco, personal hair and make-up to Michael Fassbender, prosthetics designer and make-up department head.
Fischer just finished filming Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, due to be released at the end of the year. She had a few months off and this month she begins shooting James Gray’s new movie, Ad Astra starring Tommy Lee Jones and Brad Pitt.
It seems that Fischer has run away with the “circus,” and has no plans to quit anytime soon.
Some of Fischer’s other credits include The King’s Speech, X-Men: First Class, World War Z, The Counselor, Macbeth, The Disaster Artist and Jungle Book.