Transported all over ‘Atlas’
Halle Berry looks a lot different without her makeup. Just ask Daniel Parker and Jeremy Woodhead, the makeup and hair designers who transformed her into everything from a young German Jewish wife to an old Asian doctor for “Cloud Atlas.” For the epic film set in six time periods, Parker worked with director Tom Tykwer, who handled three of the segments, and Woodhead collaborated with directors Lana and Andy Wachowski on the other three to create multiple looks for each actor.
What was in your bag of tricks for “Cloud Atlas”?
Jeremy Woodhead: I shipped over to Berlin 40 trunks of hair, makeup, bits and pieces. And I used every single thing I took, because it was one of those jobs where you just have to back yourself up with as much stuff as possible that can get you out of trouble.
Daniel Parker: A great paint palette will get you out of any trouble, if you know how to use it. It’s the basis to all makeup, and it still works.
Woodhead: And to have lots of loose hair -- every thickness of hair, every coarseness of hair and every shade of hair.
What were the challenges?
Parker: One of the things that was very much wanted: that the actors playing multiple roles should look completely different, but we shouldn’t hide who they are. So, certainly on my side, the designs were done with multi-piece prosthetics -- to remove certain pieces in order to reveal the actor a bit more.
Do certain actors disappear more or less into their makeup?
Woodhead: It’s very hard to hide Tom Hanks. He has such a distinctive face.
Parker: Hiding Tom Hanks is impossible -- I mean, virtually impossible. There was one instance that we had on the set when Tom Hanks was in the present day in 2012 where he was playing the character of [thuggish author] Dermot Hoggins. I’d shaved his head and given him a beard and a broken nose. And the first assistant director said, on set, ‘All you guys that are standing around Tom Hanks, will you please take your positions again?’ And they all looked at each other and said, ‘Tom Hanks is here?’ I was really surprised, because I still think he looked like Tom Hanks.
What were some of the other big transformations?
Woodhead: Susan Sarandon was away filming somewhere else, so we hadn’t got a life cast, and I had to turn her into a little old man from the Indian subcontinent. So I used James D’Arcy’s eyebrow blocker piece to change the shape of her forehead. On top of that, I put Jim Sturgess’ forehead. And I had two or three noses made of varying sizes, just hoping that one would fit. Luckily, one did. And then put a wig and a goatee beard and a mustache and then just a lot of paintwork on her. This was the first time she’d ever been a man, and she just sat there giggling.
And the other one that was a tricky change -- because we had no time to test it -- was Halle Berry as Dr. Ovid, this little Asian man. I also had to turn Hugh Grant into this cannibal Kona warrior chief. So we had to give him a bald cap, a Mohawk that was made up of scalps of people he’d killed and fingers hanging from it, and full body tattoos and radiation burns and body paint, which he really enjoyed. He was great fun in a [warrior’s] leather miniskirt and boots.
Parker: My first big transformation was on Hugo Weaving, turning him into Nurse Noakes. And the thing that makes changing a man into a woman so challenging is, particularly in this case, you’ve got Hugo, who’s a very masculine man. And so it was a question of changing the bone structure, raising eyebrows and softening the forehead. Also, what I wanted to do was change the whole skin quality, because female skin is so much softer and peach-like.
Woodhead: Normally, on most films, there are perhaps one or two days when it’s “the big makeup.” This film, “the big makeup” was every single day.