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Oscar Week: Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium

Oscar Week: Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium
Oscar Week: Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium

Samuel Goldwyn Theater
8949 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Hosts: Kathryn L. Blondell, Lois Burwell and Leonard Engelman, Academy governors, Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Branch


See All Oscar Week Events

February 21: Shorts

February 22: Documentaries

February 23: Animated Features

February 25: Foreign Language Film

February 25: Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium

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An excitable crowd filed into the Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Saturday afternoon, the eve of the Oscars ceremony. Before the event, guests milled about the lobby, admiring the creature art, special effects prosthetics and set photography that would later be explained in detail.

The occasion was Oscar Week’s Makeup and Hairstyling Symposium, celebrating films nominated in the Makeup and Hairstyling category.

Hosted by Academy Governors Kathryn L. Blondell, Lois Burwell and Leonard Engelman, the event delivered an expert glimpse into the incredible, if not arduous, process of creating characters for movies.

Blondell kicked off the show with a popular refrain: “They are all winners, but only one will walk away with an award.” Engelman went on to recognize notable hair and makeup artists in attendance, paying respect to union members and representatives in the audience. Burwell took the podium next, explaining the mystifying process of nominations that culminate in the Academy bake-off.

“No one knows what this means,” she joked.

The first artists brought to the stage were Love Larson and Eva von Bahr, the team behind “A Man Called Ove.” One of the biggest box office hits for a Swedish-produced film, the makeup in “Ove” was hailed for its ultra-realistic depiction of aging over time. Rolf Lassgård, the star of “Ove,” was also in attendance, providing a striking counterpoint to his image in the film. Lassgård joked that no one thought the makeup in “Ove” was groundbreaking — until they saw what he looked like without it.

A large helmet-like prosthetic cap was used to mask the actor’s age, extending from the bridge of the nose to the base of the head. “Every day, you have to make a new appliance, and punch hair into that,” von Bahr recalled mournfully. Throughout filming, over thirty custom headpieces were made.

Larson added that other than the headpiece, which started at the eyes, the rest of the facial makeup was kept as “natural as possible.”

The makeup inspiration behind “Star Trek Beyond” was, admittedly, very different.

Richard Alonzo and John Harlow, the makeup team behind the latest film in the franchise, were greeted with thunderous applause as they made their way to the stage to discuss the special-effects magic that went into “Star Trek Beyond.”

The audience audibly gasped as images of characters, varying in race and species, flashed onscreen. Fan favorites such as Spock, Kalara, Krall, Jaylah and Natalia were all displayed and discussed in detail. Ashley Edner, the actor who played Natalia (a crustacean-like humanoid with a conch shell head) was brought on stage to recount her grueling makeup schedule: “That was a seven-hour makeup [day], there were a lot of different pieces. Head, neck, back…”

Harlow admitted that while Natalia was his favorite character to create, Kalara (covered in fleshy ridges from her forehead to her neck), was the most difficult to execute. “Besides the nose, eyes and mouth, there aren’t a lot of entry points,” he explained.

When asked how they were able to create so many characters so quickly on such a large scale, Harlow demurred that “all credit goes to the crew.”

The makeup artists behind “Suicide Squad,” the final Oscar-nominated film of the event, made an equally impressive showing. Christopher Nelson, Giorgio Gregorini and Alessandro Bertolazzi recalled the painstaking work that went into some of their larger monster prosthetics.

Nelson researched real skin disorders to inspire his character design for Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). He likened his method of makeup application to a pointillism, detailing every inch of visible skin so it wouldn’t need to be cleaned up in CGI.

He recalled painting the actor’s body one day on set for a specific scene. Warner Brothers was so pleased with the result, they asked that the character remain shirtless throughout a third of the movie.

“Please no,” Nelson murmured.

The show wrapped with a thoughtful Q & A where audience members, many of them young makeup artists themselves, asked career-minded questions.

When asked about his professional experience, Alonzo answered simply:

“You’ve got to be a sponge. You’ve got to do it, and you’ve got to love it.”


For a full list of nominees, please visit

The 89th Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live on the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The Oscars also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.