August 30 2014

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Alice in Wonderland’s Makeup For Make Believe


The very important date that you’ve been waiting for since the previews started circulating last year has arrived: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland hits theaters nationwide today, giving you a wide-screen look down the rabbit hole. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Johnny Depp, and Mia Wasikowska as Alice, it’s a topsy-turvy display of bobbling hairdos, brows stretched up to there, aqua eye shadow, and heart-shaped puckered lips—and that’s just one character! We caught up with lead makeup artist Valli O’Reilly to find out how she revived Lewis Carroll’s classic story for the twenty-first century.

This is not the Alice in Wonderland of your childhood. How did you go about reimagining these iconic characters for a new age?

Tim [Burton]‘s films have a very specific feel. You can tell his work without even seeing the credits. For this project, he asked me to watch an old Bette Davis film, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, where she plays Queen Elizabeth and wears her hair pulled back tight, like we did for the Red Queen. I also looked at Margaret Keane’s paintings from the sixties of children with very haunting eyes. I rubbed eggplant eye shadow around Mia [Wasikowska]‘s eyes to re-create that darkness.

With the makeup and all of the CG animation, the Red Queen’s look is quite a trip—that’s definitely not a face you easily forget! I’m guessing it took a lot of time (and makeup brush strokes) to accomplish?

About two and a half hours actually! Helena [Bonham Carter] wore a prosthetic forehead piece and then we painted on the eyebrows. Since we shot in high-definition, it was impossible to cover up her real eyebrows with makeup because you would have seen these little hairs sticking up on screen. But you can do it at home with a glue stick or mortician’s wax mixed with a little KY jelly to really slick down the brows, if you want. Drag queens do this all the time.

Good to know. How else did you dress up the Queen’s eyes?

We drew on the brows with a stencil—they had to be in the exact same place in every shot. I took a lot of notes! For the eye shadow, I used a YSL palette that looks like a stained glass window with many blue shades. The eyelashes are inexpensive fakes bought from a beauty supply store, which I cut and applied to look like perfect doll lashes.

And what of those heart-stamped lips? They must have required a steady hand, huh?

I did that with a stencil as well. I drew a half heart on the top lip, then lined it up on the bottom to finish. I used the Stila lipstick that’s like a magic marker in their deepest shade of red. For Anne [Hathaway]‘s lips I used a reddish-brownish-black lipstick from my own makeup line, which isn’t around anymore. But it’s very similar to the color of Chanel’s Vamp nail polish. The lips look red in the film posters but in person it was more like bride’s blood. We wanted to give the White Queen an edge—a little rock ‘n’ roll mixed with Carolyn Jones’ Morticia from the original Addams Family TV series.

Speaking of creepy and kooky, how did you make everyone’s skin so alabaster?

I used Il Maquillage Cream Stick #51, which is a theatrical foundation sold in Paris, but it’s very similar to Kevyn Aucoin’s lightest shade of foundation. I wanted the skin to be white, but not too white or it would absorb the color from the green screen and look, well, green. So the foundation needed to have a little yellow and pink in it. I wanted to see people’s veins through it. I actually used the same shade on everyone in the film.

Alice herself seems the least done up of all—or is that just an illusion?

It is! She’s got on just as much makeup as the rest of the cast, only it looks more natural.

So can we expect any special 3-D makeup effects? Do the lips pop out from the screen?

[Laughs.] No, no. The 3-D effects are more like darts that come out at you and butterflies that float in the air. It all looks so fantastic, it’s like being in a dream.
—Kari Molvar

Photo: © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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