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A Glimpse Inside the Mind—and Makeup—of Charles Swan III


Writer and director Roman Coppola’s new film, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, tells the story of an extravagant and reckless artist who sets himself out on a path of destruction—both imagined and real—after his girlfriend breaks up with him. In an interesting casting choice, Charlie Sheen stars in the title role, which would have been reason enough for us to go see the film that co-stars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, and Aubrey Plaza, with a cameo from model Angela Lindvall. But there is something else that will likely draw us to the theater when the movie opens tomorrow night, predicted blizzard not withstanding: Set in the seventies, with occasional costuming nods to the thirties, the film’s beauty look is something worth putting on snow boots for. Citing the era’s icons, like Anjelica Huston and Marisa Berenson, as inspiration, as well as the photography of legendary lensmen like Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, lead makeup artist Roz Music stocked her kit with six-plus different red lipsticks, one purposefully thick mascara, and a few blue eye shadows to keep things interesting. Here, Music talks on-set application tips, color choices, and what it was like working with Sheen—who, she notes, was a consummate professional. Winning.

So how do you even begin researching the makeup for something like this?
The director didn’t want it to be from a set period, so it’s a bit vague. But when we were doing all our reference photos, we were going 1973 or 1974. That was the main period, but it wasn’t strict.

What kind of direction did you get from Roman?
I have worked with Roman before, worked on music videos and commercials, and we’re also friends. He hires people that he thinks can do a job, and then he lets you do your job, lets you express your thing. He expects a lot and is very collaborative. Roman showed me reference pictures of Anjelica Huston, Marisa Berenson, Faye Dunaway—iconic sexy women, and also supermodels of the day. I looked at French and Italian Vogue from the mid-seventies and early seventies. At times, especially in the party scene, we did a seventies interpretation of the thirties. Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin were reference points; we were obsessed with those books. Roman owns Guy pictures, he’s crazy for him—that very juicy red lip and lots of blush was so Guy Bourdin. Most male directors don’t like makeup, but Roman really likes red lipstick, and every woman practically has on red lipstick at one point in the film. He loves that look—the red lipstick and blush—the typical fantasy woman from when he was a kid.

Women are very sensual and beautiful, as seen through Charles’s eyes and in his world. How did you achieve that effect with makeup?
You don’t want to steal attention away from the scene with the makeup. We weren’t afraid to show the perfection in it—it’s not supposed to look like daily life, where you don’t see the makeup. The scene with the character Ivana [played by Katheryn Winnick], where she’s in the SSBB (Secret Service of Ball Busters), is a favorite. She looks like a dominatrix! It was a cartoonish inspiration. We went for seventies makeup but with thirties-era flat hair, and she was wearing military stuff with garters and short shorts. It was about a perfect, perfect red lip.

How do you maintain that kind of “perfection” after long hours of shooting?
It’s challenging. At lunch, you have to take off an entire lip and put it all back on! It’s a long and arduous process, because you don’t want to stain anything but you can’t take a bite of salad and get oil on your lips: It will disintegrate the lipstick! We used a lot of different products, starting with NARS Satin Lipstick and its Pure Matte Lipstick in Vesuvio. It’s a real red red. I filled the lips in with a small makeup brush, so it wouldn’t feather, and I lined them with NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella. We didn’t use gloss. It probably should have been a glossier red, but it takes ten minutes to do a perfect glossy red lip, and we didn’t have time; they don’t give you an hour! Then I powder right around the edge of the lips; you get a sponge with powder and press right up to the lip line, and I tell the actors to be careful; you can’t stop the filming to fix their lips.

What about the actors’ skin? How do you make sure it stays camera-ready but doesn’t register as heavy and cakey?
It’s important to make sure the skin is really moist before you put on foundation: Never put it on dry skin! Koh Gen Do has a plant-water mist and we used Dior Capture Totale Foundation, which has a really creamy base. Then we used a lot of blush. We had a million different ones, but I love the Clé de Peau blush—it’s so blendable. [For that scene with Katheryn], we also did a really intense blue eye shadow, using Dior 5 Couleurs Designer All-in-One Artistry Palette in #208, with a smudged black eye liner that was not messy but soft. In the seventies, you don’t do a harsh line; that was more sixties or eighties.

Why blue?
The set was so black and white, and I just wanted her eye look to be really dramatic and icy, because she’s supposed to be very coldhearted, so I went with blues and grays to look dark and menacing. I thought about what would look cool with the patent leather she’s wearing. Throughout the rest of the film, you’re supposed to want to fall for her—she looks lovely and girly, so we used very warm and peachy colors in those scenes. This I wanted to be very different, so I also used L’Oréal Voluptuous Voluminous Mascara in Carbon Black. It’s layerable, really sticky, thick, and it has a big fat beautiful brush, so if you want to build something up, you can make a really intense eyelash. Some mascaras just slide off, but you can keep layering this on, and it sticks to itself really well. I used this mascara on everybody.

What about the red lip on Patricia in the Christmas-party scene?
It was a Chanel, and I gave it to her! Rouge Allure Luminous Intense Lip Color in Inimitable. I often just put out six or eight lipsticks that I think would be appropriate and let the actor choose. It’s nice to let the actor into your process; they’re collaborating with you, so when they walk in front of the camera, they’re in the best possible state of mind.

That’s interesting. Did the actors have any really good input?
With Patricia, when we did the Christmas party, she wanted eyelashes with balls on the tips—dots on each eyelash!—which is a very typical kind of thing in the thirties. So I made them for her. I got a spiky false eyelash, and I dipped each individual one in eyelash glue and formed little balls on the tips. Patricia gets really into stuff. I grew up with her, actually; our parents were best friends. She likes to be wacky, so we did this beautiful bright blue eye shadow, a shiny aqua, with it.

I have to ask: What was Charlie Sheen like on set?
He had his own makeup artist, named Gabe, who has been with him for years. He had a lot of tattoos to cover, and he has a gold tooth that had to be painted every day. He looks good, though. He doesn’t go home at night and put on antiaging cream, and he looks good! It was hard to get him in the chair—he’s distractible—but he’s so great and was a fun presence on the set.

What’s up next for you?
I did The Bling Ring, Sofia [Coppola]‘s new film, and I just finished Electric Slide with Jim Sturgess and Chloë Sevigny, which takes place in 1983. It was super-low-budget and fun to make. We might have had some blue eye shadow in there, too!

Photo: Courtesy of A24 /

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