Hair dresser Cydney Cornell (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) worked hand-in hair on several of Al Pacino’s films, including Jack and Jill, You Don’t Know Jack and City Hall.
So she knows a little something about getting into Pacino's head.
But Spector, HBO's David Mamet-helmed vehicle about the relationship between the iconic music producer/songwriter Phil Spector and his attorney Linda Kenney Baden during his trail for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, was her hairiest challenge ever.
It required getting onto the character’s head, creating a dozen wigs with their own quirky personalities , for the HBO drama, written and directed by David Mamet and starring Helen Mirren and Pacino.
“This movie is the job of a lifetime for a hairdresser,” Cornell admits. “It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done because the wigs were actually a character in the film. I wasn’t just assisting an actor to find his character. I was actually creating a character. At the beginning of every scene change, the script would read “Phil Spector in yet another wig.”
To prepare, she read the script and from conversations with the director and actor came up with a number of wigs – twelve – to fit the story. Then she told the revered wigmaker Renata Leuschner about the texture, colors, and showed her archival images of Spector’s wigs worn during the trial.
Using a block she had made of Pacino’s head, Leuschner made the wigs, each one clocking in at 60 hours of meticulous weaving. Cornell then placed the 12 wig blocks on her kitchen counter, honing them for weeks, while watching footage such as The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector to see 360 degrees views of his hair.
Finally, she took the wigs to New York and set them up on the makeup counter in the trailer for Pacino to peruse. ”We had just one testing day where we put them all on him and I could fine tune things, trim, color, working quickly to try to nail it the first time. “
Her job, as explained by Mamet, was to create a build up of craziness in Spector’s wigs, a subtle progression as the wigs grow in their eccentricity. The wigs do not appear in precise chronological order. But Cornell’s research kept her aim true.
"I had seen the booking photo of Spector without his wig and it looked as if he had let strands of his real hair and sideburns show under most of the wigs," she explained. So we used Al's own sideburns and made the underneath long strands of hair on the wigs much darker."
The production's grand finale – Mamet’s punctuation point for the entire relationship story -- was the enormous two-tone Afro Spector wore to court in the closing days.
“Renate created a blonde afro. As with all good wigs, it had a number of shades in it and she permed the hair so it wouldn’t flatten out in the humidity," explains Cornell. On the set, Cornell added more depth with Bumble and Bumble brown hair color spray, a handy tool for a movie hairdresser: “These hair color sprays can add roots, depth and highlights at the last minute.” Cornell also used an Oribe texture spray on the wig that holds the hair almost like a hairspray except that “It works from the inside and doesn’t leave a crusty feeling.”
The only wig that Renate didn’t make is seen early in the film, a dark wig worn when Spector fires a gun in the ceiling at a recording session. Renate told THR that she thinks the music producer was wearing cheaper wigs in those early days.
But Cornell admits: “I used a wig made by someone else for that scene. Renate didn’t want anyone to think she made that one so we basically created a story that Spector was wearing cheaper ones. We don’t really know if that’s true.”
But it could be.