This Is the Deal With Anastasia Steele's Makeup in 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
The film's makeup head, Victoria Down, gives us the inside scoop on how she helped transform Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson) from innocent college student to Christian Grey's love interest, and the film's beauty collab with Make Up For Ever.
Most fans of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey book won’t be getting a glimpse of the racy makeup in Universal and Focus Features’ upcoming adaptation. No, it’s the red room of pain that will draw fans. But that doesn’t mean the makeup isn’t an important element in creating the look of the story’s heroine, Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson) and her transformation from college coed to billionaire’s girlfriend and BDSM-er. The woman behind the beauty, veteran Hollywood makeup artist, Victoria Down, chatted with us about products used on set, what it was like to work with director Sam Taylor-Johnson and star Johnson, and how the Fifty Shades stigma affected her work.
Pret-a-Reporter: There's obviously a lot buzz around this movie — did that affect how you did your job?
Victoria Down: It's such an anticipated story. I thought, ‘We've all read the books but how do you make that into a movie? How do you cast the right people? How do you make it look right?’ It was thrilling to be part of it because everybody, including myself, was really excited to be making the book into a film. My job with the makeup was to tell the story of what happens, mostly to the character of Anastasia Steele, but also to create a beautiful and artistic story.
How did you decide what Anastasia would look like, especially to avoid disappointing millions of the book's fans?
We went to the book. There are millions of fans eager to see this film. They want to know that the characters are true to what they imagined them to be and not some Hollywood version of them. This was especially the case with Anastasia’s character. She transforms as a character and so her makeup had to go with it to show that progression. At first, she starts as an innocent girl, not interested in makeup or clothes, and later, through her experiences and her emotional journey, she becomes a manicured, sophisticated beauty. So there was a large transformation in Anastasia's makeup look in the film. She had to be a woman suddenly.
How did you use makeup to show this evolution from innocent college student to Christian Grey’s love interest?
I contoured her face slightly differently; I made her cheeks and jaw stronger and more contoured. I gave her a sudden bout of maturity that made her look very distinct from the beginning of the film. She was softer, rounder in the beginning with the taupe colors and the light berry lips. Then she became more manicured, her eyebrows were shaped differently, and her eyes became much heavier and smokier. Her lips, which were the focus of the movie, became really pumped up — way deeper in the berry tones with a lot of sheen just in the center.
You can just picture the lower-lip biting now! What kind of input did director Sam Taylor-Johnson have for the makeup?
Working with Sam, an amazing artist and photographer, was exciting to me because I knew the movie would be coming from a different perspective. And I knew the work would be beautiful. Her vision and opinion on the makeup looks was extremely important to me. Sam and I both agreed to stay very true to the book and decided to start the characters and makeup in their simplest form. As the film progresses, we transformed the characters and looks.
Your résumé includes Man of Steel, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Juno — was there anything special or different about working on Fifty Shades?
Working on Fifty Shades of Grey was an amazing experience. Being able to work with Seamus McGarvey, who is the director of photography and a genius, was amazing. Moreover, Sam, as a female director, which is a rarity in this industry, and a photographer and artist made for a completely different experience. Each scene was choreographed and so beautifully lit that it was like a photograph.
What was it like working with Dakota Johnson and getting her Ana Steele ready?
Dakota is a naturally beautiful young woman and a fearless actress. She agreed with both me and Sam to keep Anastasia’s look very natural in the beginning and to transform her as the story changes. Getting Dakota makeup ready for filming didn’t take too long. She is a very beautiful young woman, so it was simply a matter of accentuating her natural attributes. It was actually more difficult to make Ana’s character look innocent and sweet than it was to make her look sultry and sophisticated. Even though Dakota is a young actress, it still wasn’t easy to achieve her look at the start of the film.
So what products did you end up using on her for the "innocent” looks?
I had to really take into consideration the color tones of the makeup I was using along with the film stock and the lighting to see how it was all going to translate. That’s why I chose taupier colors around the eyes, pinker, more natural-looking cheeks, and lightly applied berry lips because it looked more real on camera. I used Make Up For Ever every day on set because of the quality, range of colors and superior blendability of the products. The whole line is so amenable to film — there is nothing you can't use. It doesn’t run, the powders don't flake onto the face and the HD foundation is genius — they are a big part of what I use on set every day.
What tips do you have for fans who want to get the sexy Ana Steele eye look?
One of my favorite tips for creating Anastasia’s more sultry look is to use Make Up For Ever’s Smoky Lash Mascara to create a smoky eye. I would recommend to move away from taupes and use more light gray, charcoal shadow colors. You can also add a dark eyeliner on the inside of the eyes for added drama.
There have been dozens of movie and makeup collaborations in recent years — DuWop did a Twilight-themed Lip Venom, The Hunger Games and CoverGirl teamed up and last year M.A.C did a Maleficent collection, to name a few. Now Make Up For Ever has a new Fifty Shades collection that you helped collaborate on — what’s the line all about and why does the brand fit with the movie?
The collection is inspired by the movie and by the main character, specifically. The shades and collection were carefully developed based on Ana’s looks from the set and my behind-the-scenes movie makeup secrets. Each kit in the collection reflects the tie-in to the movie through the gray and coral colors of the packaging, the inclusion of the film teaser poster, the makeup shade selection, and quotes from the movie. The movie and makeup pair perfectly since Make Up For Ever has always been about experimentation and transformation, with an extensive range of colors that allow all women to create and discover the many different facets of their own personalities. You can change the mood of a character with just the color of a lipstick.
Speaking of lipstick, will the beauty looks in Fifty Shades set off any trends this year?
Yes, the stained lip and also the glowing skin. Ana’s stained lip look was the makeup focus of the entire movie. And to create her healthy glow, I used a darker pink blush, which I blended out across the apples of the cheeks, on the nose, and a little on the chin and hairline. It gave the appearance of a healthy natural flush from under the skin and not like applied blush. Women everywhere will be recreating these looks this year.
The limited edition Make Up For Ever Fifty Shades of Grey collection (priced between $32 to $79) is available now at Sephora.