The coifs can make the character


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There's a dual purpose to the white streak in Johnny Depp's Ludwig van Beethoven-meets-Pepe Le Pew hairdo in DreamWorks/Paramount's "Sweeney Todd." From a character standpoint, it's a manifestation of the stress and heartache from his years in prison on false charges and the loss of his family. On a practical level, "when the killing starts, it also shows off the blood very well," says key makeup and hair artist Ivana Primorac, who added a small white hairpiece to Depp's hair to create the effect.

Sweeney Todd might be a homicidal maniac, but his hairdo is arguably less frightening than the wigs worn by Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) in Universal's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Elizabeth's hairpieces rode high on her forehead in the fashion of the time. It is said that the queen had a collection of 80 or more wigs; for the film, hair and makeup department head Jenny Shircore used 16 for the character, which were built to her specifications by British wigmaker Ray Marston.

"We tested the different looks and what would go well with which particular costume and their colors," says Shircore, who won an Oscar for her work on the film's predecessor, 1998's "Elizabeth." "The wigs weren't all one color. They were shades of red and magenta and brown, etc. There was a particular magenta wig that looked fantastic with a purple costume."

The wig collection amassed by Oscar-nominated hair designer Martin Samuel on Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" rivaled that of Elizabeth I.

"We had hundreds and hundreds of wigs, and what we didn't have, we made immediately on set," says Samuel, who served in the same capacity on the previous "Pirates" films. "Every single actor had at least two or three wigs, plus their own stunt doubles and their own photo doubles. So we had three sets of people to get ready every day, never mind the extras."

The number of multiples required increased exponentially for some sequences. For the scenes in which the pirates sail through a mass of ice glaciers, Samuel had to create wigs representing three stages of the freezing process. "They started to get frozen, they got completely frozen, and then they started to defrost," he explains.

On Samuel's biggest days -- which included the film's Singapore set piece and the climactic maelstrom sequence -- his crew swelled from 30 to 35 people. For the former, he scoured books on 18th-century Asian culture from museums and libraries in London to create hundreds of specific looks for Singaporean civilians, prostitutes and street people, as well as Chow Yun-Fat's crew of pirates.

The challenge was purely logistical with the maelstrom, which was filmed over the course of three months at a hangar in Palmdale, Calif., with man-made storms pouring down on the wigs, hair pieces and hair extensions worn by the battling pirate crews, day in and day out.

Says Samuel: "We would have a team just drying out stuff each night so they would be ready again for the next morning's work."