This Is the Story Behind the New James Bond Film's Makeup

Spectre Makeup - H 2015
Courtesy of SPECTRE © 2015 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc., Danjaq, LLC and Columbia Pictures Industries

In anticipation of 'Spectre's' Nov. 6 release date, lead makeup artist Naomi Donne tells all.

James Bond epitomizes adjectives like dapper, handsome and masculine. Appropriately, the women he interacts with are consistently gorgeous, sexy and captivating. Past films have featured many memorable beauty moments, but the latest, Spectre, may have the most awe-inspiring. Due out Nov. 6, the new 007 feature opens on 1,500 individuals in Mexico City, made up in elaborate sugar skull makeup for Day of the Dead.

Makeup artist Naomi Donne — who’s worked on four other Bond films, along with Cinderella and Woman in Gold — led the team. Pret-a-Reporter spoke to her about pulling off a feat of that magnitude, her process, and tricks for making leading ladies look absolutely flawless.

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Pret-a-Reporter: What is your process like when you first start working on a film?

Naomi Donne: We start with the script—I read through it, making notes and starting to pull any reference that might be relevant to the characters we’re trying to create. Then I sit down with [director] Sam Mendes and go through the script character by character, and any relevant actions or situations that will affect how they look. Then the actor comes in and we go through their feelings about the character they’re creating, and we merge that all together. Then we start a long series of camera tests to see what works best with the lighting, sets and costumes. It’s usually takes around six weeks.

Courtesy of SPECTRE/MGM Studios Inc./Danjaq/Colombia Pictures

So just how did you pull off getting 1,500 extras through hair and makeup in one day? 

I sent a team of five makeup artists from the UK who I work with a lot a ton of references and a very strong idea of what I wanted. They started makeup fittings with the costume fittings, so everybody was made up before we shot them. Every day they’d email me every image of every makeup they’d done, and I gave notes or approval on each. At the end of each day I was getting hundreds and hundreds of makeup to approve. On the day of we had 120 makeup artists and dressers — apart from the few from the UK we used Mexican hairdressers and makeup artists and they were phenomenally good. We got through it in two and a half hours, which was a miracle. I thought it would take five. We had to use makeup that would stay on in the heat and long shooting hours, so we used MAC Chromacake ($27) and airbrush makeup so it lasted well. Mexico was the most challenging [location] logistically — creatively challenging in every possible way, and incredibly rewarding when we pulled it off.

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It must have seemed easy to do everyone else’s makeup after that! Tell us about the lead Bond woman this time around. What was her look?

Lea Seydoux actually has quite a natural look — Sam wanted her to look very fresh and natural. There are times when she’s wearing a little bit of makeup when she’s in a professional situation, but it’s very light because he wanted to see what was going on with her. She’s a character who has a lot of depth, it’s written in the film. Sometimes makeup can be a bit of an obstruction or distraction and he wanted it to be very open. There’s a scene where she is very dressed up and has quite a glamorous look, and it’s quite a good contrast with the rest of the movie. I dyed her eyebrows very dark; it gives a really strong look. She loved that. She’s one of those actors who’s fearless, very confident.

What are your must-have products on set?

There are so many, but we always have some kind of powder or mattifying product to keep the shine away (like MAC Prep + Prime Transparent Finishing Powder, $26), or we need sweat to spray them to keep them sweaty. And concealer palettes that cover up any blemish that might erupt or anything that might change on their face within different lighting situations. MAC does an incredible concealer palette ($30) we all keep in our kits — you can do anything with it.

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What is your top tip for a flawless complexion?

I put makeup on with a foundation brush (MAC Duo Fiber Foundation brush, $35) that I spin in circular movements as I’m putting it on, so you get a very smooth finish. I do it quite lightly so I’m not putting on too much makeup, then I go over it with a clean brush to take off any excess.

Were there any fun special effects in Spectre?

We had a sequence with someone bleeding and Sam decided he wanted to do it, so I gave him the blood and he applied it. It was really funny, he was so proud of himself. He’s a repressed makeup artist, very good — it must be his artistic personality.

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What about makeup on Bond himself?

I don’t do Daniel Craig’s makeup. I did Christoph Waltz, who hardly needs any makeup at all. He has strong features and he doesn’t like makeup or need it. When you’re working with men who tend to not want to wear makeup, you just make sure their skincare is good, that they’re well moisturized. Ralph Fiennes wears a little bit of makeup, only to enhance his features. With actors you can do something like pluck their eyebrows very carefully to open up their eyes, or occasionally dye their lashes if you need definition without makeup. I’m very careful.