From 'Versace' to 'Paterno': Makeup and Hair Artists on Bringing Icons Back to Life

Makeup and Hair Artists on Bringing Icons Back to Life -Picasso - H 2018
Courtesy of Dusan Martincek/National Geographic

Cosmetic and coiffure artists reveal how they transformed actors into figures such as Gianni Versace, Rudy Giuliani and Joe Paterno with prosthetics, wigs and patience.

Makeup and hair artists brought life to iconic figures this year, helping Antonio Banderas transform into Pablo Picasso, Edgar Ramirez slip into Gianni Versace's shoes and Al Pacino morph into controversial Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Present-day political figures also got plenty of screen time, including former New York mayor (and current President Trump attorney) Rudy Giuliani on Saturday Night Live. "It was tough because Kate McKinnon is a beautiful woman. She looks nothing like Giuliani," says SNL makeup artist Louis Zakarian. "So when you try to turn her from that to Giuliani with her little features, it's a challenge — especially if you don't get that right balance."

Zakarian and hair designer Jodi Mancuso researched Giuliani from virtually every angle in just 24 hours. "After looking at so many photos, I found a picture of Kate and a picture of Giuliani and I just stared at the two of them, trying to figure out what features to accentuate," says Zakarian. "But we never want to lose Kate in the process. It's important to know it's Kate as Giuliani."

Zakarian gave McKinnon "a prosthetic nose tip, jowls, a pair of ventilating lace eyebrows and a bald cap" adorned with a partial wig designed by Mancuso and crafted inside of a day. Given SNL's live aspect, everything was made to be removed "in a matter of minutes," ensuring seamless transitions into other sketches for McKinnon. Says Zakarian, "Once the makeup and hair went on, Kate started contorting her face and the Giuliani-type mannerisms came about. She loved it."

For FX's The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Ramirez embodied the prolific fashion designer during distinctly separate phases of his life throughout the late '80s and early '90s, up until his death in 1997.

"It was required from the script that Gianni was quite ill. We took Edgar down to a very pale look to get that weak and distressed appearance," says makeup designer Eryn Krueger Mekash, who also gave Ramirez brown contacts and used a silicone bald cap to make his head shape match Versace's. "Edgar thought that was cumbersome at first. But after seeing the reactions of people when he was in makeup, he felt more comfortable wearing it. All of a sudden, he was Gianni."

Several hairpieces, commissioned by hair department head Chris Clark, made for the finishing touches. "By the end of it, he fell in love with all the looks and the process," Clark says.

With Banderas' Picasso — the subject of National Geographic Channel's second season of Genius — makeup, hair and prosthetics designer Davina Lamont had to age Banderas, 57, significantly. "By the time Picasso reached 90, Antonio was covered in prosthetics. We spent five hours every day in the makeup chair. It's a long process," she says, noting Banderas' patience. "We got through it with a lot of music for Antonio. He loves his music, so we danced our way through older Picasso."

When it came to Pacino's titular role in HBO's Paterno, makeup artist John Caglione Jr. reveals it was all about perfecting one specific facial feature. "We sculpted four different noses," says Caglione. "We narrowed it down to what fit perfectly and what looked the most like Paterno — because he had a big schnoz."

To re-create Paterno's thick mane, hairstylist Trish Almeida filled out Pacino's hairline with a three-quarter wig. "I wanted to use his own hairline as much as we could," she says, adding that it only took an hour for the transformation. "But Al will give you as much time as you need. He understands that hair and makeup are almost as important as the performance itself."

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.