'Once Upon a Time In Hollywood': How Leonardo DiCaprio's Makeup Artist Transformed Him With "Phony" Mustache
"The mustache drove Leo mad, because I had to leave it really long and it always went in his mouth...he kept spitting it out," says DiCaprio's longtime personal makeup artist, Sian Grigg.
When playing fictional washed-up actor Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Leonardo DiCaprio was faced with some tricky facial hair while being transformed for "filming" scenes, in which the "director" character wants Dalton to look unrecognizable as a Western villain.
DiCaprio’s longtime personal makeup artist (who has worked with him since Titanic), Sian Grigg, aimed to create facial hair for the actor that was accurate to the 1969 time period when the spaghetti Western was filmed. This meant an exaggerated style that was so long, she claims DiCaprio found it annoying while shooting — a good thing for drumming up the frustration Dalton is meant to be feeling during that scene.
"The mustache drove Leo mad, because I had to leave it really long and it always went in his mouth," says Grigg, who used WM Creations glue to keep the piece on the skin. "It was so hot out and the mustache kept going in his mouth, and he’d be spitting it out. He did the same thing in the scene as they filmed 'off camera' when he was supposed to be losing it a bit. It made us laugh as he kept spitting it out and the wig was quite long as well."
Grigg adds that the mustache was meant to look fake, not perfect or neat as it might for a modern day film. "It was meant to look phony because they didn’t have good materials back then like we do now. It was correct for the period — a Western film being made in the '70s. We were copying the style of films shot in that period and also covering Leo’s character up to look different and unrecognizable, which in the movie he’s not used to."
Long strands, facial hair and scruff are generally how actors come to the hair and makeup trailer, but especially in the case of this film, say hair department head Janine Thompson and makeup department head Heba Thorisdottir.
"When people start hearing that Quentin Tarantino is doing a '60s/'70s movie, word is out and people start growing out their hair, especially since his two previous films were Westerns," says Thompson.
"Actors tend to grow out their hair in between jobs as well," adds Thorisdottir, "which is beneficial, because they come into the trailer as a blank canvas for us."
When it came to creating hairstyles that captured 1960s Los Angeles, Thompson dug deeper than the predictable tropes of perfect movie star coifs and scraggly hippie strands. The looks indicative of the modernization of Old Hollywood were inspired by her personal family photos as a native Angeleno, as well as the on-set coaching of Yvonne Depatis-Kupa, a hairstylist who worked in the Jay Sebring Salon on Fairfax in West Hollywood in the '60s, run by Sharon Tate’s ex-boyfriend and close friend who was killed by the Manson family on the same night as the actress.
Having worked with Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Warren Beatty, Sebring was at the forefront of ushering in the age of the celebrity hairdresser.
"Jay was one of the first people to deal with the stars," says Thompson. "He was also just starting to convince men to take care of themselves."
"What was important to me was the role Los Angeles played in this film," says Thompson, who also oversaw the hair on Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Infinity War. "I’ve watched so many period films that take place in Hollywood and they are not indicative of what L.A. really looked like then. It was a different culture at the time. Quentin and I also talked about how the Watts riots had happened right before the time period of our movie and possibly, because of that, L.A. seemed to pull away from being politically active. The city stayed mellow and quiet and became more of a pool and beach culture. The hairstyles reflected this, they were less contrived."
In this case, an "L.A. spin" meant plenty of "pool fuzz" which, according to Thompson, translates as strands of hair deliberately left to look wet and hanging on the back of the neck so women could boast, despite the rest of their hair looking perfect, that they had spent the day lounging in their pool, a major status symbol of the day. The concept was surfaced by Thompson’s grandmother, who was a hairdresser in L.A. during the decade and had plenty of clients who came in for their weekly appointment requesting the quirky detail. Pool fuzz and golden blond highlights, an homage to Thompson’s hometown, were placed on plenty of extras.
As for Brad Pitt’s character, Dalton's stunt double Cliff Booth, his biggest hair moment was wearing his "Rick" Dalton wig, worn with a tuxedo while ready to stand in for Dalton on set. The wig took on a life of its own during and after the film.
"The scene where Brad takes off his wig to fight was much talked about," says Thompson of a moment Booth challenges Lee to duke it out. "The thought was that Brad’s 'Rick' wig belonged to him and is very precious since it’s one of the most important things he has to do his job. We made the inside of the wig hard so it was more like a hat. Quentin wanted him to be able to 'take it off and hang it up.' It became a character of its own and everyone wanted a photo in it!"
In fact, she adds that so many crewmembers requested photos wearing the "Rick" wig that with Pitt’s blessing, photos of the crew wearing it were taken and compiled into a coffee table book as a wrap gift for Tarantino.
For Margot Robbie’s turn as Sharon Tate, specific looks taken from the slain star’s lifestyle and film projects at the time inspired aspects including hair color and cowlicks.
"Margot had two different looks," says Thompson, "when she was either Mrs. Polanksi or Sharon Tate, based on the film’s time jump. When she’s pregnant, she had these natural cowlicks at her hairline and she was living in her pool because it was so hot. We put a slight wave in the hair so it looked like she twisted it and it dried naturally. You really saw a sweetness and innocence."
Robbie’s hair color was created by Thompson, using Shades EQ color and toner followed by Overtone colored conditioners. "We referred to her actual hair color during the time period," says the hairstylist. "Then warmed it up a bit with a red wash for when Sharon is sparring with Bruce Lee, getting ready for her role in The Wrecking Crew. We matched that one specifically to the film."
In the scene when Robbie is dancing, Thompson created an extra bouncy look for the hair, employing an old school technique called a "wet set." She says of the look, achieved by setting hair in large rollers while still wet and then dried under a drying chair: "It had bounce like you wouldn’t believe!"
A mousse from Leonor Greyl, the product line Thompson used abundantly throughout the film, was applied for volume and Amika Chameleon curling wand sets were in the kits of the entire hair department to add extra curls. She adds that, in 1969, orange juice cans were often utilized as rollers to get a full look.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood opened in theaters Friday.