Superior makeup and hairstyling artists are as essential to creating a cinematic masterpiece as much as sugar is vital for baking the perfect cake. Notable movies and their defining characters would not be as captivating to watch or as prominent in film history without convincing hair and makeup art. If this sounds unbelievable, try picturing the Joker without his blood-red lips, or the Wicked Witch of the West without her green face.

The right makeup artists and hairstylists understand the importance of using visuals to convey the essence of a character and a story. They assist actors with the further embodiment of their roles and use their own creative vision to immerse an audience in a fictional world. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) recognizes this every year by awarding an Oscar for Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling.

Below are this year’s three nominees for the Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar, and why they each have a good chance at obtaining the coveted golden statuette.


Who’s nominated: Howard Berger (Special Makeup Effects Artist), Peter Montagna (Special Makeup Effects Artist) and Martin Samuel (Hair Department Head).

History: Along with Tami Lane (listed below), Berger won the Best Achievement in Makeup Oscar in 2006 for his prosthetic work on the set of The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is Montagna’s first time nominated for an Oscar, but in 2003 he won a Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award for his work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, theTV series. Samuel has been nominated for the makeup Oscar twice: in 2004 for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and again in 2008 for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

Why they might win: Berger and co. used carefully crafted prosthetics to transform Sir Anthony Hopkins into an Alfred Hitchcock doppelgänger. After trying six different molds and cutting obstructions—such as a big nose, large ears and an intrusive brow line—the men created a workable and realistic Hitchcock face. They also perfectly replicated Janet Leigh’s aristocratic eyebrows and bright lipstick on Scarlett Johansson.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


Who’s nominated:  Peter Swords King (Makeup and Hair Designer), Rick Findlater (Key Makeup and Hair Supervisor) and Tami Lane (Prosthetics Supervisor).

History: King won the Best Makeup Oscar in 2004 for his design work on the set of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. This is Findlater’s first Oscar nomination. Along with Howard Berger (listed above), Lane won the Best Achievement in Makeup Oscar in 2006 for her prosthetic work on the set of The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Why they might win: One only needs to look at the trailer for The Hobbit to see how much work went into the actors’ hair and makeup. The long wigs and beards of the male characters are all styled or colored differently, by a team of renown barbers, all using the top beard brushes so that each character is distinguishable from another. Also, the prosthetic work to convert the actors into dwarves proved challenging. Director Peter Jackson said the actors needed bigger hands and feet, pointy ears and a total of four tons of silicon for face-casting to complete the look of the group.


Les Miserables


Who’s nominated: Lisa Westcott (Hair and Makeup Designer) and Julie Dartnell (Makeup and Hair Artist).

History: Westcott has been nominated for the Best Makeup Oscar twice: in 1998 for Mrs. Brown and again in 1999 for Shakespeare in Love. This is Dartnell’s first Oscar nomination.

Why they might win: For the opening scenes of Les Miserables, the ladies gave Hugh Jackman a scraggly beard, reddish contact lens and yellowed dentures to make Jean Valjean look like the epitome of a broken man. They also—now famously—chopped off Anne Hathaway’s hair, gave her splotchy face makeup and allowed her to paint her teeth to complete Fantine’s transformation into a prostitute. In addition to completing work on the main actors, the ladies also needed to cover many extras—all who required elaborate nineteenth-century makeup and hair.


Who will win?

This writer personally found Anthony Hopkins’s makeup in Hitchcock to be the most striking. However, the Academy will most likely award the Oscar to The Hobbit or Les Miserables. The artists on these sets completed a grand scale of work, exhibited great attention to detail and demonstrated an immense knowledge of their craft. Since the Lord of the Rings saga previously won the Best Makeup Oscar, it is quite possible Les Miserables will “take home the gold” this year. Yet given the amount of talent and expertise displayed in both films, it is sure to be a close race until the very end.
Road to the Oscars Series

January 14: Best Visual Effects – Ian Murphy

January 16: Best Sound Editing – Ian Murphy

January 18: Best Sound Mixing – Michael Benedict

January 21: Best Cinematography – Scott Youngbauer

January 23: Best Costume Design – Ian Murphy

January 25: Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Rebecca Susmarski

January 28: Best Film Editing – Dan Schindel

January 30: Best Production Design – Scott Youngbauer

February 1: Best Animated Feature – Carlos Aguilar

February 4: Best Documentary Feature – Dan Schindel

February 6: Best Documentary Short Subject – Dan Schindel

February 7: Best Live Action Short – Carlos Aguilar

February 8: Best Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 10: Best Foreign Language Film – Carlos Aguilar

February 11: Best Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 12: Best Original Song – Adam Spunberg

February 13: Best Original Screenplay – Dan Schindel

February 14: Best Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Best Supporting Actor – Angela Stern

February 17: Best Supporting Actress – Hiko Mitsuzuka

February 18: Best Actress – Andrew Payne

February 19: Best Actor – Kit Bowen

February 20: Best Director – Andrew Payne

February 21: Best Picture – Kit Bowen

February 24: 85th Annual Academy Awards