Sian Grigg has been Leonardo DiCaprio’s personal makeup artist since “Titanic” (1997). It’s a gig that’s afforded her the opportunity to work with such legendary filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Nolan, and now, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. “The Revenant” was such a massive undertaking that she enlisted the help of Duncan Jarman, a prosthetics artist who had worked with her on “The Aviator” (2004), “Body of Lies” (2008), and “J. Edgar” (2011), amongst others. In separate video chats (Grigg above; Jarman below), the two spoke extensively about their work on the film, which has earned them both their first Oscar nomination.
“The whole film was a huge challenge,” admits Grigg. “I read the script and I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever read a script with this much makeup for the whole film, let alone just one character.” Grigg and her team worked on the project for over a year, designing the makeup well in advance of shooting.
The first order of business was to turn DiCaprio and the other actors into convincing frontiersmen. “Alejandro really wanted it to look like they had been out for a long time on this trapping expedition,” she explains. “So obviously, they didn’t shower, they didn’t wash, they didn’t change their clothes. The dirt was really important, that it look grounded and real. Also, Alejandro wanted him to look older, and look different. Leo had this thing where he wanted an underbite, and he thought he would do the whole film with [one]. But I thought that would be so uncomfortable, so I got some teeth made for him that would achieve that.”
Then came the hard part: the wounds from the bear attack, which undergo various stages of gore, rot, infection, and healing. Jarman, who contributed to the Oscar-winning makeup of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014), says of the harrowing sequence, “we knew we had to get that one nailed down first.”
After creating several different looks for the director to choose from, Jarman and his team turned their attention to the effects, “the gurgling of the throat, the gurgling of wounds, the dripping of the blood and everything. Once we got all of that sorted out, we knew we could then work forwards to doing the infected versions and the healing versions.”
DiCaprio is poised to win his first Oscar for the film, proving their hard work was not in vein. “Leo has a great face to work on,” says Grigg of her longtime collaborator. “He’s really into makeup, and he really enjoys the process of finding his character.” When asked why she keeps coming back to him, she explains, “It’s knowing somebody, and having a shorthand. He knows I’m going to go away and figure it out, and I’m going to make it look as good as I can.”
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