To create a safe working environment while shooting “Cyrano” during the coronavirus pandemic before a vaccine was widely available, director Joe Wright established a bubble with his cast and crew on location in Italy. But while the strict health and safety protocols required to mount a musical production in October 2020 were significant, it also provided a bit of creative inspiration, at least according to Sian Miller and Oscar winner Alessandro Bertolazzi, the “Cyrano” hair and makeup team.
The situation helped, says Bertolazzi in a new interview with Gold Derby. “It is weird to say that because we were all prisoners in the same building and we had to stay all together,” he says. But the result was that everyone was “happy to be there to do this magic project.”
“I think COVID In some ways prevented us to a degree from the tendency to over-fuss as well,” adds Miller – specifically citing some of the film’s major crowd scenes, where dozens of extras wore elaborate wigs and hairpieces. She wanted those wigs to “look like a hat – something that was very used, just taken off and on, and that was very important that we kind of kept that going throughout that whole period and didn’t over-fuss things because of course it wasn’t about creating perfection.”
Based on the stage musical by Erica Schmidt, which itself was inspired by the Edmond Rostand play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Wright’s new musical stars Peter Dinklage as the title character, Haley Bennett as Roxanne, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Christian. But rather than simply replicate Rostand’s prose, Schmidt enlisted Aaron and Bryce Dessner from The National to write original songs for the project. Wright saw Schmidt’s musical in its original form during a stage run in Connecticut in 2018 (Bennett, his off-screen partner, co-starred in the initial production). “I saw it in my head immediately,” Wright said after the film’s debut at the Telluride Film Festival last year. “And I knew what it should look like and sound like and feel like, that there was a part of my own life experience that I could express through that story, and I wanted to return to the core of the work that I had started out making. I felt like some films I’ve made were exercises. And I could invest my heart and the child in me into that story.”
Wright’s passion for filmmaking is one of the reasons Bertolazzi, who won an Academy Award in the hair and makeup category for “Suicide Squad,” wanted to enlist for the film. The makeup artist had seen an academy screening of Wright’s “Darkest Hour” – which incidentally won Best Makeup and Hairstyling at the Oscars in 2018 – and been impressed by Wright’s enthusiasm.
“I really grabbed [‘Cyrano’] with my nails because I wanted to do something with Joe and his incredible knowledge and immense visual perspective,” Bertolazzi says. “Everything was amazing.”
“Cyrano” is among the 10 films on the Academy Awards shortlist in the Best Hair and Makeup category, an honor not lost on either Miller or Bertolazzi.
“When you watch it, it feels like something that really is woven – and then with a score, it’s really just so inextricably linked together,” Miller says of “Cyrano.” “But I feel you can’t see the joints and I think just to create something like that, that perhaps hopefully we might have some kind of legacy one day would be a wonderful one. Yeah, it’s extremely exciting to see the finished film.”
“Cyrano” is out in limited release on January 28 before a wide release on February 11. The film had a short awards qualifying run in Los Angeles late last year.
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