Gigi Williams interview: ‘Mank’ makeup department head
“He just doesn’t like red,” reveals “Mank” makeup department head Gigi Williams about her director David Fincher. It is a curious sticking point for a black-and-white film and Williams admits in her exclusive interview with Gold Derby (watch the video above) that she is unsure of the origins. She continues, “It’s like a bull with red, so even on this, I had to find reds that weren’t going to be too distracting for him while we’re on the set, even though he’s watching most of it through a monitor, which is black and white.” Williams notes that purple-leaning reds are especially egregious, whereas “he can handle” orange-leaning varieties. She laughs, “He just hates red. I mean, you go on the set and you go, ‘Oh, there’s a red thermos over there on the set. He’s not going to like that’ and you have to move it.”
Despite shooting grayscale, “Mank” had a vibrantly saturated set and yes, even red lipstick. Williams notes that they tested hundreds, which were necessary to achieve different tones not possible with black shades of lipstick. How many does Williams normally test? “I don’t usually test any,” laughs the four-decade industry veteran.
It was the same story with foundations, uncharacteristically testing hundreds. She explains, “It had to be not too shiny, not too matte. We ended up going with tinted moisturizers, which is not a product I ever used very much, but this worked really great because I didn’t want too much coverage. I just wanted it to look smooth and photo-like.”
Although she has been behind the makeup of seven Oscar-nominated films to date, Williams has never been nominated for an Oscar herself, albeit the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category infamously had only three nomination slots before last year and notoriously favors extensive prosthetics over the more subtle work that is Williams’s forte.
Prior to her start in film, Williams had a higher-paying job at Vogue magazine in the 1970s. She recounts, “I can’t stand this. I hate it and one of my girlfriends said that she was doing a movie with Brian De Palma and wanted to know if I wanted to test and do the makeup and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I did test; I got the job and that was my first movie and ever since then, I’ve been working.”
A repeat collaborator in the last decade of both David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson, she explains, “I gravitate towards directors, so I don’t like to do personals really. I don’t really like to work with just one actor. I like to do the whole film; I like to work with the directors.” Williams concludes the interview, “I feel very privileged and lucky and honored I’ve worked with the directors that I’ve worked with because they’re not the directors who say, ‘Yeah, it’s fine; let’s move on.’ They’re like, ‘No, let’s do it again’.”