Here you’ll find a collection of old features pertaining to various articles to do with the movies, in front & Behind-the-Scenes at SW.Com
Looks are Everything – Part II
Working closely with the Costume and Make-up Departments, Chief Hairdresser Sue Love was responsible for one more of the crucial elements that work their magic to bring to life the characters of Episode I.
“I’ve always been a hairdresser, always wanted to be a hairdresser,” begins Love, whose career in the movies began around the time Star Wars opened. “I had done everything in the salon, had gone as far as I could. And in the 70’s, when blow drying came in, it all became very boring. So I made some contacts in the film business, and when I was given a chance, I took it.” Love has been at it ever since, weaving her hairdressing spell in such productions as Braveheart and The Fifth Element. “My very first project was a movie called Arabian Adventure,” she recalls. “I then worked on a British television series called The Professional, and I went on from there.” With her daughter Sarah in tow, Love was unwittingly planting the hairdressing bug in her family lineage. “I used to follow mom around,” says Sarah, “and I eventually ended up training as a hairdresser myself. I then worked in the theater industry for a couple of years before moving to films.” Over the years, mother and daughter collaborated on a few projects, including The Fifth Element. They were reunited once again when Producer Rick McCallum hired them to work on Episode I.
Sculpting hairstyles on the set requires a broader range of abilities than what might be expected in the salon, and proper training is key. “You just need to have an all-around knowledge of hair and hairdressing,” explains Sue Love. “I was fortunate in my training during the 60’s, because you got that, you did everything. Nowadays they just don’t do it anymore, they pretty much just do the cutting and the drying. But for all the period work, you have to know how to do the different hairstyles, you have to master the different techniques, the wigs and everything.” The approach to movie hairstyling can also be very different than standard hairdressing, both in terms of the techniques involved and the expected results. “First of all, there’s not as much worry about permanency,” says Sue Love. “You can sometimes use temporary techniques, because you know that hair only needs a lifespan of a few hours.” This allows hairdressers to create complex hairstyles that, if required to last for any significant period of time, would be impossible to achieve. “Then there is the fact that you know your work is going to end up onscreen,” Love continues, “and that your tiny mistake will be magnified and appear on a 40-foot wide head. So you’ve got to be extra careful.”
On Episode I, Sue and Sarah Love had one month to prepare before principal photography began. Armed with concept art and tapes of the original Trilogy, they started planning. “We spoke to George, and he gave us directions,” says Sue Love. “He’s very clear and definite in what he wants, but of course he leaves the methods of achieving those results to us. And he always listens when we tell him that something is impossible.” But the Loves were determined not to let this happen often, no matter how complex the designs of Concept Artist Iain McCaig proved to be. But concept art only covered hairdos for the main characters, and for all the others who wore hair, it was up to Sue and her daughter Sarah to give them convincing hairstyles. “We didn’t do all the rest,” points out Sue Love. “There are quite a lot of creatures in this movie, and we didn’t work on those for obvious reasons. And we didn’t work on the digital characters either.” That still leaves a large population that needs hair care. “In order to prepare for the job,” continues Love, “we watched all three original movies. We spent a whole day just watching the movies, rewinding scenes and watching them again, over and over again.” The Loves played the movies in chronological order, but also watched them in reverse, so that they could somehow “devolve” the hairstyles from Return of the Jedi to A New Hope, and all the way down to Episode I. “We had to grasp not only the differences between the people from Tatooine and the people from Naboo, but also the variations in the way they wear their hair from one timeframe to another,” says Sarah Love. “From one movie to another, the characters are all related in some way, and we wanted to preserve that continuity.”
For practical reasons, a movie is usually shot out of sequence, which means that hair management can become a complex puzzle at times. Unlike make-up artists, hairdressers can’t afford the luxury of erasing a mistake and starting over. Once the scissors have thinned or shortened an actor’s hair, there is no turning back. Wigs can help up to a certain point, but they remain far from being an ideal remedy. The character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, among others, required some wizardry on the part of the Loves. “We had to cut Ewan’s hair quite short and give him a braid on one side,” explains Sue Love. “But then George thought a pony tail at the back of the head would look good, which is of course we couldn’t do since the hair was gone! So we shuffled around, found some hair that matched Ewan’s, and attached it. And George was right: it worked beautifully.”
Stunt doubles also carry with them their load of practical problems for hairdressers, because the transition from one performer to the other, on screen, must be accomplished seamlessly. “At first we tried dyeing the hair of Ewan’s stunt double, but it didn’t quite work,” Sue Love says. “So we had to use a wig. It worked well, but you still have to be extremely careful and really pay attention, because the better the match between actor and stunt double, the closer the camera can go on the double.” For obvious reasons, stunt doubles are often shot from a back angle; this makes hair is one of the main elements, along with the costume, that allow audiences to readily recognize the character. “So it should be really exact,” comments Sue Love.
As is the case for make-up artists, the job of the hairdressing team doesn’t stop once the actors leave their reclining chairs. On the set, and especially when shooting an action-packed movie like Episode I, Sue Love and her team have to stand ready to spring into some action of their own. “There’s always some piece of hair that has moved where it shouldn’t have, and you need to bring it back to where it was in the previous shot,” explains Sue Love. “So we work closely with the Continuity Supervisor, and it’s really helpful. On Episode I, Jayne-Ann Tenggren helped a lot in keeping all the tiny details straight.” There are never too many pairs of eyes paying attention to the subtleties of hair placement – or displacement, as it often happened during the action scenes of The Phantom Menace. The hairdresser is also required to be on set to perform the many transformations the actors’ hair might need during the day, as the characters move from one location to another, and emerge from one adventure only to plunge back into the next. “The hair’s got to be wet, dry, messy, tidy…and you need to keep track of it all,” laughs Sue Love. “We take a lot of reference pictures.” Rick McCallum felt confident that every single detail would be attended to with the utmost professionalism. “Sue did the most outstanding job during the production,” McCallum says. “It was a real pleasure to have her with us on this project.”
While a character’s hair obviously has to work with his or her make-up, the match between hair and costume is no less important. On Episode I, with elaborate costumes worn by Queen Amidala and other characters, the delicate fusion between the hair and the cloth required skill and imagination. “We usually like to see the costume first,” explains Sue Love, “and then do something, with the hair, that will fit that costume.” Governor Sio Bibble, played by Oliver Walpole, is a case in point. He wears the elegant garments of a Naboo politician, and needed a haircut to match. “With short hair it just didn’t look right.” says Sue Love. “So we opted for the period, longer hair, and it all came together.” In the case of hairstyles that had been previously designed, almost as part of the costume itself, by Iain McCaig, the Chief Hairdresser’s job didn’t lose any of its complexity: bringing a fantasy hairdo into the real world can be quite a challenge. Queen Amidala, in particular, proved to require special attention, and had the Loves use their full range of skills to create the intricate, royal hair designs. “It was indeed complicated,” says Sue Love, “but in the end it looked absolutely spectacular. So it was worth the effort, especially since Natalie Portman made it so easy for us. She never complained about the head pieces being too hot or too heavy – and some of them were hot and heavy. She was great.”
Hairstyles are one of the many elements that define the identity of the Star Wars saga. And like everything else, they have to be just right for their influence to blend perfectly with the tone created by the costumes, the make-ups, the props, the sets…. So how do you conjure up a Star Wars hairdo? Above the funky, otherworldly twists present in many of the coiffures of Star Wars characters, one quality reigns supreme: timelessness. To achieve this, George Lucas has relied on influences that are already considered classic and will therefore never feel outdated, no matter where in time – or in space – they end up being positioned. So the Loves have followed Lucas’ lead. “There is very little that’s futuristic in Episode I”, says Sarah Love. “Pretty much all the costumes and hairstyles are period, classic.”
And so the wheel keeps turning. By the time moviegoers witness the conclusion of Episode III, the various costume and hairstyle designs will have been brought to a point where they connect with what exists in the original Trilogy. Ironically, the influence will still be a classic one, because those Episode III designs will be tapping into material that appeared in Episodes IV, V and VI, and which was made classic by the equally timeless quality of the original Star Wars movies.