The highly anticipated HBO movie Grey Gardens—based on the 1975 documentary of the same name—will be blossoming onto TV screens on April 18. Vivian Baker was Drew Barrymore’s makeup artist on-set and was in charge of the prosthetics that transformed Barrymore and Jessica Lange the now iconic Big and Little Edies, eccentric relatives of Jackie O., who lived in isolation in the Hamptons. We had the opportunity to ask her about the challenges of transforming the famous into the infamous for the film.
What do you need to consider when re-creating a look from a different time period?
“Whenever a makeup artist is designing a period film, the research goes deeper than just the images or drawings you can find. I like to know what was available in cosmetics and grooming, [as well as] what was happening to society at the time. That research can put into perspective what the character would have valued in his or her look.”
How do you translate the director’s vision of the character’s appearance to what we see on screen?
“There are many conversations with the director and actress during the process of filming. Because the documentary is so well known, along with Little Edie’s fashion sense, creating the looks to be as close to the real ladies was key. Bill Corso designed all the age looks and his designs were imperative to capturing the reality of the Edies.”
Did you watch the documentary? How did it affect your approach?
“Yes, I did watch the documentary. It was so moving that it helped in capturing the essence of the characters.”
These characters age throughout the film. What were some of the challenges you faced with the makeup?
“I think it goes without saying that changing such noted actresses as Drew and Jessica into the well-known women as the Edies was quite a challenge. One of the biggest challenges was keeping their skin in good condition from the prosthetics. Even though the technology of prosthetic makeup has improved immensely, it is still glue on your face!”
Of course, we had to ask about Baker’s on-set must-haves. Here are a few of her favourites:
M.A.C Face and Body Foundation
M.A.C Fluidline liner in “Blacktrack”
La Mer Crème de la Mer
Serge Lutens red lipsticks
Skin Illustrator Flesh Tone Palette
Kevyn Aucoin The Creamy Moist Glow
Read more about the remake of Grey Gardens in FASHION’s May 2009 issue. View a slideshow of snaps from the film