Wigs shouldn't look like wigs

With the right preparation wigs don't need to look like wigs. Normally this requires the wig be made to measure.  This requires a shape-taking appointment, then a foundation fitting to ensure the lace fits and then, once made, the wig needs to be fitted to the artist, cut if necessary, styled (twice), the lace trimmed.  The third and final fitting should be done at the very latest the day before the artist works, ideally a few days before.

For "Incendiary" I had two wigs made for Michelle Williams and when they were delivered I shadowed the roots by painting them myself over the week-end before filming.  Also note the "skin deep" parting which is essential for naturalism.  Not once was the lace visible in the film.

Michelle Williams wearing one of the two wigs I had made for her for "Incendiary".  The hair down and loose but it would also be put up in a pony tail on occasion and was made with that in mind.

The hair for the wig was in very good condition and so would move really naturally and freely in action when necessary.

Dame Eileen Atkins

For the first season of the "Upstairs Downstairs" revival Eileen requested a wig from Campbell Young and we also had a switch made to be able to ring the changes quickly. 

Jean Marsh

For the first season of the "Upstairs Downstairs" revival I commissioned Jean's wig from the Shepperton Wig company.  I cut it on Jean when we did the fitting in Wales a few days before filming.

Maxine Peake's 'coffin beehive' for "The Falling"

Director Carol Morley asked me to give Maxine a look unlike anything she has worn before.  The script called for Maxine's character, a hairdresser, to have a beehive, which I exaggerated to get Carol's 'coffin' idea and achieved with a red wig.  

Sometimes the period 'dressing' of a wig can make it look more solid, but where possible I try to not let the period

dressing get the better of some natural movement and a quirk or two that will help it look real.

Not ONCE in the film, despite many very big close-ups do you you ever see any lace.  As this photo shows, the hairstyle was straight back off the hairline all the way around.  There was a thin fringe, but only to balance the height of the style itself. 

Sometimes the period 'dressing' of a wig can make it look more solid, but where possible I try to not let the period dressing get the better of some natural movement and a quirk or two that will help it look real.  Sometimes the script will specify a colour, as did "The Thirteenth Tale" - which called for "a colour not known in nature", for Vanessa's character, the subtext being the character had her hair dyed all her life long. 

Vanessa Redgrave

For "The Thirteenth Tale" the script called for Vanessa's character to have a head of red hair of "a hue not known in nature".  The colour is deliberately harsh against her wan complexion at times.  This is due to the character dying her hair and being ill from pancreatic cancer.  I went to New York to take Vanessa's head shape, we agreed the colour of the hair and commissioned a wig from Alex Rouse.

Clearly this is head of hair that the character has dyed, so 'natural' it is not, however as a head of dyed hair it was convincing and withstood big close-ups right onto the lace.  To "sell" the wig I applied a little of a warm tone to Vanessa's brows.

"God" for "The Lady in the Van"

Designer Naomi Donne tasked me with putting together the look for "God".  I was given two wigs, two beards and a reference she had agreed with Nick Hytner and I was given a day to prep the look.  On the left you see the wig with a nice 'skin deep' parting and on the right you see "God" greeting Maggie Smith's character into Heaven.  Both Naomi and Nick were very pleased.

The front of the wig showing a 'skin deep' parting.

God greeting souls into Heaven.

Martin Freeman

For "Swinging with the Finkles" director Jonathan Newman asked for Martin to have a 'Jewfro' for his younger years.  It wasn't a term I was familiar with, but it made his point and that's what he got.

Andrea Riseborough

For "Margaret Thatcher - the Long Walk to Finchley", the script called for Andrea to have a wig for the scenes where Thatcher had bleached blonde hair.  Naturally a dark brunette this required I make-up Andrea's hairline to in order to lose the darkness that would have shown at the root.  Dark roots on this occasion would not have been appropriate.

Jane Seymour 

For "Ordeal of Innocence" Jane's hair was far too long for the period so I had a wig made - as you do for an artist of her caliber.  It was also useful because I could pin the gunshot exit wound to the wig and dress hair around the edge which would not have been so comfortable in her own hair.  Jane liked the wig so much she bought it from production.

Geraldine McEwan

Geraldine McEwan in one of the two wigs I had made for her for "Marple".


This is one half of the couples at the beginning of "Swinging with the Finkles".  I hadn't met her prior to filming and her own hair was too funky and modern and I just happened to have a grey wig on the truck that suited.  It was not 'dressed' per se, I just plonked it on and made it 'at home'.  It was a very lucky day.

For "Marple" I was hired especially to solve what had been a bit of a wig issue on the previous series.  Due to the long schedule I had two wigs made which meant that one could be dressed during the day while the other was being worn.  This is important so that the make-up artist who looked after Geraldine could wrap Geraldine and be prepped for the next day quickly.  There was not time to dress the wig each night - as the trucks we were always on the move and we needed to step off pronto without doing much, if any overtime.  The boys had trucks to move.  It's a thought isn't it!  Sometimes there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.

  Stephanie Leonidas

For "Marple - Ordeal of Innocence" Stephanie had to be wigged as her waist length hair was too long for the period and could not be cut. 

I fitted a wig from Alex Rouse's stock.  We just got lucky!  It was a really good fit on the hairline, even if it was a bit roomy at the back and needed a little tuck.

 Stephanie Leonidas

Showing the length of her own hair which had to go up under a wig to get the right style for the period.

  Stephanie Leonidas


Toupes and backpieces

David Tennant

For "Casanova" David needed to have an 18th century tie-back.  At the time he had a short haircut for "Harry Potter" which he would return to film with a couple of days during our schedule, so I couldn't touch his hair.

I had a backpiece made and used some wefts to break up his "Harry Potter" haircut. 

Stephen Tompkinson

For "Hotel Splendide" Terry Gross the director wanted Stephen to have a comb over.  Stephen kindly agreed to have the top of his head shaved and I applied a toupe I had made with longish hair to make the comb over.  During the denouement I dressed the hair so it gradually fell apart across Stephen's forehead as he went into meltdown.

Nathan Gordon

For "Foyle's War", Nathan arrived with a shaved head, not his fault, he was a last minute casting and my note about men needing 4" of hair in order to do a period haircut was forgotten.  It just looked wrong on such a young man on the run to have a shaved head, there's no 'vulnerability' in a shaven head.  I had with me Stephen's toupe and a couple of wigs.  Only the toupe was remotely suitable, so I used it and laid on the hair from the toupe down to the nape and then cut it into a period cut.  Nathan was a good sport about it and though we enjoyed making this look it was a bit of a trial which could have been avoided if he'd been cast in time for a wig fitting or I'd had the budget to carry enough stock - or ultimately, if I'd cared less I wouldn't have bothered, but that's not my way - continued  .....

.... continued

Nothing about "Foyle's War" was easy, (which was a shame because it's a very simple period).  Every which way there were complications and not the resources to meet them with just a team of 3, including me.  It's worth noting that in Ireland make-up and hair are separate as they are in the US.  So if you go there to head up a team you lose two people to set to cover both departments and end up in the bus on your own doing all the rest of the cast, or you go to set to cover it and can't be on the bus to establish new artists and looks.  Lesson learned. 

Wigs for effect

This is one of the 8 crowd Fades for a night shoot for "The Fades".  I can't explain why exactly, it's just a feeling you get.  I hired in 10 wigs to fit on the day to create likely looking characters.  Due to budget constraints and the height of action and night shooting I didn't hire from the most expensive or best supplier, no need, and this stood up to the night's work well enough.

This is Jenn Murray as Natalie who I wigged to save her own hair and to help with speedier continuity.  It's much easier to keep a wig on a block ready to re-apply for consistency than it is to break down an artists hair to match each time.

Wig fitting for James Greene to play Eric a kind of recovered Fade, a long-term reclusive Seer and as such needed to be aged.  As a recluse he wouldn't have had a hair cut for many years and as a blind Seer his image had to be unconsciously neglected so I fitted him in this wig.  James was also fitted with blind lenses and on the day was aged, see below.

Eric as the recovered Fade and long term reclusive Seer.

No way natural .... but for effect

For "Animal" the script called for a glamorous blonde barmaid and this beautiful young lady turned up, but her hair was far from suitable.  

So I used 2 blonde acrylic wigs, one on top of another to create this look which is obviously not natural, but then it wasn't meant to be.  This 'Showgirl Bartender' look balanced with the costume and surroundings.

But on the way to the blonde look we tested some others and this was one with a dark wig for another character possibility.  For filming her brows would need to be darkened a touch to 'sell' the wig.

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