the company that released:
Steven Spielberg's "The Post", "Molly's Game", "I Tonya" and "Wonder" in 2018 and "Sicaro" and "Eye in the Sky" in 2017
Producers: Kevin Proctor & Mark Vennis (POW Films), Charlotte Arden (Gizmo Films) and Peter Dunphy - Executive Producer
This picture required the main character "Funny Cow" to be represented from age 9 to early 40's, played by 3 actresses. The character of Funny Cow's boyfriend "Bob" plays a couple of decades with 2 actors and "Funny Cow Mum" through 3 decades with 2 actresses. Obviously the audience would willingly be suspending disbelief, but I wanted to find a trait in common to link the actors as credibly as possible in each character.
For the character of "Funny Cow" I felt a fringe could tick a number of boxes, it was authentic for the 1950's, often worn by little girls of 10 IF accompanied by an above the shoulder hair cut. It could also work for the 1960's on Hebe and from past experience of working with Maxine, I knew it would suit her and styles she could wear for the 1970's and 1980's. The key was that Macy and Hebe needed to agree as neither had fringes and Macy's hair was long.
For "Bob" played Tom Gibbons who has blue eyes to match with Tony Pitts' brown eyes, Tom wore brown contact lenses. Tom kindly got himself fitted for lenses in Manchester over the Christmas holidays - thank you Tom ;-)
For "Funny Cow Mum", Lindsey Coulson, had dark blonde hair and though Christine Bottomley also had blonde hair, it was very long and bright for our palette so I wigged Christine to shorten her hair length and tone down her colour. Even though Christine works in the 1950's part of the story, we agreed to keep her hair 'old-fashioned' in a late 1940's, dated, practical and an easy style that she could do herself, without heated rollers or tongs which would have been beyond her means, and as a drunk beyond her interest. This also fitted with her reduced circumstances, common in post war Britain.
Tony Pitts sideburns were made to measure in a redder, warmer colour than his hair, just like his own beard.
For more detail that is most certainly not brief read on .....
"FUNNY COW" the character sprang off the page from the get-go with lots of attitude. This little girl, young woman and woman was no shrinking violet or wallflower, never demure or girly and her appearance had to reflect this. So no pretty braids, ribbons when a girl, perhaps at best an foray into a some colour work and a fashionable look in her 20's when courting, and then a practical, down to earth female into her 30's, the 1970's. When enjoying her heights of success, her style was obviously achieved in a salon would reflect her new found power and wealth. While a through line is important, it's also good to have looks that show stages in a character's life. So no pretty pretty hair was required, just bold period statements that clearly informed the decade we were in.
"Funny Cow" was always making her point, not ever attempting a beguiling feminine fashion statement, and as make-up and hair designer, I needed to reflect that. So it was important to keep the make-up in character and true to the period, which in the 1970's was pretty basic for most women (and hair was much drier looking and less sleek than it is now). So I made sure I didn't fall into the trap of doing ultra flattering, overworked leading lady make-up - my mantra was 'keep it real', as the inclination to do more polished work crept in. Maxine is stunning, and her face is a joy to make-up, and I am so grateful to have worked with such a fine actress as Maxine who puts such value on the truth of the characters she plays.
I've done Maxine's hair and make-up for 3 films, as Doll Tearsheet in "The Hollow Crown" (left), as Eileen Lamont in "The Falling" (middle), and as Funny Cow (the rest, 1970's, with bloody nose, late 1970's and 1980's), and each time it was such a pleasure - she's a treasure.
About my process
From working with Maxine before I knew a fringe suited her. Knowing I'd need wigs to make bold period transitions a fringe was a way of subliminally prompting quicker recognition and link the 3 actresses playing Funny Cow.
A fringe would also certainly help with the lace and wig maintenance on set. I was concerned from the outset about getting final checks on set with so many on-stage sections which might not be accessible for final or running checks. It was obvious long takes would be necessary to cover the pages of stand-up dialog in one go and some of the crazy action like the tray banging on Maxine's head in the pub that it meant the wig would have to be so anchored and styled so as to be able to look right and after itself whatever the action and that I could keep right out of the way. My goal was to walk away after final checks until we had the shot - no interruptions for hair.
Let's be clear, in the past I have acquitted myself more than once with wigs dressed straight off the lace very successfully, for example the wigs I had made for Michelle Williams in "Incendiary" (2008). They were both ash/dirty blonde worn in a tight pony tail, what we call a Croydon face lift, (kind of like Margot Robbie's hair in "I Tonya" (2017). However, on "Incendiary" I was able not only to have 2 wigs made, but also to put a dedicated member of the team on that one wig while I was always nearby to be checking Michelle's make-up.
But on "Funny Cow" I didn't have the staff to cover it so thoroughly and only had 1 wig in the brown, and the straight blonde wig I'd had re-fronted and hired had to be dressed both late 70's and 80's and the turnaround between the two looks of the blonde was prohibitive in the same shooting day.
So, it made sense to set it up by doing everything possible to make life easier for everyone and checks less regularly required. It was a strategic choice as well as an artistic one. It also felt truthful as a through-line for the character to use the fringe as the link between the actresses, especially as their hair colour would unavoidably be alternating between brown, to blonde, to brown and to blonde again - something, some detail needed to be consistent.
Macy, Funny Cow age 9, had long hair when I met her with no bangs or fringe. I explained how free her hair needed to be to suit her free-spirited character and that just braiding her long hair didn't feel right for "Funny Cow", it felt too "girly" and if I'm honest, a cop out. If she'd let me cut her hair and give her a proper period fringe and hair short enough that it wouldn't need to be braided to manage it for filming, (as loose hair would have been a continuity nightmare), with her hair above her shoulders it could move freely all the time, and continuity would be naturally maintained in each natural moment, (with the exception of direct cut ins down the line), but mostly no interruptions. I showed her the reference and she was not at all freaked out. I showed her a wig I had with me for her to try out to see how it would look ..... and, more importantly for her to see how she would feel with shorter hair. She loved it and danced around the room, striking various poses and it was evident that she felt natural, free and spirited, just like the character, in the hairstyle - so we agreed, with her parents approval to cut her hair.
When it came to bringing the divinely well cast Hebe with that amazing bone structure into the the character of Funny Cow for her 20's circa 1960, Hebe also kindly agreed to have her hair cut a bit shorter including cutting in a fringe. It was plausible that "Funny Cow" in her 20's could have lightened her hair as Hebe was a light brown with blonde lites, Funny Cow could have experimented with colour to an extent on her fairly limited budget. On my budget I couldn't afford to mess with her hair colour, nor wig her, so I had to go with her hair colour as it was. Regarding the hairstyle, It would have been so easy to fall into the trap of doing a really back-combed, back-brushed round flick up 'do', but it just didn't feel right for Funny Cow because the person Funny Cow would become as played by Maxine, living in what would become an abusive relationship would not have gone to that much trouble for herself, a bit like her mother, and she didn't have the vanity for it, it was tempting though and a real conundrum for me. In the end, I stuck with my first principle of design and that is that the actor should wear the hairstyle/look not the other way around and I didn't want to plump for such a bold look until later in the 1980's when Funny Cow was successful and could indulge in salon hairdressing and power hair chutzpah.
The look for Funny Cow in the 1970's, in the character's 30's, I was inspired by pictures of Jane Fonda in her Vietnam protest days, then a brunette in a 70's mullet, which we softened in colour and cut for Maxine. I was thinking of really going for it with the mullet at one point, but it didn't feel right to push it that far on the day. I cut the wig on Maxine in prep in a wig fitting afternoon and dressed it a few times before it went on camera to give it natural shape and memory - so as not to look fluffy and 'box fresh' - as most new wigs can.
Adrian asked for Maxine to be a blonde in the late 70's as she became more successful so the opening scene with her on stage in the red sequin dress is a 'home spun' version of the Farrah Fawcett-Majors' style that was so incredibly popular and iconic of the day. There was no point in going for a natural blonde, this is definitely out and out bottle blonde, and freshly done, so no shadow on the roots (like I painted on Michelle Williams wig to make it look natural). The same bright blonde, poker straight wig was dressed in a bubble perm for the 1980's looks, deliberately very perky and fresh with success for the hospital scene and then with slightly dropped perm out for other scenes. I really could have done with 3 wigs made for Maxine on this film, so that I could more easily have had what I needed, but instead on two occasions I was up at 3 am 'til 7 am tonging the pre-set blonde wig for the 80's look with 2 sizes of postiche tongs, having had to take it home so it wouldn't drop, in the damp truck overnight, it was simply unavoidable - such are the hidden costs of low budget feature making.
The blonde wig was a re-front of the ONLY blonde wig available to hire at the time that remotely suited Maxine by colour, and it had to be re-fronted to fit. Half my budget went on Maxine's hair, the brown wig was a make which was worth every penny because of course, being a make, it fitted so well, and Maxine and I were able to exactly mix the colour to our preference. The hair was so new that with good treatment it moved freely which made it 'live' better. One of my favourite moments in the film from a hair point of view is when Maxine jumps over the back of the sofa to join Paddy and the hair flies up in the air and moves so realistically. That night scene was shot after the morning bed scene in which with all the pillow action, and stiffness of the wig from previous the previous days work, had wrecked the movement of the wig. I knew it wouldn't look good for the post-lunch scenes and exterior shots, so when we got back to base for lunch I whipped it off Maxine, blocked it, washed and conditioned it, dried it and popped it back on as if in after lunch checks. It was a mad thing to do, but to this day, I'm so glad I went for it because the wig would have looked just PANTS had I left it.
This is just one character, admittedly the lead, but this kind of thought and detail that had to be applied to all the characters. The same care and thought was applied to "Funny Cow Mum" played by Christine Bottomley and Lindsey Coulson, and to Tom Gibbons and Tony Pitts for Bob.
Out here in the public domain I'm not going to say how many wigs are in the picture, but there are more than you'd think and a number that raised the eyebrows of the financial controllers at the time, but I've been told that many aren't noticed as such and that people are now appreciating the method in what they perceived as my 'madness' - because the picture does look good. There is one deliberately 'off' toupe and even John Bishop's dog wears a bad Elvis wig which he would keep shaking off, all part of the fun.
Like I said, sometimes, especially for the 1970's which is one of THE MOST expensive periods to render, you just gotta have the budget!
As a well respected First Assistant Director and friend of mine said as I debriefed with her (after the shoot) said, "Sometimes you can't afford NOT to have the wigs."
If you've read this far I'm deeply grateful and flattered, most people aren't that interested.
There are photos of my reference and the artists on the "Funny Cow" page in the drop down menu which is password protected for copyright reasons. If you are a Production Executive or Director and would like to see that information, please contact Christine for the password.