Funny Looks

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Amongst her many film and TV credits, make-up artist Christine Cant has worked on critically-acclaimed comedies including Father Ted, Spaced, Brass Eye, Alan Partridge and Absolutely Fabulous. She spoke to us about creating looks for the new big-screen version of Jennifer Saunders’ classic sitcom.

How important is makeup in ABFAB?
It’s important in the way it would be with any character based story. Like a drama set in the 18th century with powdered wigs, pale makeup and beauty marks, this is a drama set today with contemporary wigs (and hair), fashion makeup, and jokes.

How do you approach the process? Do you sit down with Jennifer and plan it all out, or are you left to it?
There are all the usual production meetings, ‘tone’ meetings and design meetings, but I’ve worked with Jennifer for a long time so we regularly sit down to discuss life and family, have a bit of a laugh and perhaps a glass of wine while informally talking about what we want to do with the characters. That’s when most of the ideas arise. Then I have to run the ideas past the producers, the director and in this case Fox, to see mood boards and visual clues, wigs, makeup tests etc. But in the end, as Patsy and Eddie are such established characters, we do what we always do with nods to current trends. We’ve made them up so often it’s just like putting your own face on.The guest characters are where we exercise our real imagination.

And which guest character in the movie was most fun to make up?
My favourite character makeup was done on Lubliana and Charlie. Lubliana is the richest woman in the world, ancient and fabulous. She’s played by Marcia Warren who is fabulous but not ancient. She had a full face of latex but with a beautiful makeup on top of the wrinkles. Gorgeous! I did a dense black wig for her, dressed like Diana Vreeland’s hair as a wee nod to a fashion maven.

Charlie is a “mature” playboy played almost unrecognisably, by Barry Humphries. I’ve known Barry since the Dame Edna days so it was a treat to make him into another character. He graciously went along with the full wig, moustache, tan and teeth. It was also great to make him into Edna for the shot in the swimming pool. Edna thrilled everyone!

What’s the most daft and ridiculous look you’ve ever created in all your time on ABFAB?
The looks all have to be within the realms of possibility.
Perhaps Miranda Hart with her mono brow and kabuki lips in the White Box episode. There has been loads of Bubble craziness. For the film I made some enormous wigs for the characters. All the makeup and hair is just so fun for all of us.

How did you end up designing makeup for film and TV, and how did ABFAB originally come to you?
I painted at Glasgow School Of Art back in the day and I was an art teacher and medical illustrator for a while which I enjoyed. There was a time when I thought perhaps I needed something that pushed me more.
I trained at the BBC, worked at BBC Scotland which was a great training ground in the 80s. It was a relatively small makeup department so I was thrown in at the deep end and loved it – still do! I worked on French and Saunders and Jennifer and I enjoyed each other so ABFAB was the next step. It’s great when you find someone as prolific as Jennifer who just trusts you.

What specific products are most used on the ABFAB set?
Generally it would be hairspray, powder, lipsticks. Some favourites were M·A·C Paint Pots in various colours, M·A·C Strobe Cream, M·A·C In Extreme Dimension Mascara, and M·A·C Lipstick in Russian Red.

Did you approach the makeup for the film differently to the TV show – not just technically but creatively?
The only difference I find is that in film, more people have an opinion about what you want to do. Really though, the core cast and crew have all worked together so many times that we trust that the end result will be good.
Technically, there’s no difference. High definition can be unforgiving on any scale so you just have to be on your game.

How important a part of Patsy’s character is her makeup?
I can’t claim to have much input with Patsy! Joanna does a brilliant job of her own makeup – always has- and I think she knows Patsy better than anyone. I think her hair is what makes her truly iconic and we do have a little hand in that.

If Patsy and Edina were allowed one product each, what do you think they would choose?
Patsy would have some type of enhancer loaded with whatever she is using – formaldehyde perhaps? Edina would choose anything free.

 

 

Image credits: DAVID APPLEBY/FOX SEARCHLIGHT

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