The 2014 Oscars are on their way, and many critics believe that Dallas Buyers Club stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are shoo-ins for the top acting prizes. A key part of their performances was their shocking physical transformations, and make-up artist Robin Mathews is also nominated for her work on the film. Robin chatted with OKMagazine.com to explain the secrets behind her incredible efforts.
1. You shouldn’t notice make-up in a movie.
“I tend to specialize in the realism a little bit more, especially for Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve been told that it doesn’t look like the actors have make-up on, they just look really sick. And that’s such a wonderful compliment, to me. If you notice the makeup in a film, it takes you out of the movie, and then I haven’t done my job properly.”
2. She has some very cool tricks up her sleeve.
“One of my favorite things to do is a lot of research, and talk to the actors, and discuss what subtle things we can do that will make a difference. One is John Cusack, in The Paperboy, he played a murderous killer who lives in a swamp. People would look at him on set, even the crew members, and would get an uncomfortable feeling—you couldn’t figure out what was going on. I had him wear one black contact in his eye. He had one light brown eye, and one super dark brown eye. You couldn’t tell what was going on, you just knew something wasn’t right about him.”
3. She has never met the real Jared Leto, as he stayed in character as Rayon for the entire shoot. Even when getting his eyebrows waxed off!
“I have no idea what Jared Leto is like. He was in the make-up chair five, sometimes six hours a day, back and forth, but even spending that much time in a tiny trailer, he never dropped it… I’ll tell you a funny story. She sat down in the makeup chair, and we’re just kind of getting to know each other, and I ask, ‘What do you think about waxing off all of your eyebrows?’ And she said, ‘Well yes, I’ve already waxed my entire body, so let’s do it!’ I didn’t quite have her confidence yet, she was still trying to figure me out. So I heat up the wax, put it on her brows, and go, ‘Okay, I’m going to do this in one fell swoop!’ Jared Leto, as a person, has really nice eyebrows. So I go to rip it off, and she grabs my arm and says [in Southern woman’s voice], ‘Try to make it quick!’ Luckily, they came off in one fell swoop, and I had her confidence after that.”
4. Jared Leto’s interpretation of his character influenced the make-up.
“I wasn’t sure where we were going to go with her until she showed up on set and I got to meet her, and I quickly realized she is, you know, a drug addict and a hustler, but that is not the main thing about her. She is an amazing hot mess that still reaches for fabulousness in her mind at all times. She knows who she is. That’s when we started having a lot of fun… I thought she’d be influenced by actresses of the ’60s, because that’s when her mom was in her hey day. I’d bring pictures of [Brigitte] Bardot, and Twiggy, Samantha from Bewitched. And she’d be influenced by stars of the 1980s, so I’d bring Dolly Parton, Pat Benatar. I’d ask, ‘What do you think of this today?'”
5. The movie was shot in around three weeks, and the actors would have to be different levels of ill multiple times a day.
“We shot the film in 23 days. It was so quick. Additionally, there was no sitting around. The director shoots without lighting, so the camera is always ready to roll. We had a lot of makeup changes; the schedule would call for their unhealthiest look, then a 25lb weight gain with their healthiest look. Sometimes they’d switch back and forth five times in a single day.”
6. They were too busy to think about awards buzz.
“We had no time to think about stuff like that. Being that I never met Jared, I met Rayon, I knew both she and Matthew were going places with this film. The weight loss, yes, was a very big deal. To watch them suffer through starvation was difficult to watch, but super motivating for us, to make sure we did the best job that we could do. I didn’t stop to think about it, but if I had I wouldn’t have a doubt that they’d be getting every single award this season. They’re exactly where they should be.”
7. She researched with an AIDs expert to depict every level of the illness.
“I researched with a wonderful doctor, Dr. David Hardy, who was the head of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Health. He sent photos and we spent a lot of time on the phone talking about the physical effects of full-blown AIDS, the different stages. Patients get really skeletal in the face, that’s probably the number one. They lose a lot of muscle mass everywhere. They develop a rash, almost like a rosacea or psoriasis, with yellow pustules. And of course they get lesions, and those happen all over the body. Matthew and I jumped in together. Both he and Jared were advocates of the process the whole way through. We really sat down together and made a breakdown of when he goes from one level of sickness to another level of sickness.”
8. Making someone look like they’re dying of AIDS takes a lot of make-up.
“The first stage of what I would do is make them pale, [with] makeup product all over their entire bodies to make them pale. Then I would go in and contour all the bones in the face, especially underneath the cheekbones, to make the temples recess, to make their eyeballs look sunken in. The next level of sickness would be to highlight these contours to make the bones look even more protruding. The bones that I couldn’t see, I would look at reference photos of skulls and I’d draw them in with makeup, so we did see them. I would highlight and contour veins in the face, because if you have no fat then your veins poke out. Of course, making the rash and lesions was the final stage.”
9. Like Jared Leto, Robin is definitely/probably going to win the Oscar (she’s up against Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa and The Lone Ranger).
“It’ always been my number-one dream to have an Oscar nomination. I’ve just accomplished the goal of my life. When it happens, it’s absolutely surreal and strange and beautiful. I couldn’t be happier about it. The thing that’s really cool is, I have a prequel for the rest of my life, which is Oscar nominee. No matter what, that’s always going to come before my name.”
Did you see Dallas Buyers Club? What did you think about the make-up? Do you think Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are going to win Oscars? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @OKMagazine.