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Friday, April 15, 2022

‘X’ Hair & Makeup Designer Sarah Rubano on Transforming Mia Goth into Pearl

Ti West’s delivered gnarly kills and unforgettable characters, both villains and protagonists alike. 

At the forefront of it all is actress Mia Goth, who plays not one, but two lead roles in the ’70s set slasher. Goth’s Maxine is the aspiring actress looking for fame, but Goth’s unrecognizable portrayal of Pearl is less obvious. The aged villainess covets Maxine’s youth and beauty, creating a unique duality.

Ahead of X‘s PVOD release this Thursday, Hair & Makeup Designer Sarah Rubano chatted with Bloody Disgusting about her role on set, designing the colorful characters, and the complicated makeup and prosthetics application process for Maxine and Pearl.

Rubano detailed how she got involved with the production.

“I have a close working relationship with Richard Taylor and Weta Workshop, and they always put me forward for any of their heavy makeup jobs. And as a makeup and hair head of the department here in New Zealand, they suggested that I do the whole thing, everything from the special effects makeup through the straight makeup and the hair design.

“It was presented to me as a very ambitious project with a very short preparation timeline and incredible opportunity. I’m a sucker for any creative challenge. So, of course, I jumped at it. Especially, I read the script. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great. I want to be a part of this.’

“I met with Ti West, of course, and [producer] Jacob Jaffke and hit it off with the guys. Ti is so detail-oriented, and he wanted his characters to be larger than life. He wanted the gore effects to be larger than life. More is more. It was all a visual feast; that’s what I saw it as. We just started talking about how we would achieve it in this tiny little timeline. That was the beginning.”

On the Character Designs

The artist detailed the extensive process of designing and then testing the character designs, pushing them to their limits.

“With Howard [Stephen Ure‘s character] and Pearl, Weta Workshop and the wonderful team there, like Stephen Crowe– who was in charge of the 2D design concept- they had already started fleshing out some ideas about what these two villains would look like. When I jumped on board, that process had already started.

“Once I came on and worked closely with Jason Docherty, who manages and designs the prosthetics within Weta Workshop, we just started figuring out, ‘Okay, how will these actors lend themselves to these designs, their natural attributes? How will that all work in accordance with these concepts? How far do we want it to go into monster? And how far do we need to pull back into a more human look? How far did we want to take the monster concept?'”

Rubano revealed that Goth also gave input on her characters:

“It was a wonderful unfolding with those characters. I think that Mia wanted the audience to connect more with Pearl in a human way instead of being disgusted and freaked out by her. So, we scaled back the more monster attributes.

“Now with all the other characters, like Maxine and her freckles and her eyeshadow, Bobby-Lynne and her Dolly Parton, outrageous bombshell look, Kid Cudi, all of those characters, I just worked with Ti back and forth. He said, ‘Listen, I want to make them beautifully colorful. I want you to lean into the aesthetic here.’

We did weeks and weeks of testing. Once the actors arrived in New Zealand, it was just a series of tests. What I like to do as a designer is to push it, push it until I break it. Then we scale back a little bit. That’s how I do it. I want to know where’s that line. How far can we go? When it’s like, ‘Oh, geez, that’s way too much,’ then we come back a little bit.

Maxine’s Freckles

Maxine’s freckles around one eye are a noticeable character trait that specifically plays into her arc. When asked about this, Rubano explained the evolution of the birthmark and the tricky nature of consistency.

Ti wanted Maxine to be beautifully different and unique and felt that a birthmark or something of that nature would lend itself to that concept. Now, as far as her freckles go, we did all kinds of testing. We tested everything. At one point, I was testing a wine stain birthmark versus a freckly, spotted type birthmark. We played with the wine stain concept.

“But ultimately, the real challenge for me would be to get those freckles to look the same every day because it’s a whole spattering of freckles, with one little area that’s got a little bit of a birthmark. What we did was I had a vacuform stencil created on her lifecast.

“It was a plate that fit right over her face. And I had all these tiny little holes drilled in it so that I could put the stencil over her face and then airbrush the freckles in place. I pulled the stencil off, and there they were, ready to go. We hit our mark every day, which is what the hope and dream was.”

Pearl’s Complex Makeup Application

Of course, the most impressive makeup of all belongs to Pearl, and the application process proved to be an undertaking. Rubano detailed the extensive work that brought the antagonist to life on screen.

“During the sculpting process is when you start determining how thin the prosthetics pieces need to be in what areas. In some areas, the prosthetics were tissue paper thin. And some areas, they were quite chunky. We needed to build up the cheeks to make Howard look a little gaunter and to build up the chin a little bit, add a bump to the nose.

“It was working with the sculptors and Jason Docherty to figure out how the weight and the application and the visual were all going to work to give us a successful overall look. Once we have a perfect sculpture and love it, that sculpture has to be broken up into little pieces. I had 30 individual pieces to apply when [Goth] was in the full arms.

“There were days we were able to cheat the arms. But when [Goth] was in the full arms, there were 30 individual prosthetic appliances to apply on the day. That’s a hell of a thing. It was a real dance between a whole team of us. We tried to keep the same people doing the same thing, so there was a familiarity and a nice flow. We got her in and out as fast as we could.

“It was six-plus hours on some days, depending on if we were in the full arms. It was very challenging. I think we all dug real deep to get there. Mia was in the makeup a dozen-plus times as Pearl. When she wasn’t in the makeup as Pearl, we had a young lady who was her Maxine double, also wearing the Pearl makeup. We had a double that we were making up as Pearl on the days where they were in scenes together, Pearl and Maxine.”

With follow-up movie Pearl already shot and in post-production, it begged whether Rubano stayed on for the prequel. She answered with a tease, “I was the same makeup and hair designer. We had a continuity. All I have to say is if you liked X, you’re going to love Pearl.”

Ti West’s X slashed onto VOD on April 14, 2022.

The post ‘X’ Hair & Makeup Designer Sarah Rubano on Transforming Mia Goth into Pearl appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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