At its heart, House of Gucci is a story of transformation. A working class girl transforms herself into the first lady of a powerful fashion family. Love twists into contempt and greed. And a family descends into betrayal and murder.
Telling this story also required the transformation of two of its best-known faces: Lady Gaga into Patrizia Reggiani, wife of Maurizio Gucci, and Jared Leto into Maurizio’s cousin, Paolo. And, even though the actors were depicting real people, the hair and makeup team faced the challenge of a lack of source material.
"Patrizia Reggiani is not a celebrity," hairstylist Frederic Aspiras shares with A.frame. "So the photos that are out there are not the kind that you can use to tell a story that spans three decades."
Hair and makeup artists Anna Carin Lock and Göran Lundström faced a similar challenge in using wigs and prosthetics to make Jared Leto into a heavyset and balding Paolo Gucci. "We had a few pictures, but not that many," Lock remembers. "Göran and Jared had been sending photos back and forth to each other, and then Göran would share them with me, and we found one that we all liked."
Lock, Lundström, and Aspiras are nominated for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. This is Lundström's second nomination; he was previously nominated for the 2018 fantasy thriller Border. This is the first nomination for Lock and Aspiras.
Lady Gaga is known as a chameleon, and she spent nearly a year working tirelessly to disappear into the character of Patrizia. For Aspiras, her hairstylist of more than a decade, the process was no less intense. In the end, to tell a story that spanned nearly 20 years, he created 54 separate hairstyles and looks.
"I know, it sounds like a lot," he says, but insists each one was necessary to tell such an ambitious story in a way that wasn’t confusing to the audience.
"Because this was a film – not a music video – it had to tell the story, a story that had a purpose and an authenticity to it," Aspiras explains. "We created a lab to develop all of the styling that would take place for [Gaga’s character]. We worked very closely with Ridley Scott, the director, and Janty Yates, the costume designer, in creating all 54 of these looks."
Due to the lack of reference photos for Patrizia, however, Aspiras had to take a more anthropological approach. He conducted interviews and did exhaustive research, almost as if the film were a documentary.
"I wanted to find out what the culture was like for an Italian woman at that time. What the influences would be, the music that she listened to, the movies that she watched, where she lived, what her class status was." From all of that research, he created a 400-page directory of looks before they arrived in Rome to begin shooting. That gave the entire team a shared foundation from which to work.
In contrast to the nearly one year that Aspiras spent in the lab, Lock (the makeup artist and wig designer) had only one night to get the hair for Leto’s Paolo perfect. Though not too perfect.
"I love all the hairstyles Frederic has done. They were amazing," Lock says. "But with Jared, we went the opposite way, to make him a bit messy. That was what Ridley said to me on set. 'I want him more messy!' So, it’s completely in the other direction – which I think, in a way, was good with him. It suits that character a lot."
She met Leto for the first time the day before they began shooting and immediately realized that his long hair meant the wig and bald cap that they had pre-made were going to be too small.
"We had that fitting in the afternoon. When Göran left at 9 p.m., I realized it was still missing pieces to make it work." When he arrived back on set at 5 a.m. the following day, Lock was just finishing.
"I’m quite used to making a jigsaw out of a wig," Lock says, laughing. "It was just a bit hectic. Even during the shooting days – I never stopped knitting on that wig."
Aspiras chimes in, "We never saw Anna Carin; she was always in the trailer – ventilating wigs!"
Making sure that Paolo looked believable was paramount to both Lock and Lundström.
"We really wanted it to feel natural since no one else in the film has prosthetics," Lock said.
Time was also a factor for Lundström. "I had like 3-4 days. I did a three-piece bald cap, which isn’t the way you would normally do it, but I needed that flexibility."
"The one thing I tried to do was not to think too much about the fact that this was a Ridley Scott movie full of famous actors, and this was the only prosthetic in the film," he says. "Because once you start thinking like that, you get really nervous."
Lundström explains that character, more than historical accuracy, informed the choices they made for Leto’s look. When they studied photos, he says, “I tried to see what was hidden. What was his character type? And how can I get that on Jared?”
The key to creating a natural, believable look with prosthetics is, according Lundström, to not fall in love with your work.
"If you fall in love with it, there’s probably something there that’s not real – it’s more stylized. I’m always trying to sit and go, 'Does it feel like a real person? Or, do I really like it?' If I really like it, if I have feelings for it, it’s more… a piece of art."
The 94th Oscars will be held on Sunday, March 27, starting at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET and televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide.