Inside Gossip: Aged to Perfection

Posted on by Larry

I get a ton of press releases every day. Many I post to the Latest News section of the Digital Production Buzz, so that you can keep up with what’s going on in our world. Others I just trash.

But every so often, one comes in that I want to share with you more directly. Like this one.

This morning, I received the following press release from Eric Philpott, at Philpott Communications. I was interested because this isn’t a part of the industry I cover very much, and because I found the story fascinating.

So, here it is – word for word as they sent it.


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How Academy Award Nominee Adrien Morot Created the Makeup for Barney’s Version

Montreal, Que: February 3, 2011. Adrien Morot, head of makeup and hair on Barney’s Version, has been nominated for an Academy Award(r) in makeup. The film, directed by Richard J. Lewis and starring Golden Globe winner and Academy Award(r) nominee Paul Giamatti, is based on the popular novel by the late Mordecai Richler. The story spans a 35-year period in the life of Barney Panofsky, a Montreal TV producer reflecting back on the events of his life. As the same actors were used throughout, makeup involved the significant challenge of gradually altering their appearance as they age in a way that is convincing for the audience but that remains subtle enough not to be distracting.

Along with supervising the entire makeup department on the film, a primary task for Morot and his team was aging the main characters over the course of the film using a combination of prosthetics, subtle makeup, hairstyling and artificial facial hair. Much of the effort was focused on Paul Giamatti, whose character starts out in his early 30s and reaches his late 60s by the end of the story. Others included Golden Globe and Academy Award(r) winner Dustin Hoffman, who plays Barney’s father and Rosemund Pike, who plays Miriam, Barney’s third wife.

“I’ve seen aging makeup done on other people I’ve worked with,” said Pike. “I usually feel that the person is submerged in some way under layers of substance, and loses something of their essence, no matter how effective the transformation was. What Adrien managed to do was give Paul and I faces from which we could look with our own eyes and through our own expressions, that supported us, rendered the ageing of the characters believable, but left the whole process unobtrusive.”

One of the challenges on Barney’s Version was keeping the makeup subtle enough to allow the actors to deliver a full range of emotions for this performance-driven piece. Morot stressed that collaborating closely with the actors was the key to achieving this.

“Adrien started by asking me what I thought Barney should look like and how I thought he should age,” said Giamatti. “He had a wonderful distinct makeup at the get-go, but he was amazingly collaborative, and intensely sensitive to what would help me act the part. And he was so fluid with his own design, shaping it, changing it, constantly refining it.”

“Paul is an incredible actor ” said Morot, “He really made our job easier and the makeup more convincing by portraying Barney perfectly at each stage of his life and I am really grateful for that. The same goes for Rosamund, who gave Miriam such class and elegance.”

And although the audiences may not notice it, Giamatti is wearing makeup with various prosthetics throughout much of the film. “The alcohol bloat and weight gain were so convincing, people thought I had gained weight for the part,” said Giamatti.

Barney’s Beards
The standard approach to creating an artificial beard is to use an appliance, which is much like a wig with a special lace backing glued to the skin. However, lace beards cannot stretch with the actor’s facial movements, and can limit the actor’s expressions. “Even at a subconscious level, the actor can’t be free to play his part if he is worried about his beard falling off,” said Morot. “During our first makeup test, Paul asked if there was anything else we could do so that he didn’t feel so restricted by the beard.”

Morot opted to craft the beard by hand using a combination of human and yak hair. Each tuft was painstakingly glued down and the beard was built up layer by layer. Then a curling iron was applied to give it the look of real facial hair. Finally, the beard was trimmed and styled. “When we did the second makeup test with the new beard, no one realized it was fake. Paul was thrilled because without the lace backing, the beard moved with his skin. This was vital because it allowed him to feel natural and focus on giving his best performance without any distractions.”

Morot was able to apply Giamatti’s beard in under 30 minutes, from a total of the 2 hours and 15 minutes allotted for his prosthetic makeup application.

Aging Gracefully
Aging the character of Miriam, the love of Barney’s life, presented other challenges.

“I know I do not have the easiest face to age,” said Pike. “I think women in general, with a different quality of skin, are harder to age than men and Adrien had to be particularly subtle and inventive in his approach. He aged Miriam and then concealed the aging cosmetically, as any woman would. Adrien matched the skin tone of the prosthetics on my eyelids, cheeks and neck to my own, and then made the tone of my whole face uneven, as if it was aged. Then he concealed some of the aging with ‘beauty makeup.’ As a result Miriam had a face that was layered and real.”

Morot said that he was floored by the Oscar(r) nomination. “I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet,” he said. “It’s a tremendous honour and I’m deeply thankful.”

Produced by Serendipity Point Films in association with Fandango, and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, Barney’s Version premiered at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. The film stars Paul Giamatti, along with Dustin Hoffman, Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver, Mark Addy, Rachelle Lafevre and Scott Speedman. The producer was Robert Lantos. Barney’s Version opened in theatres in December 2010.

About Adrien Morot
With over 20 years of experience in the makeup effects industry and having worked on over 100 feature film and broadcast projects, Adrien Morot has established his company as one of the leading fabricators of makeup effects in the field. For more information visit

One Response to Inside Gossip: Aged to Perfection

  1. Dustin Ebsen says:

    Hey Larry,
    We have spoken a few times at a DV Expo or two and I took one of your FCP seminars up in the bay area a while back. I read your blog and heard your Biz pod-cast. Due to work, I did not get to see the FCP-X preview but have read a lot about the showing. Here are my concerns from someone with 25+ years of editing experience, cutting on everything from a Movieola to linear online tape controllers like CMX and GVG-51 to Avid and FCP7. I am also certified level II in Motion 4 so I am no stranger to new interfaces. I have also toured Apple’s then “Media Lab” in the early 1990s as a consultant for C-Cube Microsystems during the early stages of Quicktime development.

    You said you can not talk about the deep black truths about FCP-X because of NDAs but here are my concerns to the powers in the ether.

    I do a lot of online finish work on Avid and FCP7 in LA and I see many timelines and they do not scare me no matter how screwed up the offline editor was. At the Apple FCP-X pre-view the designer had shown a timeline from FCP7 of multiple video audio tracks with clips kind of all-over the place and said it was confusing, then he displayed a new FCP-X timeline and said “… now this makes more sense.” It reminded me of the old Media100 one window interface and the pitch line that sure the video was completely uncompressed but the interface was unusable.
    So does this mean there are only two video and two audio track visible at all times? All additional tracks or clips in the timeline are nested? It looks that way and oh great your clip will be placed magically or should I say magnetically in the timeline where IT thinks it should go. My experience with auto anything is… please allow me to TURN IT OFF. I love FCP7 with all it’s quarks and great plug-ins. I want to see the timeline and ALL THE CLIPS in their relationship to timing and tracks. I want all the third party plugins to work. I want a better machine control interface with a moving timecode window and a frikin eject button. Sixty-four bit is great, background rendering is ok but not a game changer. The color correction improvements, I will have to wait and see but if they can give it secondary presets like Color or Avid Symphony that would rock.

    You said Apple wanted feedback from the industry but a room full of 1700 half drunk editors, executives and journalists does not constitute even a fraction of the FCP user base. How do I get my concerns and suggestions across? Will there be more open houses in Hollywood or NY facilities to get more feedback? If not… if Apple in their “go it alone”, we know what is best philosophy is just going to come out with what they think the industry wants, then I just have two words for them: CLASSIC MODE.

    Thank you for your time.

    Most sincerely,
    Dustin Ebsen

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