“Everything Everywhere All At Once” Hair & Makeup Team on Creating Looks For Every Dimension
Who among us hasn’t danced with alternate life paths in daydreams while battling a case of the doldrums? Even a universe-ending adventure seems more glamorous some days than completing one more trivial tax form. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a superhero story for the everyman. Each variation in style represents an entirely different life the characters might have lived.
Hair department head Anissa E. Salazar and makeup department head Michelle Chung created styles that spun the characters through a dazzling display of “what ifs” and “could have beens.” Each look was a glamorous fantasy ranging from funky to surreal. Yet at the heart of the film was the relatable Wang family, trying to navigate their own reality.
“It was important to keep these characters as authentic as possible, so the audience really felt like they understood and knew the struggles of these characters,” Salazar explained.
“We’ve all seen Michelle Yeoh in so many roles where she’s beautiful and powerful, and her character, Evelyn, is supposed to be the worst version of herself, so I really wanted to make sure she looked overworked and tired and didn’t have time to take care of herself,” Chung added.
Throughout the film’s journey, the characters grew beyond their established perceptions and learned to see each other in new and unexpected ways. One of the most heartbreaking depictions was Evelyn’s renewed attraction to her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) – if only he were a little bit different.
Nailing the contrast was critical for Salazar and Chung. “As far as makeup, we really wanted Waymond to be as natural and real as possible in the main universe,” Chung described. “We really just made sure he had good skin prep and almost no makeup on for the main Waymond character, especially in comparison to the movie star world, where we wanted him to look flawless and suave.”
“Ke is so lovely to work with,” Salazar said. “For hair, we added a few greys by hand daily to age him slightly. And for his flashbacks, he used a wig.”
Tenderness between spouses who have lost their spark is sweet, but a love between the hero and the villain is a savory shock. Far and away, the most talked about alternate universe in the film is “hot dog hands” where everyone has long, floppy sausage fingers. Yet inside the comedic capsule is a sweet sentiment – in another world, we could have been friends. Enemies in this dimension, Evelyn and the bureaucrat from hell, Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), find that there was a potential for them to be partners in another life. One of the most inspired design decisions of the film was to repurpose Deirdre’s hacked-off hairdo into a gesture of love.
“We thought it would be sweet if they had extreme similarities,” Salazar noted. “So naturally, the matching haircuts and style were a must!”
“The wigs were such a brilliant way to have them feel like a couple – one of those couples that are starting to look like each other,” Chung added. “Once the wigs went on, and the costumes and the set design, it all really came together as this beautiful story with hot dog hands!”
Ultimately, Evelyn cannot find peace in this journey until she comes to understand the most complex being in the universe – her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu). Joy’s alter ego, Jobu Tupaki, has the most versatile style with versions ranging from Pink Elvis to Goth Sailor Moon.
The culmination of all her pain and pressures manifests itself in the most sophisticated look of the film. The bagel universe is the summit of Joy/Jobu’s emotional hierarchy. It’s a stable and serene plateau where the shape-shifting character finally sheds the distractions and reveals her soul. The regal braids and pearl tears open Jobu to being more than a villain.
“It really did start for me with the costume,” Chung shared. “Shirley Kurata, the amazing costume designer, would show us looks as they developed, and she brought me some pearls one day and said she was going to put them all over the costume, so I wanted to tie in the pearls into her makeup as well. I also knew the space they were going to be in was going to be ethereal and all-white, so I really wanted her makeup to reflect that as well. This whole movie was a huge collaboration between everyone, especially with hair and costumes; we synced up quickly and just clicked. We just seemed to share ideas and always be on the same page, which was so lovely.”
That process happened on a collapsed timeline with a shooting schedule of only eight weeks. “That bagel hair was trial and error but sped up because we didn’t have much time!” Salazar revealed. “I tried playing with villainous looks, but it didn’t feel original. Finally, I landed on the hero look being complex, just how the character’s emotions are at that moment in the script.”
Filled with action and absurdity, Everything Everywhere All at Once goes to the ends of the universe – every universe – to find its way back home again. There’s an undeniable allure to the idea that our mundane lives could take a turn at any moment if we only choose to eat the chapstick.
“I think for me, at the root of this crazy adventurous multiverse rollercoaster of a movie is a simple story about a family,” Chung observed. “I really wanted to make sure that the family felt like real people that you might actually know. They had to look real, flawed and raw, like life, and then in comparison, have crazy beautiful looks in other universes.”
For more on Everything Everywhere All At Once, check out these stories:
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” Producer Jonathan Wang on Making an Oscar Juggernaut
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” Actress Stephanie Hsu on Landing the Role of a Lifetime
Featured image: Stephanie Hsu is Joy Wang/Jobu Tupaki in “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”