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Hollywood's great-hair day

Once a year, it's all about celebrating the work done by members of the Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild.

January 16, 2004|Lisa Rosen | Special to the Times

It may be the only Hollywood awards show this year in which "The Cat in the Hat" is nominated for three awards, while "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" is up for just one. And certainly the only one in which "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Daredevil" are competing against "The Human Stain."

The show in question is the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, held Saturday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Although the gala is black tie, the feeling is by no means formal. "The event is quite larky," said Lois Burwell, makeup nominee on "The Last Samurai." "You can walk past people you worked with on a film and not recognize them because they don't have their parka on and their waterproof clothing and that tired drained look that we all have when we're working."

While makeup is relegated to one award at the Oscars (and hair styling gets none) the guild's awards celebrate the artists' work in a wide variety of categories in film and television, with one award for work in live theater. Nominees liken it to the Screen Actors Guild awards for actors, a more thorough recognition of work awarded by one's peers in the business. And nominations for work on such films as "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White, and Blonde" prove that great artistry doesn't always take place in great movies; there is no snobbery in these awards.

Period, character and contemporary makeup and hair styling awards are given for film and television work, and there is one combined award for live theater. Donald Mowat, a contemporary makeup nominee for "The Human Stain," pointed out that although "it can be an incredibly rewarding career, it can also be quite thankless at times." But on this night, he and his colleagues are the ones in the spotlight. "Like the valet in 'Upstairs Downstairs,' you spend a life supporting someone, making them look appropriate, and then for one night it's all about you," he said.

For this night, anyway, the stars turn out in supporting roles. Tom Hanks will hand out a lifetime achievement award to makeup artist Daniel Streipeke, who worked with Hanks on "Catch Me If You Can," "Castaway" and "Road to Perdition," among others. Streipeke also worked on such films as the original "Planet of the Apes," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Deer Hunter." Lucy Liu will present a lifetime achievement award to hair stylist Colleen Callaghan, who worked on such films as "Broadcast News," "Sleepless in Seattle," "Down With Love" and "Charlie's Angles: Full Throttle," which co-starred Liu.

In addition to Hanks, Liu and Nicolas Cage -- winner of this year's Barrymore Award, given annually to an actor whose body of work has had an effect on hair and makeup artistry -- a slew of celebrity presenters will be on hand, and entire television casts have been known to turn out for their artists. "This is the one group that can get on the phone and get stars to come," Mowat said.

That's only part of what makes the event so much fun. Burwell loves both the Academy Awards and the guild's awards, but one show is clearly more relaxed than the other. "At the Oscars, you can only have a laugh when it's over," said Burwell, an Oscar winner for "Braveheart." "I felt sick every time the picture came up." At the guild event, she said, "it isn't about being anxious; it's about enjoying each others' work."

The Oscars have been giving out one award for makeup since 1984's winner "Amadeus." As a courtesy, the makeup nominees share the award with the hair styling department. The nominees agree that a separate award for hair styling is overdue. "I don't care how brilliant it is," said Donna Lou Henderson, makeup nominee and past Guild winner for the HBO series "Six Feet Under." "Makeup cannot stand on its own without a phenomenal hairdresser, then that hairdresser needs to be acknowledged." Martin Samuel, hair styling nominee for "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," added, "Special effects makeup should have its own category as well, because it's so powerful."

The nominees found much to appreciate in this year's crop of movies. Everyone who didn't work on "Pirates" praised it to the skies for its innovation and audacity. "Master and Commander," "Seabiscuit" and "Cat in the Hat" were also lauded.

Although the nominees are quick to admire their colleagues' efforts, none cares to judge any less-than-stellar work from the past year. They know it's not always the artists' fault when bad hair happens to good movies. There's nothing an artist can do when a star or director insists on a particular look. Besides, they're all more comfortable focusing on the positive: black-tie dinner in a ballroom, a night of celebrating their uncelebrated comrades, a good gift bag. Henderson conjures up memories of that other awards show when she speaks of the joy of winning an award from her peers. "I feel like Sally Field: They like me, they really like me."

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