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Meet the wigmaker of Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio

Working Hollywood: Bob Kretschmer left rock 'n' roll behind to follow a longtime interest in creating hairpieces for movies and TV, where he's collaborated with some colorful characters.

August 23, 2013|By Cristy Lytal

"Pop star to wig star" — that's how Bob Kretschmer describes his unusual career path. The former member of the band Icehouse now works as an expert wig maker for films including Fox's "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" and Sony's "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones."

"I find the process is the same — music and wig making," he said. "Obviously, it's a different thing you're making, but it's very creative. It's very intense."

Kretschmer, 64, who was born in Australia, traces his fascination with music and hair all the way back to Elvis Presley. "As a kid, I always wanted to have hair like Elvis Presley and black hair, like a big bouffant," Kretschmer said. "And I could never get it. I just didn't have the look."

VIDEO: Bob Kretschmer - the wig maker

Lured by the music scene, he moved to London after high school. There, he met musicians and picked up wig making.

He landed a job teaching wig making to the hair and makeup department at the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but he quit to pursue music and tour with the rock band Icehouse during the 1980s. He eventually moved to Los Angeles and returned to wig making, creating his first film wig for Marlon Brando in 1994's "Don Juan DeMarco."

Since then, he's made wigs for Russell Crowe in 2001's "A Beautiful Mind," Tom Cruise in 2004's "Collateral," Johnny Depp in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, Leonardo diCaprio in 2012's "Django Unchained" and many others.

"The last wig I make will be the Elvis wig," he joked. "I don't know who the actor will be."

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To top it off: To make a wig, Kretschmer creates a cap of fine netting, which is fit to a mold of the actor's head. He performs an initial fitting to make sure the cap is comfortable and devises a detailed plan in consultation with the actor, producers and designers: which color and style the wig will be, how it will fall and swing, how much height it will have and how it will integrate with the actor's natural hairline. "You might use the front or parts of their hair, or you pull their hair through," he said. Then he sits down and ties strands of hair onto the netting, one by one.

Knotty and nice: According to Krestchmer, "there are about five, six classic knots that will give you a different quality or architecture for the wig." The trick is deciding which one to use when. For instance, with a split knot, "you get hair going in two directions, so then you get lift, and it looks very natural," he said.

Follow the rainbow: For most of his wigs, Kretschmer uses finely textured, non-chemically-treated hair from Eastern Europe. "Hair to me is like mirrors — it reflects color," he said. "It's very hard to dye hair and get some of these colors. From the top of the hair down to the bottom, it's going from dark to lighter. As a wigmaker, I know all the colors in there: there are greens, and there are blonds, and there are yellows. I'm inspired because with natural hair I see all the reflections of color. But if I have to deal with dyed hair, it's just not the same, and it's actually boring. I wouldn't do it. I've got to have those natural colors."

Good hair days: For the action-adventure movie "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," Kretschmer created locks for the stars Lily Collins and Lena Headey. "Lily Collins, her hair's very fine. She has lovely hair and all that sort of thing, but it would be too much work every day. They wanted her to have fuller hair, so a wig was decided on. And Lena, who played Lily's mother, had dark hair. They wanted to have a bit more red, and she wasn't prepared to dye her hair. So then a wig comes in."

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Hair today, gone tomorrow: By the time "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" went into reshoots, many of the actors had cut or changed their hair. It was up to Krestchmer to re-create their original looks. "There was a girl, and she had long hair. Her hair was beautiful and very soft. So it was a very difficult wig to make and match the color, but it was successful."

At his wig's end: For 1996's "The Island of Dr. Moreau," Marlon Brando did not wear his wig in the intended fashion. "I made this beautiful wig," Krestchmer said. "And he decided one day, instead of wearing the wig as it's meant to be, he just turned it upside down and plopped it on his head. He said, 'That's the way I want to wear the wig.' And you watch the movie, and there's an upside-down wig on Marlon. He's a fascinating character. I mean, I feel very privileged to have met someone like that. We spent many hours talking about the strangest things."


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