Watch Career Timeline | ‘Joker’ Make-Up Artist Breaks Down Her Career | Vanity Fair Video

00:00 When the producers came to me and asked me, 00:02 hey, by the way,

00:00

When the producers came to me and asked me,

00:02

hey, by the way, in a few months

00:04

we’re gonna do this other job and make sure you’re available

00:07

And then when I found out it was the Joker,

00:08

I was like, oh my God, the Joker,

00:10

How the hell am I gonna do that?

00:12

I approach it like painting to make people interesting

00:16

rather than beautiful.

00:18

Hi, this is Nicki Lederman.

00:20

And this is the timeline of my career.

00:25

I wanted to be an opera singer,

00:26

and I went to a performing high school

00:29

of the arts in Germany, in Munich.

00:33

And I truly thought I would become a musician.

00:35

When I saw the exorcist, that was really my turning point,

00:40

because, when I saw just Linda Blair’s head turn,

00:45

and I was like, how the hell did they do that?

00:47

Or American Werewolf in London,

00:49

like this whole incredible rig that Rick Baker built

00:53

and got an Oscar for, with that wolf,

00:55

coming out of the guy’s mouth.

00:57

It was just so magical to me that I was like,

01:01

how did they do that?

01:03

The artistry in it,

01:04

the emotions that it makes you feel, all that stuff,

01:08

that’s all created by makeup,

01:10

I thought it was so fascinating,

01:12

And I couldn’t stop thinking about these,

01:14

scenes in all these cool movies that I saw

01:16

when I was, in my teens.

01:18

I thought like, they don’t make movies here like that,

01:21

I would have to go to America.

01:22

I was 20 years old, and I left my home

01:25

to live the American dream.

01:27

My boyfriend at the time had this great idea,

01:29

why don’t you just go to NYU, put fliers out,

01:33

for the film students offering your services,

01:36

doing makeup on their thesis films.

01:37

And that’s exactly what I did,

01:39

and the kids were so excited,

01:41

and we all kind of rose up together.

01:43

My very first paid job, I shall say,

01:47

was on a small TV show, that was shot in Boston,

01:50

called Against the Law.

01:52

That show ran for I think only a season,

01:56

and we came back to New York.

01:58

It was such great timing because, early 90s then,

02:01

we had this amazing, independent movie scene in New York.

02:05

So my friend Derek, he called me up and said,

02:08

listen, my buddy from NYU,

02:11

he’s directing this really amazing movie,

02:13

it’s called Palookaville.

02:15

And he said, you have to work on this film,

02:17

the script is amazing.

02:19

So I met with the director,

02:20

and it’s funny because I walked in,

02:22

we met at Bobby’s in Tribeca,

02:25

and I saw him sitting at this little corner booth,

02:29

and I looked at him and I’m like,

02:31

I’m gonna marry that guy.

02:32

Turns out, we did get married,

02:33

and we did have three kids together.

02:36

So working on Palookaville was like,

02:38

my first experience of like, a real movie.

02:41

The movie was a beautiful movie

02:44

that we were all really proud of.

02:46

It won awards, it was like,

02:48

my first movie that I’ve done,

02:50

that I really was very proud of.

02:52

That little movie not only was a stepping stone

02:54

into a really amazing career,

02:56

but having three beautiful children.

03:00

When I heard that Todd Solondz,

03:02

who previously directed Welcome to the Dollhouse,

03:05

was doing another movie, I thought like,

03:06

oh, this is great, I would love to work on it,

03:08

he’s such a funny, quirky, smart, talented guy.

03:12

So they sent me the script,

03:14

[laughs] and when I was reading the script,

03:16

I was like, oh, my God, I thought it was so ballsy,

03:21

so brave, I need to be part of it.

03:24

That was like a wild experience that I’m grateful I had.

03:28

My taste in the contributions,

03:31

that I am giving to in my work,

03:34

is I wanna show the beauty,

03:36

in what people don’t wanna recognize

03:39

or people don’t wanna deal with or people look down upon.

03:45

It’s that maternal instinct

03:46

that I had even before having children

03:49

to help make the underdog shine.

03:52

I just broke up with my fiance, which trust me,

03:55

is traumatic enough.

03:58

And now I have 25 days,

04:01

to either find the money to buy my place,

04:04

or I am out on the street.

04:06

When I started Sex and the City.

04:07

It was a complete shift of working in the gritty reality

04:11

and turning everything into the high fashion world,

04:14

that is special, that is art,

04:17

because fashion, if you think about it, is art.

04:20

And that really helped me and my team

04:22

to come up with really pretty beauty looks,

04:25

for our girls that are not as conventional.

04:29

What our goal was, to be the trendsetters

04:31

and not being the followers of the trendsetters.

04:34

What we try to do, to try not to keep it as superficial,

04:38

as fashion sometimes seems to be,

04:41

is that the looks that we created

04:44

are not looks that are unachievable.

04:47

You have magazines where people are airbrushed

04:50

and nothing is really real that you see.

04:52

What we did was trying to create cool looks for everybody.

04:57

It doesn’t matter if you pretty,

04:58

it doesn’t matter if you’re supermodel,

05:00

everybody can have those looks.

05:02

And we put the emphasis of uniqueness rather than beauty,

05:06

which I thought was very interesting and very important,

05:08

because, even the clothes, the hair, the makeup,

05:10

it wasn’t always like gorgeous,

05:12

but it certainly was unique.

05:14

And that was really the thing that kept us

05:17

from like dropping into that superficialness,

05:20

because the uniqueness is an expression of personality,

05:22

it’s an expression of character, and anybody can do that,

05:28

anybody, and I have to say,

05:29

working with all my friends on that show,

05:31

we all kinda grew up on that show.

05:33

We all had children on that show.

05:34

It was like an incredible, incredible run.

05:38

And that was really my breaking point,

05:40

when I thought to myself, I made it as a makeup artist,

05:44

because of Sex and the City.

05:46

Do you have any other income besides the column?

05:50

No, but I was chosen as New York Magazine’s,

05:53

best pick for city columnist,

05:55

Good, now can be saucy.

05:58

When we were filming Bettie Page,

06:00

as a makeup artist, I had a few challenges.

06:03

We were shooting most of it in black and white,

06:05

and some of it in color.

06:06

And when you shoot black and white,

06:09

your application of makeup in terms of colors

06:12

are very different.

06:14

When you shoot color,

06:16

and you put like a really pretty red lipstick on,

06:20

But when you put a red lipstick on, on black and white,

06:22

it doesn’t look like sometimes anything

06:25

or sometimes it looks black.

06:27

You have to really test all the colors

06:30

that you’re going to be using,

06:31

and shoot it on black and white,

06:33

so you know, what it’s going to look like.

06:35

So you really had to experiment and practice a lot

06:39

in terms of color application, to get the shade right.

06:43

What is really important is that,

06:45

you research what people actually really look like,

06:48

Great Bettie, great.

07:01

When we did, Devil Wears Prada,

07:03

Anne Hathaway character, Andrea,

07:05

had a really lovely evolution, from the frumpy, normal,

07:12

not caring about fashion kinda look,

07:14

into this high fashion vogue girl.

07:19

And that was really fun, because you get to play,

07:22

you get to try different things,

07:23

you really change a look of a person,

07:26

but the trick is really,

07:27

that you have to keep the essence the same.

07:30

You can’t just make somebody look completely different,

07:33

because no matter how much a person changes,

07:36

the essence has to still be there.

07:39

And in creating a makeup look,

07:40

I felt the essence that I tried to keep in her,

07:43

is a little bit of that innocence in her,

07:46

by not overdoing it.

07:48

So you kinda have to find the essence of that character,

07:51

and try to keep that throughout the whole movie,

07:53

otherwise, the change of the character is not believable.

07:57

That movie was really fun, because we had Valentino there

07:59

and we created one of Valentino’s fashion shows,

08:02

and that was really fun.

08:03

That was a really great movie

08:05

about fashion, and makeup, and hair.

08:09

And at the same time, there was a lesson in this,

08:11

and we wanted to make sure that,

08:12

that lesson is not lessened by overdoing it.

08:17

I couldn’t do what you did to Nigel, Miranda,

08:19

I couldn’t do something like that.

08:29

When we worked on Enchanted,

08:31

we had this amazing scene,

08:33

that was taking place in the ballroom.

08:36

Where Amy Adams had this gorgeous purply dress on,

08:40

and I was so excited, I thought like,

08:42

oh, I’m gonna make you look so gorgeous.

08:44

I was so excited, this is the ballroom scene,

08:47

like Cinderella’s ballroom scene.

08:49

And so I did my thing and we went down to set,

08:52

and I realized, oh my God, what is this lighting?

08:56

And oh my God, I should have checked first,

08:59

because you know what, lighting is so incredibly important

09:03

to my work as a makeup artist

09:05

because it can break everything.

09:08

And when Amy arrived on set,

09:11

my gorgeous makeup was completely washed out and erased.

09:15

I didn’t recognize the colors in her face.

09:18

She looked like she had like, nothing on her face.

09:20

And I’m like, we can’t shoot her like that,

09:23

she looks like a washed out little girl.

09:26

I have to take her back into the makeup room.

09:28

And so I had to adjust her makeup,

09:30

with colors that I would never put on her normally.

09:33

But I had to adjust the colors,

09:36

so they can register in the light

09:39

that they were using for that ballroom scene.

09:41

So I put like this crazy color,

09:44

weird kinda purply pink on her lips,

09:47

and like gave her this strange blush,

09:49

that looked ridiculous in real life,

09:52

but on set it looked beautiful.

09:54

And that was my big lesson,

09:56

and I should have known better

09:57

because I’m trained for that, right?

10:00

That I need to make sure,

10:02

that I know exactly what the lighting is on set

10:04

because the makeup can really look horrendous,

10:08

if I don’t compliment the lighting or vice versa too.

10:18

I’m gonna talk to Nucky.

10:20

I don’t know, two years killing Jerries

10:23

doesn’t exactly prepare you for a whole lot else.

10:25

I love period projects, because you can really paint,

10:29

you can really like, evoke a different era, different time,

10:33

it’s like time traveling, it’s so exciting to me.

10:36

When I was called in to interview for Boardwalk Empire,

10:40

for the pilot that Martin Scorsese was directing,

10:43

I was like, oh my God, I wanna do this so bad,

10:45

I wanna work with Martin Scorsese, God.

10:47

I did research like I’ve never done before.

10:49

When I was called in, to come in for an interview,

10:52

I had pages and pages and pages of research

10:56

of my suffragettes about the time period,

10:58

about the politicians at that time.

11:00

So I went in for the interview,

11:02

and, you know I nailed it,

11:04

because I guess, I just had the best research.

11:06

Martin is an incredible collaborator,

11:09

that was the first time I worked with him.

11:10

I mean, he was so serious about every little detail.

11:14

And that’s what makes him really such a great filmmaker.

11:17

In the case of Boardwalk Empire,

11:19

he showed us Splendor in the Grass.

11:21

I wasn’t quite sure, why he would show us,

11:23

Splendor in the Grass,

11:24

because it wasn’t really the right period.

11:26

What he came down to, is that he said,

11:28

see this big scenes, see all these background people,

11:31

the one very back in that corner,

11:33

the person looks great, the person looks perfect,

11:36

and I wanna make sure, that on Boardwalk Empire,

11:39

that every single background person

11:42

is treated like a principal actor,

11:44

because they have to look perfect,

11:45

because if they don’t look perfect,

11:47

the whole picture won’t look perfect.

11:48

And that really taught me a huge lesson,

11:50

when you do a big period movie,

11:53

you really have to make sure,

11:54

that every single detail is perfect.

11:57

Y’all remember Jimmy Darmody,

12:01

Gave him handsel I heard, sure did.

12:04

You do realize if you choose to join us,

12:07

the work will be hard and the hours long,

12:09

the results slow and agonizing,

12:11

and we will see no shortage of [indistinct]

12:16

When I started prepping for The Knick,

12:20

I pulled together photographs of paintings

12:23

from American realists like Sargent and Eakins,

12:28

who was really famous for these beautiful paintings

12:32

of hospital theaters where all the doctors would sit

12:35

in arena like settings where the surgeries would take place.

12:39

So I collected all these paintings,

12:41

and I invited my core team,

12:44

and for a week we tried to copy these portraits,

12:48

to learn about color, tones, highlights, lowlights,

12:54

the mood, so we can take that and translate it

12:59

onto our actors, by making them up,

13:01

just like a painter would on the portrait.

13:03

The tools that we used on The Knick and the makeup,

13:06

we try to really replicate products

13:09

that women use back then, we got beeswax,

13:11

we had a juicer, we made our own mascara.

13:14

So we try to keep everything as natural toned as possible,

13:18

no crazy colors, just really colors and hues

13:21

that were available back then and in nature.

13:24

When the blast of war blows in our ears,

13:27

then imitate the action of the tiger,

13:30

[Movie actor] Your majesty, Mr. Phineas T. Barnum,

13:33

and his oddities from America!

13:37

When we started on The Greatest Showman,

13:40

which was my most favorite job ever.

13:45

Personally, I’m still depressed that I’m not working on it,

13:49

that it couldn’t go on forever, but I gotta let that go.

13:53

When we started on The Greatest Showman,

13:55

I started doing a lot of research about that time period,

13:58

about all the oddities,

14:00

and I put a great research book together.

14:02

And then when Jerry Popolis, the hair designer and I,

14:05

went to have our meeting with Michael Gracey,

14:08

love him director, the best, oh my God!

14:12

We were like ready to show him,

14:13

all this great research we had, and he’s like,

14:16

we’re not gonna do period.

14:18

And we’re like, oh, we’re not?

14:21

So he basically told us, what I want for this movie,

14:24

I want it to be period inspired,

14:27

but I want it to be like a crazy fashion show.

14:30

And Jerry and I were like, oh my God, this is amazing,

14:34

cause that’s our strength,

14:35

we can do period, we can do fashion.

14:38

And this is like the perfect marriage,

14:39

of two things that we’re really good at,

14:41

that really excites us, it’s super challenging,

14:44

but it’s also so creative, it was amazing.

14:48

So rather than doing a lot of prosthetics

14:50

to make it authentic,

14:52

we wanted to show the beauty in them,

14:55

rather than the sad ugliness.

14:58

And some of these looks were really challenging,

15:01

for example, Dog Boy,

15:03

we had to build like all these hair pieces,

15:05

and then glue in his face,

15:07

and incorporate them with a wig and everything.

15:09

For example, the tattooed guy,

15:11

which we all know what he really looked like,

15:13

because he did exist, Prince Constantine, as he was called,

15:16

we had to make a suit for him,

15:18

because we couldn’t put transfers on him everyday,

15:21

because his skin couldn’t have handled it,

15:22

and besides, it would have taken us hours and hours,

15:24

just to cover his body in tattoos.

15:26

Everything we did was like, handmade,

15:29

Michael gave us such an amazing freedom to create,

15:33

which I so appreciated and was incredible.

15:37

Did I tell you guys,

15:38

that I really loved working on that job.

15:47

Do I look like the kinda clown that could start a movement?

15:50

I killed those guys because they were awful.

15:53

Everybody is awful these days.

15:56

It’s enough to make anyone crazy.

15:58

Joker was a really challenging job,

16:02

we met with Todd, and we were talking about Joaquin,

16:06

not only what the look is going to be like,

16:08

but how to best deal with Joaquin,

16:10

cause he’s gonna have a really hard role to play.

16:14

And so Todd showed us a photo of what they came up with,

16:18

they thought Joker should look like.

16:21

And it was basically the working clown look,

16:24

which is a very simple look.

16:26

And from that, look, we need to evolve him into Joker,

16:31

which is like a version of that working clown look,

16:34

but a very kind of distraught, messy, wilder version of it.

16:39

And it’s a little different to take a photograph

16:42

and trying to replicate a design on a picture onto a person,

16:47

because sometimes certain colors may not work

16:51

or the sizing may not work.

16:52

So you really have to play and work out,

16:55

what the final design will be,

16:57

and so what we did is like we had Joaquin,

16:59

coming for a couple of weeks,

17:02

to basically just play with the makeup,

17:04

until we got where we all felt like,

17:06

this is the right look.

17:08

Again, this was a really amazing collaboration project,

17:12

Todd, Joaquin and I, coming up with this really cool look,

17:16

you starred him as Arthur fleck, the working clown,

17:20

and then slowly throughout the movie,

17:22

he gets degraded, degraded, degraded,

17:24

and then turns into the Joker,

17:26

which is the final mad makeup look,

17:29

which in itself had a lot of different stages as well,

17:32

like being smeared, running away from the cops,

17:36

arriving in Murray Franklin Show, killing Murray Franklin,

17:40

then being taken away in the police car, having car crash,

17:43

and then, the resurrection.

17:45

So these are all different stages within the same look.

17:47

And that was really hard in terms of like continuity,

17:51

because when you shoot a film,

17:53

you don’t really shoot scene one,

17:55

and then you shoot scene two, three,

17:57

we always shoot totally out of sequence.

18:00

That means one day,

18:01

we actually started with the working look,

18:03

and then we did a Joker look,

18:06

in the middle of the Joker script,

18:08

where we hadn’t had shot anything yet,

18:11

we weren’t quite sure,

18:12

we’re gonna do it like that,

18:13

and it’s really hard when you work that way,

18:15

because you have to be incredibly organized,

18:18

you have to match everything you’re doing,

18:20

you have to go backwards forwards,

18:22

you need to know what’s gonna come,

18:23

even though you haven’t done it yet,

18:25

so it was really challenging.

18:27

Joaquin was really incredible, and the strategic way

18:31

of keeping his makeup messy,

18:33

throughout the filming processes is that,

18:35

I had to use different products

18:37

that look the same when you put them on

18:39

but have a different life on the skin,

18:42

meaning sometimes I needed the makeup,

18:45

to be able to smear, when he touches it would smear,

18:48

and sometimes I needed it to be staying put

18:52

that even if he brushes up against something,

18:54

or touches it, that it won’t move.

18:56

And I needed that because of continuity reasons,

18:59

so I wouldn’t have to constantly reset it.

19:02

There’s this one scene,

19:03

the bathroom scene when after he kills this subway guys,

19:07

he runs into this bathroom and he does this incredible dance

19:10

and he’s all smeared, so I had to match that smeared thing,

19:14

from when he shoots the subway guys,

19:15

but we shot this subway scene,

19:16

after we did the bathroom scene

19:18

so I kinda had to make sure that I take a lot of pictures,

19:21

so I can recreate something

19:23

that we haven’t done yet, basically, right?

19:26

But in that bathroom scene,

19:28

he not only dances but the scene goes on,

19:31

which was cut out later from the movie,

19:33

where he goes to the sink and washes off his face,

19:35

and it was all one shot,

19:37

so I had to redo it, like I think 16 times,

19:40

comes in, does the dance, washes his face, cut,

19:43

okay, reset, I had five minutes to do it.

19:45

Do the makeup again, watching my pictures that I took

19:48

to make sure that I copied exactly the same

19:50

and then doing it over and over and over.

19:52

So I had to use makeup that is really easy to wipe off

19:57

or wash off, so I could reset it,

19:59

but there’s other times when he’s in the subway,

20:00

I had to use makeup that had to look smeared,

20:03

but it had to be waterproof,

20:04

so I wouldn’t have to reset it all the time

20:06

because it would just take too long.

20:08

If I had to go in between every single take

20:10

to fix things differently,

20:11

it would have taken too long.

20:13

Joaquin would have never let me do it in the first place,

20:15

so I had to be really creative with the materials I used.

20:18

It was a really wild experience I had,

20:20

working on a job like that, creating such an iconic look,

20:26

Yeah, it was really wild and difficult

20:28

and interesting and exciting.

20:30

I’m really blessed with the projects that I worked on.

20:33

When you find a crew that is very good in collaborating,

20:36

a kind of is infectious,

20:38

I find it also incredibly exciting,

20:40

and I’m really looking forward

20:41

to see what will come next.

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