LONE STAR MAKEUP MASTER: Did y'all know the other Capote biopic was shot in Texas? Austin-based hair-makeup designer Troy Breeding takes us behind the scenes of 'Infamous'
By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor
Comparisons between “Capote” and “Infamous” are inevitable. But the design and “look” of the biopics couldn’t be more dissimilar.
While “Capote” was painted in muted tones, “Infamous” bursts with colors. For a film that’s set in Kansas and Manhattan, “Infamous” was actually shot in Texas.
In January 2005, the 42-day production schedule began shooting around Lone Star towns like Taylor, Elgin, Lockhart and Austin. Writer-director Douglas McGrath had quite a cast on his hands: Sandra Bullock, Sigourney Weaver, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini, Gwyneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. Not to mention Capote doppelganger Toby Jones.
As head of the makeup department, Troy Breeding helped bring long-necked socialites like Babe Paley (Weaver) and Diana Vreeland (Juliet Stevenson) to life — as well as Nelle Harper Lee (Bullock).
With a truckload of screen and TV credits (“Spy Kids,” “The Alamo,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), Breeding is a sought-after Texas talent. Currently working on the NBC series “Friday Night Lights,” we caught up with him about re-creating the milieu of that dastardly little genius who wrote “In Cold Blood” and then summarily pissed off New York’s upper crust.
What does a makeup department head do? First, you research the makeup for each character in the film. Doug McGrath, the director, wanted everything as historically accurate as possible. Not only was I in charge of small nuances — like Sigourney Weaver having a little bump on her nose. I handled much more involved jobs, like making facial prosthetics for Daniel Craig so he’d resemble Perry Smith.
All of this work and research goes into making the film a work of art. But then I’d find myself behind the camera holding a tissue that contained some actor’s gum and thinking, This is my career?
What inspired you during the creative process?
We all knew that “Capote” was being shot at the same time, and we wanted ours to be the best. But the most unexpected inspiration came from the most glamorous of them all — Isabella Rossellini. She grew up with most of the film’s characters. Of course, she was very young, but she’s got a sharp memory.
One time, we were designing Diana Vreeland’s makeup and hair, and Isabella said, “Ah, no. I knew her. And she did wear that much blush. That was her style.”
And so we deferred to Isabella.
As the film travels from Capote’s success of “In Cold Blood” to being banished from New York society, does his appearance change, deteriorate?
Truman’s transition from young sassy writer to bitter old drunk was about 90 percent Toby Jones, and 10 percent hair, makeup and lighting.
His performance is so strong that we didn’t have to do much.
I’d add capillaries to his nose and cheeks, and I darkened creases around his eyes and mouth. I also took it upon myself to drag Toby out for drinks every night to help him “prepare” for the part. But by the end of the shoot, I started looking like the older version of Truman myself.
In this film, the relationship between Truman and Perry really goes the distance. During the scenes where the men connect, were their appearances softened, made to look more romantic?
Daniel and Toby are both masters of their craft. So I left it up to them to create the magic. I remember during The Big Kiss Scene, Daniel leaned over and asked in his charming British accent, “Did it look okay?”
Who’d he think I was — the Gay Technical Advisor?
I said, “It looked pretty gay to me, Mary.”
Meanwhile, Toby was asking for some lotion to soothe his newly acquired razor burn. I told Toby, “If I had a nickel …”
Overseeing the look of “the swans” of society must have been quite an undertaking.
It was challenging and exciting. First of all, you have all these fabulous characters you’re depicting. And then you have all these super-famous actresses portraying them. But I have advice for anyone hiring an actress older than 45: If they want to bring in their own people — for the love of God, let them.
What work did you do on the men?
The research was fascinating, and it felt like a treasure hunt. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock’s tattoos had to be replicated as accurately as possible. I found some pictures of them and their tattoos in an old issue of Life magazine. And I hired an artist to design transfers from the pictures. But the first day I met Daniel Craig was like that scene from “Broadcast News.” But I was Joan Cusack, and Daniel was the tape we had to get on-air.
He showed up with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair-skin. And in 24 hours, we died his hair, his eyebrows, given him brown contacts and tanned his skin. It was kind of crazy, but I think the result speaks for itself.
Was shooting the film in Texas a process of camouflage miracles? Or was making “Infamous” in the Lone Star State a creative blessing?
I don’t know about a “blessing.”
And honestly, I don’t think Texas was anybody’s first choice. But I think the producers were pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and attention to detail our crews brought to the table.
When you look at pictures of Truman Capote, what do you see?
I see Toby Jones.
He really looks so much like him. I told Toby to sign me up for “Truman Capote: The Later Years” — after the facelift, all the pills and booze, and totally tragic. Now that’s my kind of movie.
Is there anything you pulled from your own past that helped you bring these characters to life onscreen?
I’ve always appreciated this period — when people took more time to get ready to go out. When they didn’t know drinking and smoking were bad for your health. I think all my years playing dress-up helped me bring this one home.
What’s one thing you hope people notice when they’re watching “Infamous”?
How seamless the movie is. But I really hope no one notices that Apple had wiped off Gwyneth Paltrow’s mole in between takes.