Arts & Entertainment

Creating Characters: Hair & Makeup, Part 1

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 10:50 min

Helen teaches you to let go of vanity and approach hair and makeup through the lens of your character.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Makeup and Hair Are in Service of the Character


Now this is a place that I know really well. And many actors, especially actors, obviously, who work in theater, this is our world. This is our womb, this is our home, this is our place of tears and of glasses of wine and of terror and of prayers. Oh please, God, don't let me forget my lines. Please, God, don't let me forget my lines. Please, God, let Act 3 go well. So this is a very, very familiar, comfortable place for actors. And if it's not in the theater, there's an equivalent in film, which is your dressing room, or your trailer, your dressing room, your double banger, whatever it is. It's your place, where you prepare in the way that you want to. Nobody can tell you what to do in this space. And it's your private preparation, it's your personal connection with your work. And you know, here are the many tools of the trade, one of which, obviously, is makeup. Makeup is-- you know, it's important. Obviously, makeup for stage and makeup for film are two very different things. It was very interesting, when I did the queen, I used very little makeup. I noticed when I was watching, looking at her face to see the difference between her face and my face, there were two elements I noticed. One was that her upper lip was thinner than mine, and she wore her lipstick in a different way to the way I wear mine, and her eyebrows were just wonderful, sort of beautiful, big, thick, bushy eyebrows. Eyebrows are so important in makeup, especially on film, because you don't have a lot to define your character. And obviously, hair and makeup are incredibly, extremely defining elements. And within makeup, I think the eyebrows are by far the most important element, funnily enough. They are your instrument of expression. I mean, for example, when I did Hedda Hopper, her eyebrows, we spent hours, the makeup. I mean, literally I think it took about half an hour to put my eyebrows on. And they were just two thin little lines. But the placing of them had to be absolutely precise because with Hedda Hopper, her eyebrows kind of went up like this, so she always had this sort of awful sort of horrible expression on her face, this sort of slightly sort of quizzical, critical, rather nasty expression, I thought. And it all came from these weird eyebrows. So the placing of the eyebrows were very, very important. With the queen, again, the eyebrows, incredibly important. And then the mouth. And that was all. A thinner mouth, thicker eyebrows. And then it was all to do with the way I held my head, which was back, in and back. And your face then just settles into an expression. So there was really no need for a huge makeup job. And the less makeup, you can get away with, the better, because-- in film, because the makeup is a barrier between your performance and the audience, because really what the audience to see is the expression on your face...

About the Instructor

In her first-ever online acting class, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren shares the techniques she has learned through the course of her international career that has spanned stage, screen, and television. Her powerful and versatile performances have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in The Queen, a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance in The Audience, and four Emmy Awards.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Helen Mirren

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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