MATRIX: What is your role here on THE MATRIX sequels?
NICOLA: I’m putting all the eyebrows into the Hugo Weaving heads at the moment. Basically we’ve got all these different shades of real hair because eyebrows are not made up of just one color, and they’ve painted the heads with a slight shadow shape of an eyebrow on Hugo’s face, then I punch the eyebrows in one hair at a time. They end up quite long, with a Fu Manchu kind of theme, so I cut them in and eventually they end up looking like the real thing, once they’re all finished and sprayed.
MATRIX: Is there a method to the way the hair is punched in?
NICOLA: You can’t just punch them straight in because they’ve got to come out at a specific angle, otherwise they won’t lie right. So I’ve got the basic shape there, and the hook I use has a tiny, tiny little knot in it that grabs the hair – you choose where you’re going to go, then just punch it in.
MATRIX: How many heads are you doing altogether?
NICOLA: As far as I know there are one hundred and ten of them, and I think I’m up to thirty-eight at the moment.
MATRIX: For each of those heads, how do you ensure that a particular color hair goes in the same place every time?
NICOLA: Basically I just remember. I’ve got a photograph of Hugo Weaving here, which is the one I’m using to match to. His eyebrows are quite a bit darker at the top and then they fade out towards the ends, and he’s had his hair darkened for the film, so I’m putting the paler ones in the side and then blending those into the darker ones because that is actually the hair that was used in the wigs for the heads. The darker ones blended in give them more substance.
If we don’t want him looking like Ming the Merciless until he goes on set, we get the direction that you want the eyebrow to go in, and if you’ve punched it in at a decent angle you won’t have too much styling to do at the end, so I pull the hair taut and just cut it into the shape. Because I’ve done so many of them I know the shape I want, but at first you’ve got to look at what you’re doing and compare to the picture an awful lot more. I cut and shape similar to the way a hairdresser would, making sure that nothing looks straggly and you get a reasonable shape.
MATRIX: Is the hair just someone’s ponytail that has been cut off?
NICOLA: What I am using isn’t; that is some hair that has been bought and mixed, but people do sell their ponytails. If they’ve got nice hair and it’s a decent length, then people will pay them money, per ounce, so if your hair is in good condition and you’re short of cash, go and sell it.
MATRIX: How are they going to hold up in the rain on set?
NICOLA: They will be fine. The finished ones have been hair sprayed quite strongly, plus they’ve all got sunglasses as well, which should help a bit.
MATRIX: How did you come to be on THE MATRIX sequels?
NICOLA: I trained to be a Makeup Artist for two years in London, a full time course that I finished eight years ago now. Just recently I’ve been working for a year and a half on Xena: Warrior Princess and Cleopatra 2525 in New Zealand, and I was very fortunate there that I met some lovely people who gave me a very good job. I worked on straight Makeup and Special Effects Makeup where I had two fabulous bosses who gave me the opportunity to do and learn a lot of new and interesting things. Xena finished for good at the end of March 2001, so I decided I’d come over to Australia to see if I could get some work on Farscape and THE MATRIX.
I applied to the Makeup Department on this show and also contacted a lady called Kylie Clarke, who is a superb wig maker, who I’ve been knotting wigs for, for the stunt guys who are in the same scene as these heads. It’s going to be a mixture of mannequin Agent Smiths and real people; we were making wigs for the real people who we obviously have to make look as close as possible to Hugo Weaving as well. So Kylie has got me doing these eyebrows while she’s working for the Hair and Makeup Departments.
MATRIX: Is the material the heads are made out of easy to punch the hairs into?
NICOLA: They’re all made of silicon, which makes it extremely easy to punch the hairs in and it doesn’t leave a hole. Basically, as soon as the needle comes out the hair is held in there and it’s not going to move unless you yank it out.
MATRIX: Have you had a chance to meet Hugo Weaving?
NICOLA: No, I haven’t, so I actually have no idea what his eyebrows look like very close up. I have my photographs and that’s what I work from, but he would probably find it very amusing that there’s someone in here punching his head all day, every day.
MATRIX: Are you looking forward to seeing the sequels?
NICOLA: Definitely, and it’s a bit of a thrill because the first movie was so popular, and it was such a good movie. I liked the earlier film that the Directors shot as well [Bound]; I think they shoot film really, really well and the way they work is very interesting.
MATRIX: Thank you very much Nicola.
Interview by REDPILL