If I had to extrapolate a “common denominator” from the Italian artistic team that won this year’s Academy Award for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hair Styling for David Ayer’s, Suicide Squad (2016), I would say first and foremost that they are all represented by The Milton Agency (with offices in Los Angeles and London).
Secondly, it looks like the careers of the two makeup artists, Alessandro Bertolazzi and Marta Roggero, as well as the one of the hairstylist, Giorgio Gregorini, changed for the better thanks to chance encounters.
Last but not least, they all share the same respect and admiration for American filmmaker, David Ayer, who has been able to bring out the best in them (with this year’s Oscar as a demonstration).
Let’s get to know better Alessandro Bertolazzi, who started out as an assistant set designer for stage productions in Italy, before setting out to work in makeup design for the screen.
Giorgio Gregorini, Alessandro Bertolazzi, Marta Roggero and Christopher Allen Nelson winners of the award for Makeup and Hairstyling for 'Suicide Squad'
Working with Italian actress Monica Bellucci at Malèna (2000) by Tornatore, opened up more opportunities for you to work internationally. Could you expand on that?
Working with Bellucci, who back then had already made a name for herself, certainly gave me a lot of international credibility. Matter of fact, the first thing that everyone asks you abroad is the names of the people you worked with.
A decisive step towards my internationalization, though, came afterwards, when I joined the Milton Agency.
Starting with Fury (2014), you began working with American filmmaker, David Ayer. This collaboration led you to win this year’s Academy Award for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hair Styling for Suicide Squad. Is there a special synergy between you and the director?
There is definitely a perfect synergy between David and I. He trusts me and my work, giving me free rein on my creativity.
Obviously, the director is the most respected figure on set, but we work almost as equals and I like being directed by him.
We have already finished our last collaboration on Bright - a fantasy movie starring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace, currently in post-production - and already talking about our next projects together.
Here’s the account of another very talented makeup designer, Marta Roggero, who has been creating the look of memorable characters alongside Alessandro.
What drew you closer to make up design and how did you learn the trade?
I’ve always been a dreamer and fell in love with cinema since I was a kid. One day, when I was ten, I watched on TV the backstage of The Never Ending Story and I finally found out how my favorite creatures were made. I thought, “I wish to do the same job, I want to make dreams happen”... and I eventually did it!
After the arts high school, I attended the Beauty Centre of Milan (BCM), a professional makeup artist school in Milan. Upon graduation, a lucky chance presented to me, as maestro Carlo Rambaldi (three-time Oscar winner for best visual effects) opened the European Special Effect Academy in Terni (town in the Italian region of Umbria).
When the short-lived academy closed down, I immediately realized how difficult was in Italy to become a professional in the field, especially for who as me came from a farm, with no family connections in the movie business.
Thus, I started working as makeup artist for Italian very low budget films, until the day I met, almost by chance, my fellow makeup designer, Alessandro Bertolazzi, and my career changed.
Starting with war movie Fury, you started your collaboration as key makeup artist with David Ayer. Last year, you worked again with him as Department Head Makeup Artist for Suicide Squad. How did your duties in the first differ from the ones you had in the latter? What do you enjoy about working with Ayer?
The only aspect that really changed is that I got representation from an agent, Mandi Martin, who works for the international Milton Agency.
The fact is that Bertolazzi always trusted me, so my job title is just a classification according to local rules. Key or Head, I’m always his “right arm,” the second in charge after him, and nothing has really changed in my duties.
Starting from the preparations needed to arrange the job and with the makeup tests, we share the duties and I make sure that everyone in the department is going to follow his indications and style.
Working with Ayer is absolutely great! He is not just a talented director, he is an artist and a hard worker! He takes care of every single detail of the movie. He knows very well what he wants, so much so that he often does it faster by himself. Whether to smash a wall with a big hammer or squeezing the blood on the face of an actor. And he does everything with such skill that I learned a few nice tricks from him!
The last one to catch the train to stardom was hairstylist, Giorgio Gregorini.
What drew you closer to hairstyling and how did you learn the trade?
It all started by chance. I was born and raised in Rome’s neighborhood, Trastevere. I dropped out of school and one of my friends’ mom, who owned a salon, offered us to help shampooing her clients in summer.
I liked the gig to the point that, at night, I attended a professional hairstyling school for the following two years, while still working at the hairdresser’s.
After opening my own salon, one of my clients, a lady who worked in the movie industry invited me to give it a try.
The morning I went to the set of a period piece, set in 1942, I was shocked to see a huge mirrored hall with lots of ladies combing wigs. I felt like a fish out of water.
Through the help of lots of talented people, I then restarted from scratch a new career, characterized by a completely different skillset.
What were some of the challenges you faced and some of the gratifying moments while working on Suicide Squad?
At first, I was not supposed to work on it. Bertolazzi and the director had received high estimates from all the hairstylists they had sought out. They called me for a consultation on the wig for the character of the Enchantress.
Without any preparation on the comic book universe to be recreated in the movie, I came up with a solution, ironically nicknamed as “Mocio Vileda” after the German-made mops of the same name (known in the US under the O-Cedar brand).
I had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside the director David Ayer, who plays an active part in every aspect of the movie and, at the same time, involves you in the whole process.