The high price of awards show beauty is one of the industry's best kept secrets

By Tricia Johnson
March 20, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Gwyneth Paltrow: Paul Smith/Feature Flash/Retna

Beauty is only skin deep. Wait, strike that. For actresses, it’s as deep as the pockets of the movie studio she’s working for. One of Oscar’s little secrets is how much movie studios must shell out to makeup artists and hairstylists to make sure their stars look picture-perfect on the big night.

Consider the tab for the 1999 ceremonies: When Gwyneth Paltrow wore a bubblegum pink Ralph Lauren gown and boo-hooed over her Golden Boy for ”Shakespeare in Love,” Miramax shelled out about $10,000 for Orlando Pita and ”Face Forward” author Kevyn Aucoin to do her hair and makeup, respectively.

Last year, Aucoin, 39, was so eager to glorify the lashes and lips of the night’s big favorite and ultimate winner, ”Boys Don’t Cry” actress Hilary Swank, he cut his $6,000-a-day fee because the budget-conscious Fox Searchlight couldn’t afford it, but the studio did pick up his first-class airfare from New York City and accommodations at the Four Seasons (totaling about $4,000).

”Hilary was in a very important political film,” says Aucoin. ”I did it as a gift to Hilary. And I was just hoping that I could add some kind of magic to help her even though she didn’t need my help.” Add the cost of her coif by Ray Allington and, according to an inside source, the total still came in at around $6,000.

That’s a lot of moola for makeup, but many believe it can help clinch the top prize. ”Actors benefit from portraying extreme characters only to reveal during their Oscar campaign that they are quite the opposite,” says a campaign strategist. After playing a woman who passes as a man, it was important to emphasize Swank’s femininity to help prove her astonishing transformation as an actress. ”Hilary Swank is nothing like the character she played,” he says.

Okay, but what about Julia Roberts? She’s already a huge and beguiling star. That’s just the point when it comes to paying top dollar. She regularly works with NYC-based hairstylist Serge Normant — sources say he’s in the $6,000-8,000-per-day range — and makeup artist Genevieve. ”When you’re a two-ton elephant, you go where you want and everybody lets you because you’re the attraction,” offers the Oscar strategist. ”I doubt if there’s any resentment since she makes [the studios] money.”

Adds makeup artist and hairstylist Efrat, who will embellish Judi Dench for this year’s Academy Awards and has worked with Oscar winner Helen Hunt and Elisabeth Shue: ”We’re talking about the most famous people in the world and there’s a lot of pressure to create a look that people will talk about.” Who knew curling irons and blush brushes could cause such a fuss?

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