The Runaways' head makeup artist gives us the inside scoop

Makeup artist Robin Mathews has worked on many movie sets over the years, but recently one particular leading lady seems to keep landing in her chair: Kristen Stewart. After working with the Twilight actress on Into The Wild and New Moon, Mathews and Stewart landed their joint dream gig on the upcoming film, The Runaways. Mathews, who loves the transformative powers of makeup, was challenged to turn Stewart into Joan Jett, a role that she was more than poised to attack. And the final outcome is spot-on.

We caught up with Mathews, the makeup department head on the film, to discuss Stewart and co-star Dakota Fanning’s transformation into Joan Jett and Cherie Currie of the short-lived band, The Runaways.

FLARE: How do you begin when you’re tackling a period piece?
Robin Mathews:
I definitely research for all my projects. We had about 5000 photos that compiled between the director [Floria Sigismondi] and myself—there’s so much photographic and video evidence out there from The Runaways even though they were only a band for four years. Then I lined the makeup trailer with photos—the walls and the mirrors.

FLARE: The actors really underwent a physical transformation for their roles. How did you go about that, for Kristen and Dakota in particular?
For the lead characters I took a photograph of the actor and a photograph of the real person and put them side-by-side, so that I could compare facial features. Because it’s not only about getting the beauty aspect of the makeup right, we also wanted to make the actress look like the original people as much as possible in terms of their bone structure.

FLARE: So you used contouring for that?
A ton—that was a massive, massive part of it. And a lot of people don’t realize that, which I guess is a good compliment to me. We actually even went as far as using prosthetics for Kristen.

FLARE: Did you attempt to modernize the makeup looks or was it really about sticking true to Joan and Cherie?
Absolutely not, none of it was modified what so ever. The unattractive parts of Seventies makeup? We made sure to accentuate those. Cherie and her twin sister Marie, who’s played by Riley Keough, they were very adventurous with their makeup. They did this crazy wing thing with their eye shadow, almost like a Nike swoop that went out on the side of their eye. It was really unattractive and it was very difficult to do because here I am trying to make everything precise and I had to just let it go—they were only fifteen, they weren’t being precise.

FLARE: It’s interesting that these girls were willing to make themselves look unattractive, just to be different and stand out. It sort of recalls what’s happening now in pop culture with someone like Lady Gaga who’s experimenting with makeup, not necessarily to look really pretty, but just to look different. Do you think there’s any influence there or is it a cyclical thing in makeup?

RM: That’s a great comparison actually. I don’t know what influences Lady Gaga has – we can only imagine what’s in her head – but David Bowie was a huge influence for [Cherie] and we do see that in the film. All the crazy stuff he used to do – paint his face, shave his eyebrows off – she was into that. I wouldn’t say they tried to make themselves look ugly per se, but they definitely tried to morph themselves into different creatures.

FLARE: What would you say is the key element to getting the look from The Runaways?
It’s all about the eyes. There’s a small portion in the film where they did go with that David Bowie/drag queen slash blush—you know that glam rock blush that’s got a real hard edge to it?—and bright lip colour,  but it was only for a very short time.  Otherwise all their other photographs show evidence of them without blush or lips, just smoky eyes. It’s all about eye pencil and a lot of smudging.

FLARE picks: Makeup Forever Eye Pencil in #0L (Mat Black) Aqua Eyes, $19, at Sephora; Makeup Forever Bevelled Rubber Smudger Brush, $11, at select The Bay.