In the new film Cruella, the iconic Disney villain Cruella de Vil finally gets her origin story. You’re probably already familiar with Cruella as a chic, puppy-hunting fashion designer, with her trademark red lip and black-and-white hair. But in this film, the character’s evolution—from a mousy orphaned child named Estella in Swinging Sixties London to a pickpocketing aspiring fashion student in the Seventies—is charted not only by her fabulous and daring wardrobe, but by her glam-punk hair and makeup aesthetic, too.
Hiding her hair—for which she is teased as a child—with red dye, Emma Stone as Cruella grows into her true identity and reveals her stark black-and-white hairstyle over the course of the film, while working under the tutelage of the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a chic British fashion designer.
The feat was accomplished thanks to hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey, who had previously worked with Stone on The Favourite, and jumped right back in to concoct the looks for every character in Craig Gillespie’s vision for the 2021 film. Calling from the United Kingdom, Stacey revealed her main reference points and sources of inspiration for Cruella’s bold hair and makeup looks.
How did you get involved with doing the hair and makeup for Cruella?
Through Emma. We’d worked together on The Favourite and stayed friends since then. I was deciding on another project and thought I’d spend the weekend thinking about it, but on that Saturday night I was at home and got a phone call. Emma said, “Do you want to do Cruella? We’re making a Disney film. It’s set in the ‘70s, and she’s got a punk rock background, and Craig Gillespie is directing.” I just thought, you can’t say no to that! I very quickly said yes.
Everybody knows about the animated version of Cruella de Vil, and most are familiar with Glenn Close’s portrayal of her in the 1996 live action version of 101 Dalmatians. In both, we see Cruella as having a black-and-white skunk hairstyle. How did you manage to put your own unique spin on her iconic hairdo?
Craig didn’t want us to attach ourselves to anything that had happened before, and since it was an origin story, that allowed us the freedom to do so. He said early on that it’s a story about a girl in London in the ‘70s, which took away the pressure of thinking about what the fans would like, or trying to make her look like the Glenn Close version. So we started from scratch. Because the story is about Estella creating Cruella, and creating who we know will become this fashion icon, it allowed me to do what I wanted. The black-and-white hair was really the only rule, if you like, from Disney; the producers said as long as we had the black and white on the right side, we could do what we like. A lot of it has to do with the time period, too. The whole punk movement was about going against the grain, against the establishment, against the status quo in London. They turned fashion, hair, and makeup on its head. I cherish that punk explosion so much that the spirit was in me to say, let’s do something different.
In the film, you realize Estella is keen on pulling these very elaborate fashion stunts and pranks on the Baroness (Emma Thompson), establishing herself as synonymous with the future of fashion. In fact, one look involves the words “The Future” spray-painted across her face. Where did that idea come from?
We had to figure out how to portray her being the future of fashion in these flash moments on screen. They needed to be impactful. I thought about it so long. What could she do that’s so different? I knew she’d turn up on a motorbike, and had seen the costume and how it involved leather and was masculine. On the wall, one of my references was the Sex Pistols album Never Mind the Bollocks. I was thinking about “the future,” then thought it would be crazy if I just wrote “the future” on her face. Craig was like, let’s try it and see if it works. So I found the font, typed it in, and cut it out to make a stencil and spray-painted it across the face. I wanted those moments to have a mask-like quality because she is hiding [who she really is] from the Baroness. I was inspired by the Pistols, the spirit of punk, and being brave enough to not worry what people think.
Were there any other pop culture or style icons from that era informing your vision?
Definitely. There’s a German singer called Nina Hagen, and I had a picture of her on the wall. Her hair color in this picture is exactly the red of Estella, the red wig that Emma wears as Estella. I went to the wig maker and said, “I want this color from this picture.” She’s kind of like the mother of punk. Siouxsie Sioux from Siouxsie and the Banshees was definitely a reference for the eyebrow shape; Debbie Harry, and Viv Albertine. Viv Albertine had a real beauty to her look. There’s the punk, messy, smudged hair and makeup, but there was beauty to it as well, and I wanted to do that with Emma. I wanted her to look punk but also have a beauty element to it.
The Baroness represents the past, and her wardrobe, hair, and makeup certainly feels very 1950s. What were some of the visual inspirations for that character’s looks?
I knew Dior would be a reference in terms of the shapes of the costumes and the silhouette. We looked at a lot of Christian Dior. I looked at very rich society women of that time. The socialite Daphne Guinness was a reference—I know she’s not ‘50s, but I liked that she was somebody who had perfected her look. Whereas Cruella is changing her look all the time, developing herself and figuring out who she is, the Baroness has already done that in the ‘50s. She stayed with that look and now it’s a well-oiled machine. For the makeup, Elizabeth Taylor was up there a lot. Her eyeliner was definitely a reference. Whereas Cruella is chaotic, messy, and unexpected, I wanted the Baroness’s shapes, makeup, and hair to be clean, considered lines.
There is a turning point for Estella, when she realizes she has a reason to lean into being Cruella full time. At that point, her makeup becomes even more drastic, more pale, more stark. Was that intentional?
Yes! I really wanted to tell a story with the makeup. Up until that point, everything is like a mask. The feather and jewels are a mask, the “Future” spray paint is a mask. When she’s on the garbage truck, there are jewels all over her eyes and she’s hiding behind anything that has a mask-like quality. As soon as she starts to accept who she is, and accepts that she’s going to live as Cruella, then the makeup becomes more of a beauty look. In the final moments, she’s a much more glamorous Cruella than we’d seen.
Her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, get a bit of a makeover at one point, too. As does her friend Artie, whom she meets in a consignment shop in London—he has more of a Ziggy Stardust look to him. Was David Bowie a reference for the men’s looks?
Absolutely! I know a guy who was a friend of the Sex Pistols, and he said when he first saw David Bowie on the Top of the Pops, he’d never seen anything like it before. Someone had transformed themselves with hair, makeup, and costume. I thought, that’s everything we’re doing in this. I liked the androgynous part of Bowie, as well. We’re not pigeonholing him into anything—there’s a fluidity to his character, so Bowie was a perfect reference for him. For Horace, I actually had to talk Craig into that. I wanted to spray Horace’s hair red for a moment, and I am so glad I got away with it. It’s a crescendo moment: Artie’s makeup was huge at that point and there were safety pins in his wig, so I wanted Horace and Jasper to have something, too.
What was the most challenging part about building this version of such an iconic character?
A couple of things. On a basic level, black-and-white hair could seem like a boring challenge, but the black side of the hair reacts differently to the white side of the hair because the white side of the hair is heavily processed. When you set it in rollers or do whatever you do with it, it reacts differently. To balance it out is really hard, and I never even expected that. Of all the things that I thought would be difficult, I never expected black-and-white hair would challenge me so much.
I never choose to look after the leading person because it’s too much, when I need to be looking at all of the artists, the crowd, everybody. But because it was Emma, and she wanted me to do her hair and makeup, I had to do that and look after her, and design the rest of the film. The scale of it was something I’d never been anywhere near before. It was a huge undertaking, but I think I only think that in hindsight because if I had thought it at the time, I would have collapsed.