Olivia Colman’s Fake Gout Was So Good, It Won An Oscar

There’s no doubt that we are obsessed with British royalty, both in the flesh and in film. It’s hard to even count exactly how many times we’ve watched the stories of Queen Elizabeth II, King Henry, or Queen Victoria play out on screen. But out of all the biopics and miniseries, there’s one queen that is often left out: Queen Anne.

Luckily, her reign is being brought to the big screen in The Favourite with all the royal drama we expect. Starring Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as Sarah Jennings Churchill, and Emma Stone as Sarah’s cousin Abigail, the story unfolds a bit differently than other period pieces. “She’s sort of the forgotten monarchy,” explains the hair and makeup designer for the film Nadia Stacey. “Even after all my research, there were some gaps that just missed her.”

Both director Yorgos Lanthimos and Stacey took that as a sign: This would be a period piece that took a few creative liberties to satisfy our craving for 18th century history without putting us to sleep. Aside from the costume and set design, one of the most important details to doing exactly that was getting the hair and makeup just right. We asked Stacey to walk us through the whole process, including that hilarious trailer scene about “badger” makeup. Ahead, her behind-the-scenes secrets.

The Makeup

The Director Pulled A “Bradley Cooper ” On Emma
“The makeup for the women really was governed by Yorgos. He didn’t like to see makeup unless it was important for the scene, like a ball or party. He wanted to see their skin and their sweat without makeup being a barrier. When we first did the makeup tests, he sent Emma back to me because she had some concealer under her eyes and told us to take it off. Most days, we’d use lip balm and really light tinted moisturizers on the women so you could still see their features through it, like Emma’s freckles. All of their makeup was really, really minimal.”

Overgrown Eyebrows Were A Must
“I asked all three women to not touch their eyebrows before we began filming. By the time they showed up to set, they had about two months worth of unplucked growth for shooting. We also tinted their eyelashes ahead of time since we wouldn’t be using mascara for most scenes.”

Olivia’s Lips Were Purposefully Chapped
“You really see Queen Anne’s character arch through her makeup. As her health declines, the tones in her makeup would change. We used a lot of yellow on her skin to make her appear kind of sticky and ill. We also tried to make her look sweaty while she’s suffering through gout attacks. We dried out her lips a lot, too. There’s a special liquid product that you can paint on that dries matte. It makes it look like the lips are really cracking.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

The Hair

It Took Three Dye Jobs To Get Emma’s Hair Color Right
“Emma had just dyed her hair almost black for Battle of the Sexes. Then between that and starting this movie, she went bleach blonde for another project. By the time we got her for this movie, she had put a red color on top of that. Yorgos was keen on giving her a natural shade of blonde for the film, especially because her character was blonde in real life. So, it took two to three big hair color sessions before landing on the shade that worked. The whole time I kept thinking, If we keep putting her hair through this, it will snap right off!”

Wigs: A Daily Necessity
“All three leading women wore three-quarter length wigs [that leave the natural hair exposed in front] all the way through the film. I wanted to keep it really natural, so I didn’t want to mess around with lace-front wigs on camera. Emma had about three wigs for filming, because we needed several different lengths on her between arriving to Queen Anne’s court and where she ends up at the end of the film. Olivia and Rachel had two wig pieces each.”

The “It” Hairstyle Was From France, Not England
“For women in that time, there was quite a standard look. No one really thought much about makeup, but their hair was a focal point. A lot of women wore a style called the ‘fontange.’ It originated from a lady who was riding with the French King in the late 1600s, when her updo fell out while outdoors. Since that was taboo at the time, she quickly took ribbons from her garter to pile her hair on top of her head. The King ended up liking it, and eventually, it swept through France to the court of England.

“The three women in this film have such individually strong journeys, and their ‘fontange’ hairstyles really tell the story. As Queen Anne becomes ill, beauty becomes the least of her worries. For Lady Sarah, I wanted her look to really exude a strong, masculine energy, so you see that while she’s shooting or riding. When Abigail arrives her hair is a bit shorter than the other women — she’s just the pretty, naive woman in a shore hat. As the movie continues, you really see her look change in this sort of grotesque way, especially when she finally rises in the court and reaches the point when someone else would be doing her hair and makeup for her.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

The Little Details

Those Heart-Shaped Moles Have A Purpose
“While doing research on makeup in the 17th and 18th centuries, I found an old drawing of someone wearing face patches. Upon doing more research, I found that, back then, the lead-based paint men and women used would leave cracks and marks in their skin. They’d use these felt-like beauty patches to cover them up. Sometimes they would look like regular moles, but other times the patches would be an elaborate shape, like a horse-drawn carriage, a lion, or even a heart.”

Queen Anne’s Gout Is Its Own Character
“Olivia tried to put on a lot of weight for the role, but her legs weren’t getting any bigger, so I made three separate prosthetic pieces to show Queen Anne’s gout: one wider piece for her ankle, a swollen toe, and a bunion piece. Even when the scene didn’t call for the audience to see her gout, Olivia would wear some prosthetics underneath bandages to feel like she was constantly suffering.”

The “Badger” Makeup Scene Was A Planned Mistake
“In the script, I kept wondering what they meant by ‘badger’ makeup. It wasn’t until I went to visit our costume designer Sandy [Powell] that I saw the gowns and outfits for that ball scene. It was all black and white, lots of stripes, and this sort of lattice design on the material that I thought the makeup should match. After lots of trials and tests, we landed on painting everyone in the court’s face white with a black band splattered across their eyes. When Queen Anne tries to recreate this look, she simply gets it wrong. She’s a bit naive and childish. It was really her attempt at looking like one of the ladies in the court but just not getting it right.”

Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

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