Fae’s sitting across from me in a fold-out chair in the Fantastic Beasts make-up tent. She’s cradling a cup of hot Earl Grey tea in both hands, beaming with a sort of motherly pride at her artists wandering around. Her silver-grey hair has been cut into a bob since I last saw her, which may have a little something to do with making endless 1920s-inspired mood boards like these.
‘It’s a really delicate, sensitive job, make-up. My team are handpicked by me and I have to choose them for their sensitivities, for their ability to know how to make an actor feel safe. Some days an actor will want to talk and joke, others they’ll not want to say a thing.
‘I need my team to sense that, to work around any nerves, to know when to be quiet,’ she says. ‘We’re the last people they see before they turn their faces and go on camera. Sometimes they need to see you out of the corner of their eye before they can go on.’
Later that day, on an enormous, exquisite indoor set, I can see she’s absolutely right. The last person actress Alison Sudol (who plays Queenie) sees before she runs across slick marble floors in character is her make-up artist, Rachel.
There are easily more than 100 people on that set, running and whispering and doing their jobs, but in those last moments before the camera starts rolling, she just breathes and looks into Rachel’s face as she gets a touch-up. There’s an extraordinary level of trust there.
‘Rachel’s used to working with leading ladies; she’s great fun and she’s loyal,’ says Fae, who chose her very deliberately to look after Alison. ‘They struck up a fantastic relationship straight away really, they’re about the same age, they like the same music, they get on. They’ve got the right energy together. I can’t tell you how important that is.
‘When I meet an actor, I know straight away what they’ll be like, what their nerves will be like, what they need. I’ve been doing this a long time so I trust my instinct to put the right artist with the right actor.’
Fae started in make-up at 21 and she’s now nearly 60. You can tell almost immediately what makes her a legend: it’s kindness. Fae doesn’t paint many faces or attach many wigs these days – her job is more about the overall vision. She carefully empowers each of her make-up artists to research, learn and be creative with their work, which explains why they look so thrilled to be there.
These make-up artists, most of them under 30, spend more than 12 hours a day at work. If they’re working with principle actors, they might get in at 6am, make sure it’s warm and tidy inside their truck, put the right music on and spend maybe 40 minutes on an actor’s face. If they’re doing extras’ make-up, they’ve got to get through as many faces as they can in time for crowd scenes. It’s a huge, high-pressure job. But they love it, they live it, they breathe it and they’re family.
‘A lot of people in the industry are frightened of young people,’ Fae says. ‘I’m not. I love young people, I love their joy and their energy. There’s nothing more wonderful than youth – they’ve got so much to give.’
That’s probably why, as Fae and I jump in a little buggy to travel across set, one of her young trainees grabs me by the elbow and says, ‘I love Fae like I love my own mother. She’s the best boss you could ever hope for and I feel so lucky.’
Working in hair and make-up design is so much more than lipstick and foundation. It’s more than maintaining the curls in a wig or layering the perfect scar onto a cheek with thick red make-up. It’s about humility, tact and instinct. And mood boards. So many mood boards.
So the question is, why was Queenie running across a “slick marble floor”? Running away from someone? Towards something? Let us know your thoughts!