How ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ helped ’Theory of Everything’ makeup designer recreate Hawking

11.11.14 3 years ago

Focus Features

To makeover actor Eddie Redmayne into Stephen Hawking, whose could still sneak out a smile through a physical body mangled by disease, makeup designer Jane Sewell avoided all things Hawking. Forget about Benedict Cumberbatch”s biopic “Hawking.” And definitely no “Simpsons” cameos. She wouldn”t even watch Errol Morris”s “A Brief History of Time” documentary. Save for reference photos, Sewell had blinders up to any Stephen Hawking appearance. If there was existing pop culture that helped her with the job, it would probably be “Absolutely Fabulous.”

Getting her start on BBC television, where Sewell says she could buy and experiment with any makeup technique, the makeup designer eventually landed on the classically crass comedy show. Stars Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley wore prosthetics on “Absolutely Fabulous” all of the time, whether the gals were aging or blowing up their lips with ridiculous collagen injections. “Ab Fab” pushed Sewell”s makeup to the extremes. Anything was possible with imagination and a little silicone.

“My style now is rather subtle,” she says with a laugh.

“The Theory of Everything” is the polar opposite of “Absolutely Fabulous” (in so many ways), and yet, for Sewell, both jobs required consideration for the drama at hand and the filmmaking in play. James Marsh”s film was about turning Redmayne into a living portraiture of the esteemed scientist. The audience had to feel that change, losing themselves in the love affair between Stephen and his future wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), then watch as their paths diverged. There are stories forged in makeup. Sewell was determined to find them.

For an inside look into Sewell”s process – everything from sculpting the perfect Hawking molds and charting history through Jones” hairdos – plus exclusive photos of Redmayne in the makeup chair, check out the gallery below.

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