The Look of Maleficent
Bringing the evil Maleficent to life in a live-action film involved not only the
acclaimed talents of Oscar-winning
actress Angelina Jolie but a team of artists and designers as well, who were
dedicated to create the villainess'
uniquely wicked style.
Everyone familiar with Disney's classic "Sleeping Beauty"
knows what the animated Maleficent looked like, so
getting the look right for the live-action film was important
to both director Robert Stromberg and Angelina Jolie.
"Angelina was really passionate about not only who
the character was, but what the character looked like,"
says Stromberg. "We worked together to come up with
a character that wasn't that stereotype image but was
close enough that people would immediately know her
to be Maleficent."
Recreating Maleficent's costume from animated film to
live action fell to London-based costume designer Anna
B. Sheppard, known for her work on "Schindler's List" and
"The Pianist," both of which earned her Academy Award
nominations. The costume designer was tasked with
creating two very different worlds, one with creatures
living in a forest fairyland and the other a human kingdom.
Sheppard began her process with research that guided
her from the 15th century to the Renaissance period of
French and Italian art, including paintings, sketches and
Maleficent's character look in the 1959 animated film was designed by
animator Marc Davis, who is credited with creating Maleficent's horns
and designing her elegant style complete with flowing capes and high
collars, so Sheppard started with those references for Maleficent's
specific style. After watching the classic "Sleeping Beauty," Sheppard
incorporated the design elements, noting, "The persona that comes to
you straight from this film is Maleficent. The colors I used are similar to
the Disney prints from that film. I think Maleficent looks exactly, in the
big christening scene, as everyone expects her to be. This is Maleficent
from the animated version, just more beautiful."
Although Sheppard designed the line and shape of Maleficent's
costumes, she says that she could not have achieved the fully realized
look without the collaboration of specialty designers who were hired to
work with Angelina Jolie to help create the character's style. "Maleficent's
costumes evolved from mossy colors and 'floaty' fabrics to become dark
and sculptural shapes in much heavier fabrics with lots of volume," explains
Sheppard. "Artificial furs, leather
and feathered accessories created by the specialty designers were used to form a
much darker and sinisterlooking
One of the first costume elements to be created were the horns and Maleficent's
facial contours as those looks
were intrinsic to creating Maleficent's full-on style. Seven-time Academy
Award-winning special makeup effects
designer Rick Baker stepped in to handle the process. Baker began immediately
with a digital painting of what
he thought Maleficent's look should be. "Personally, I thought for Angelina
Jolie, you didn't really want to do too
much to her. For me, it was maybe horns and ears. I pretty much left her face
alone," says Baker.
But with Angelina Jolie's input, the design evolved. As Baker explains,
"Angelina wanted to wear appliances for
Maleficent's look, so I did a number of designs with appliances that were
subtle. She also wanted a nose, which I
actually thought could give her more of a Maleficent look. We ended up with
numerous sets of cheeks and ears
and horns in the beginning stages. First we made sketches and then later we
actually sculpted on a cast of her
head and made pieces for her to review."
Baker created cheeks, a nose and ear appliances for
Jolie that were silicone and gel-filled. Maleficent's
cheeks look sharply prominent in the film, but the
appliances are actually very small. Baker explains, "It's
amazing because the appliances are less than a quarter
of an inch at their thickest points and only about a half
inch wide. They sit right at the crest of her cheekbones."
Special makeup effects artist Arjen Tuiten was on set
daily to transfer Baker's designs to Angelina Jolie.
"It was important to Rick [Baker] that all Angelina's
prosthetics conform to the angles of her face," says
Tuiten. "From the life cast of her head, we formed the rubber cheekbones and
ears, following those contours.
The whole application process, including hair weaves, which took about a half
hour, was about four hours every
morning. Angelina was very patient with the process."
Turning his attention to the horns, Baker faced several challenges.
"The horns were one of the big issues because no one would want
to walk around all day with big horns on his or her head," relates
Baker. "So, I wanted to make them as lightweight as possible and
removable because when you have something that sticks out a foot
beyond your head and you're not used to it, you're apt to run into
Baker and his team sculpted at least four different designs of horns.
"I did some drawings and modeled some of the designs for the
horns on the computer," says Baker. "Then we actually ended up
sculpting them. We chose the one that we liked the best and did all
the work using that one design."
For comfort, the horns are very lightweight and thin, and made of urethane
casting resin. "After much
experimentation, we ended up basically with a maxi-form skullcap that had on it
the base of the horns and the
first inch or so of the horns," explains Baker. "The rest of the horns stuck on
with a magnet. They were very
strong magnets that held them in place but we could then pop them off in between
The magnets also protected Angelina Jolie while
engaged in wirework or performing stunts. "If something
crossed over or bumped they would disconnect easily,"
says Baker. "But because of that, we had to make many
duplicates because if they fell, they would break. We
also had a stunt version of the horns that were more
rubbery, so that they would not hurt anybody. It was a
lot of experimentation on how to keep them affixed to
her head and how to make them seamlessly removable.
Fortunately, the horns had a sculpted texture of lines,
like a growth line basically, so that made really good
connection points. We probably made at least 20 sets of horns of different types
Maleficent's green skin in "Sleeping Beauty" is nowhere to be seen in the
live-action "Maleficent." "We still
wanted her to look pretty and attractive," informs Baker. "That was an important
thing and we didn't want her
look to be too creature-like. Keeping it relatable seemed like the right thing
to do for this film."
Baker also had contact lenses made to complete the look of Jolie's Maleficent.
"Angelina designed them," says
Baker. "The lenses were hand-painted by an artist who is an expert in that
field. I have a lady that does them all
the time for us and we had some pictures made of these eyes and had the eyes
amped up a little bit."
After the horns were designed and built, milliner Justin Smith came on board to
design the covering for the horns
and all the headwear for Jolie's Maleficent. His first step was to get a sense
of the costumes Anna Sheppard
had created for the character and then apply his specific talents to bring
innovative millinery to help create an
iconic look based on the original character from the animated film. Explaining
his approach, Smith comments,
"I created several head-wrap designs. The designs emerged from the story of
Maleficent, who of course has
horns. I worked on designing and creating looks that would capture the tension
between menacing and magical
to become a contemporary couture version of the 1950s animation."
To approach the basic design of the headpieces, Smith conferred closely
with the film's star, Angelina Jolie. "Angelina wanted something that was
going to cover the head and completely lose all the hair, but also not be a
turban or fabric just wrapped around the head. So it was quite a specific
brief, and it took a little bit of time to understand where we can go with
this to try and create an identity for her."
"There's python skin, some very fine leather and some fish skin, and it's
all based on being quite clean and simple silhouettes with a wrapping
technique that looks like it's just twisted and wrapped around the head
in an easy way," concludes Smith.
To create his designs Smith looked to references that had already been
established and then he expanded from there. "There's obviously a
theme that we had to build in and a lot of the fabrics were supplied
already," says Smith. "So I delved in there and had a look at what I could
actually use to bring it in with all the rest of the costume. I brought a lot of
my own techniques and my own skills
to do with how I've developed millinery in a modern way. A lot of my own
references are artists like Michael
Parkes, who is one of my favorites, especially his very
elegant, very beautiful lithograph paintings. Then there
are some rope-knotting books and various books that I
use for my own work."
With these resources, Smith manipulated his techniques
and ideas together with the costume. "I tried to come
up with something hopefully quite new and a little bit
edgy, a little bit futuristic but nothing too scary that
would take away from anything else," explains Smith.
"It's more about complementing the whole look to
make everything work in harmony."
Using the story as a guide, with its numerous references to animals and the
creatures of the forest kingdom,
Smith worked to bring some animalistic influences to Maleficent's look. "It was
the idea that the headpieces
weren't structured at all, that they didn't have any stitching on them,"
explains the milliner. "They look very
manmade, with more taken from leathers and fabrics
that would come from the forest. It's as though
Maleficent wrapped them around her head. The idea
was that they looked very easy and very natural."
Smith created six different headpieces that
corresponded with the seasons and specific scenes.
Describing some of the different looks, Smith informs,
"There's the summer look, which is a python skin head
wrap. We've got the christening, which is the leather
turban with leather-covered thorns. We've got a spring
look, which is a narrow strip of leather sewn together
so it creates a ribbed effect and then heavily lacquered and painted. Then
there's the stingray head wrap. So it's
stingray on the top and leather on the side."
No costume would be complete without footwear and accessories, so
Rob Goodwin, a couture footwear designer, assumed the role of leather
specialist. Goodwin approached his task with a vision, as he explains,
"Maleficent is a dark and complex character so I was inspired by the
darker edges of contemporary couture fashion which contrasted and
complemented the approach and vision of the more established film
costume design team. I wanted to inject an edgy, stylish and harder
aesthetic component into the mix, which I think helped us create a new
and iconic version of this fairy-tale anti-heroine. I worked closely with a
small design team and with Angelina to pin down and reflect Maleficent's
distinct personality in the garments she chose to wear."
Goodwin admits that most of his inspiration came from Angelina Jolie.
He comments, "Most of the inspiration came from discussions with
Angelina herself who inhabited the character completely. She is very
knowledgeable about past and present visual culture and so we drew
from our pooled knowledge and references to evolve Maleficent's appearance."
Goodwin worked in leathers and combined them with feathers, beads and other
materials. "These materials
have the quality of savage elegance, the scales and surface textures suggesting
that Maleficent is somehow nonhuman,"
Goodwin's most challenging designs for the film involved
the battles scene. "From early on, I had an idea for a helmet
and footwear for her battle scene, which had to be hard,
formidable yet elegant. The helmet's sculpted shape is
covered in leather that looks reptilian and this detail was
continued onto the boots, which had customized bone-like
heels. Together, these pieces were my most challenging as
well as being my favorites."
Manuel Albarran joined the team to design Maleficent's
accessories such as jewelry and collars, which accessorized the look. Says
Albarran about his contributions, "I
was mainly designing the accessories for Maleficent: collars, rings, brooches,
bracelets, shoulder-pieces and
Albarran envisioned Maleficent's look as very organic and rooted in nature, with
the use of as many natural
materials as possible. "As l am used to using metals and unusual materials in my
creations, l looked to legends,
history and architecture as initial inspiration for my designs. l then invented
and developed the techniques
needed to create my visions and to create the pieces in reality."
The materials Albarran used to create his designs included various metals, such
as gold, brass and copper, precious
stones and crystals, different leathers, feathers and other natural materials,
all in order to "create costumes that
would be beautiful, yet dark in character and powerful-like Maleficent herself,"
says the designer.
The collars Albarran designed for Maleficent were each different in structure
and materials. "The collars were
all feminine and elegant in silhouette, yet powerful and dark in atmosphere,"
explains Albarran. "Really organic.
Some were very detailed structures. For example, l created collars where the
collar, shoulders and spine were
all connected as a single piece in leather with a support to form the base
structure, where l then added various skins, feathers, etc. to create the
Describing his favorite design, Albarran says, "My favorite piece was
a collar with feather shoulders attached to a delicate spine. I placed
hand-dyed layers of duck feathers, the colors grading from different
grays through dusty blues and greens, to the structure, which formed
the shoulders and spine, creating a very organic feel. The spine l formed
using a metal base, which l covered in leather. The silhouette of this piece
is very elegant and feminine, yet
Called upon to use his skills with
leather in a different way, Albarran
was assigned the challenging task
of creating the full-body suit that Angelina Jolie wears in the final battle
scene of the movie. Explains Albarran, "Designing the costume was the
initial step. Then l needed to bring the design to life. This involved many
technical complications, as l had to ensure that she could move, jump and
fight while wearing the costume. I needed to make different samples, in
order to check the mobility, weight and balance before the design could
No look would be complete without beauty makeup and that's where
Toni G, Angelina Jolie's personal makeup artist, came in. To begin the
process of designing the makeup for Maleficent, Toni G looked to nature for
inspiration. She explains, "The story
has so much nature involved with it that it definitely triggered more of a look
into nature and the browns. With
the palette we wanted a combination of colors that could be used in variation,
such as Concrete, a gray brown,
for more natural contour and a darker brown (Ground) and black (Carbon) to add a
dramatic pop to the eye, with
a little Goldmine for highlight that would complement the yellow in her
As red lips were part of the classic
Maleficent design, it was an important
element to retain in the character's
live-action look. "We tried so many
reds; we wanted a true bright red, but
it also needed to be the right constancy
and be fully pigmented with a dash of
shine. I love the color we ultimately
picked, so dramatic!"
After special makeup effects artist Arjen Tuiten applied the prosthetics and did
a light fine painting to match the
skin, Toni G would begin her work. "We would start in with the beauty and
basically highlight the upside-down
triangle under the eyes to the outside part of the cheeks to the bottom of the
nose. Basically the same principle
with a normal beauty makeup."
Toni G's approach to the makeup for the Maleficent character was "about finding
a way to bring the animation
to the flesh." She elaborates, "Besides her prosthetics, her eyes were the
perfect way to achieve this. I was very
inspired by the labradorite stone. The Eskimos call it the Aurora because of the
dimensional shift in color as the
light hits it. Beautiful greens, blues and yellows. She wore very detailed
contact lenses painted with these colors.
The perfect way to help her feel magical."
Working with the contacts and the eye makeup was a balancing act for Toni G.
"Those contacts just made her
eyes pop that much more, so had we gone with strong colors on her eyes, we would
have lost the balance,"
states the makeup artist. "Her contacts were supposed to be part of who she was
as her own natural face. We
wanted to keep a sense of her being relatable and natural, but also a strong
sense of the classic Maleficent. We
wanted to find what worked for this story and also make sure that it wouldn't
become overly distracting as a
Maleficent's nails also had a
special look. They were painted
underneath with black and on top
with a pearlescent-like polish, but
for the christening scene, the nails
underneath were painted blood red.
Although Toni G enjoyed the
transformation that took Angelina Jolie from her movie-star self to the evil
Maleficent, she was concerned
about the use of glue to apply the prosthetics. "It was exciting for Angelina to
have prosthetics and such a cool
transformation, yet I was concerned for her skin having pieces glued on for four
months! But it was all good. We
opted to use a mix of coconut and argan oil for removal, which seemed to really
help keep her skin from being
irritated by strong glue removers."
But Toni G admits that the most challenging aspect of designing the beauty
makeup was finding the balance. She
explains, "It was just always about finding the balance of everything. When we
got a new costume on, we had to
decide what we wanted to do with her eyes and had to think about the emotion of
the scene. It always seemed
to be about finding the balance between her costume and where she was in the
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