The Secret To Amy Adams' Sharp Objects Makeup Is Spit

Sky Atlantic's Sharp Objects doesn’t use the power of makeup to showcase an era, like on Netflix’s ‘80s-tastic Glow, or make everyone look perfectly luminescent, like on Insecure. The show uses makeup to ensure the characters look like people who are going through some serious shit — people who have barely slept, people who’ve been drinking all day, and yes, people who self harm, including the show’s lead character Camille Preaker, who's played by Amy Adams.
Camille is a journalist who’s found herself back in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri as it grapples with not one but two murdered teenage girls. As she reports the story, she struggles with her own personal demons, which are triggered from being back in her childhood home. So yeah, makeup’s not really a priority for her.
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But that doesn't mean makeup on the show is any less essential. In fact, appearance plays a key role in character development — and those little details come down to the makeup department. Camille's mother, Adora, for example, has a habit of pulling out her eyelashes in times of stress. According to the makeup department head on Sharp Objects, Michelle Radow, the lashes were single synthetic eyelash extensions, in different thickness and lengths, trimmed and curled by Radow herself. And then there's all the special effects makeup involved in Camille's scars, which are created by department head Adrien Morot.
When it came to Amy Adams' makeup, which was done by her personal makeup artist on the show, Kate Biscoe, that required a whole lot of other TV magic. We talked to Biscoe all about how she convincingly transformed Adams into Camille Preaker, the sacrifices Adams took to get into character, and the real meaning behind her makeup, ahead.
Anne Marie Fox/HBO
What were your first thoughts upon reading the book and the script?
"I come from a literary background, [and] I couldn't help thinking about the philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who coined the phrase, 'The medium is the message.' The scars are words and it's a whole different narration than what's taking place on screen. She's covering something up, and not just literally with her long sleeves, but this horrible background as well. Those scars are her body armour."
How did you get her to look so hungover all the time?
"She's supposed to be a functioning, or not so functioning, alcoholic. That involved making her look like somebody who was in pain and drinking all the time and trying to put a mask on for other people she has to interact with. [Director] Jean-Marc Vallée doesn't like an interrupted process, and so there was no beauty lighting. He only uses available lights and a handheld camera, so what you see is what you get."
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Was it all created in the makeup trailer — or did Amy bring any of it with her to set?
"All that inflammation she generated on purpose: She ate salt. She stopped exercising. She didn't drink tons of water. And in scenes she's drinking all the time, instead of alcohol, she's drinking the non-alcoholic beer O'Doul's — it's like 20 O'Doul's a day. Everything's supposed to look like yesterday's makeup. [Amy] usually just wiped under her eyes with some spit, and then we let everything get sweaty."
Did you try to counteract the sweating at all?
"We were shooting in L.A., Northern California, and Georgia in June and July, and that actually worked for us. Normally you would try to take sweat off, but it was supposed to be Missouri and it's part of the character. She is covered up and sweating and so it was absolutely method-y."
What kind of makeup did you use to achieve her look?
"Eyeliner was big, and we used Make Up Forever Aqua XL. We'd smudge it around with sweat or even spray water on top to make it look like it's been on there for a while. She wears Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose. We used Koh Gen Doh foundation, Makeup For Ever concealer, Giorgio Armani liquid blush, and Clé de Peau loose powder. And we did lots of good skin care because [Amy] was going through a lot, so La Mer Moisturizing Soft Lotion, and Chantecaille Gold Energizing Eye Recovery Masks."
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What kind of message do you think she’s sending with her makeup?
"Amy's not afraid of looking bad. She wants to tell the truth, and I think she certainly didn't want to look like a glamorous damsel. She went for it. It felt like an honest representation of what a woman would look like in Camille's situation."
I know you don't handle her hair, but I have to know: Are those waves Amy's real texture?
"Her hair grows like that out of her head. Amy would come in with her hair wet, let it air dry, scrunch a bit of product into it, and then it would do its own thing. She's a very lucky woman."
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