The Rock Star Who Accidentally Inspired Natalie Portman's Makeup In Vox Lux

Photo: Courtesy of Neon.
Spoiler alert: The following contains mild spoilers for Vox Lux.
This year, Hollywood has been fascinated by musicians — specifically, the idea of the international superstar, and what it means to be one. In October, we got A Star Is Born, a story about two singers; one on the fast track to fame, the other on the verge of a tragic fall. Then, in November, we were given Bohemian Rhapsody, the tale of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and his painfully private life off-stage. Now, we're getting Vox Lux, a self-proclaimed “21st-century portrait” that faces matters of addiction, gun control, and, most conspicuously, the raw realities of stardom.
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With the exception of Lady Gaga as Ally in ASIB, none of the actors in those films is a pop star in real life — hence the intense transformations you see on screen, like Bradley Cooper's daily spray tans as Jackson Maine and Rami Malek's fake teeth and fuzzy mustache as Mercury. But neither of those transformations seem as shocking as Natalie Portman's in Vox Lux. Yes, we've seen Portman as a child assassin and damaged ballerina, but we've never seen her as Celeste, a viral sensation-turned-superstar painted in metallic makeup, bedazzled from head to toe, and wearing the kind of smoky eye even Courtney Love might say was a little messy.
So, how did the usually put-together Portman transform into a believably spiraling pop star preparing for a massive revival? The film's department head Anouck Sullivan has the answers. Ahead, everything you need to know about how Portman became Celeste, how David Bowie accidentally inspired the final scene in the film, and the significance of all the masks.
Photo: Courtesy of Neon.
Raffey Cassidy plays both young Celeste and Celeste's teenage daughter. What steps did you take to make it clear to the audience that Cassidy would be on screen twice, but as two different characters?
"That dual role is one reason why I felt so connected to the script. In terms of prosthetics, Brady [Corbet, the director] didn't really want extensive aging on any of the characters. I did have to make Raffey look more like what Natalie would at a young age: I'd draw two moles on her every day, she had contacts to lighten her eye color, and I had the chance to tan her a little bit, too. I didn't style the hair, but I know her hair was also darkened to play Celeste's daughter."
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Natalie Portman said in a recent interview that she watched a lot of musician documentaries, like Lady Gaga's Five Foot Two and Madonna's Madonna: Truth or Dare. Did you use any musical references to inspire Celeste's pop-star persona?
"Naturally, I'm really into vintage glam rock stars. My references will always innately be something along the lines of the David Bowie era. But we didn't directly reference any specific pop stars in the film. Sure, there were some in the back of my mind when devising the looks, but no one particular name was direct inspiration. We just wanted Celeste to be this futuristic individual. Celeste's final performance look wasn't intentionally inspired by Bowie, but it sort of ended up that way."
Photo: Courtesy of Neon.
But that wasn't always the plan?
"We filmed the final performance scene for two days, but it didn't all come together until the morning of. I hadn't had a chance to test any of the makeup looks on Natalie just due to her schedule, but I had discussed [with Corbet] doing a Bowie-inspired aesthetic on the backup dancers. Eventually, I saw photos from the set and Celeste's costume, which was very dark and brooding, so I decided to ditch my original idea of putting her in black, sort of intergalactic makeup. The makeup turned out to be something I just pulled out of my kit, colors I thought would flatter her skin tone and hair, like pink, silver, and blue. One of the hairstylists on the team is a performer, too, so he had a ton of jewels and rhinestones I ended up using to complete her look."
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Celeste's makeup is impressive, but her nails are, too. How'd you land on such a dramatic look?
"Celeste's nails were very important, definitely. Keri Langerman, the costume designer for the film, and I really collaborated on how the nails would look. She really wanted the color to be sort of metallic and silvery, and Natalie really wanted to get gel extensions. I hadn't had the chance to talk to Natalie about much of her character's beauty choices before that, but she knew she wanted Celeste's nails to be really long. So, we had a nail artist come and it took about two to three hours to get the holographic, glittery designs right. "
Photo: Courtesy of Neon.
How did you create Celeste's daytime look and still make her seem like a pop star?
"[Corbet] definitely wanted Celeste's adult looks broken up in three parts. He wanted her daytime rock-star look, her press-conference look, and her stage look. He was adamant that her persona would change three times. It's funny because I initially made Natalie's daytime makeup look heavy and smoky, but I think in the post-production process it got even more exaggerated, which makes sense because she kind of hides behind her makeup. It's her mask."
Speaking of masks, that seems to be a big theme in the film.
"Yes, there's a big mask theme throughout the movie. She hides behind her masks of rock-star makeup figuratively and literally. For example, in young Celeste's first music video, her backup dancers all wear masks. Originally, they wanted to put her in a half-mask piece, but I decided to paint hers on in silver and gold. That's when masks really start to become a continuous theme for Celeste, which end up playing an even bigger role later in the film. You notice that no matter what, she's always hiding behind this mask and pop-star persona."
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