When you go to a film festival, you never know who you are going to meet. At the opening night after party of the Middleburg Film Festival, I was introduced to one of the most talented, hardest working people of their or any craft, the great make-up artist Donald Mowat. What started as a meet and greet turned into multiple conversations over the span of four days, talking about not just his work and the festival, but every other topic in between. Thus was the case when we sat down for a conversation at the Salamander Resort and discussed his extraordinary work.
In a career spanning over 35 years, Mowat has created some of the most iconic looks for some of the most celebrated films in that time span. His highlighted work as a department head includes 8 Mile, The Fighter, Skyfall, Nightcrawler, First Man. He’s worked closely as a personal artist for actors such as Mark Wahlberg, Daniel Craig, and Jake Gyllenhaal. But his biggest collaborations of late have been his work with director Denis Villeneuve on Prisoners, Sicario, Blade Runner 2049, and their latest project, Dune. When talking with Mowat, there is an infectious glee that comes out of him when he talks about working with Villeneuve because of how proud he is of not just his work, but the work of all involved to make these movies successful.
Though his stellar work has been celebrated by many over the decade, Mowat has yet to receive an Oscar nomination. With Dune however, that is bound to change at it is not only some of the best make-up and hairstyling of the year, but it is some of Mowat’s best work of his career. In the conversation below, we talked about his relationship with Villeneuve, how he came up with the looks of the different character groups in Dune, and what it would mean to Mowat, an Academy member since 1999, to be celebrated by his peers.
The interview might contain some mild spoilers, so if you want to go in blind, see the film before listening to the conversation.
Warner Brothers released Dune in theaters and on HBO MAX on Friday, October 22.