Tom Hiddleston’s Makeup Artist Breaks Down ‘Loki’ Season 1 Looks
In the MCU’s fictional canon, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) looks the way he does because of an enchantment his adoptive dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins) placed on him to make him appear Asgardian, rather than as a blue-skinned, red-eyed Frost Giant. In reality, getting Loki to look the way he does is the work of many levels of creatives behind the scenes: including Douglas Noe, Hiddleston’s makeup artist for the past decade.
Noe chatted with us about Loki’s evolution since The Avengers — the first film on which he worked with Hiddleston — and how he created the variants’ unique looks (including that of Sophia Di Martino, who plays fan-favorite Sylvie) in Loki, and how Mobius (Owen Wilson), an agent at the mysterious Time Variance Authority (TVA), ended up with silver hair.
Were you surprised to be returning to Loki? I assume you did Tom’s makeup for Infinity War — did you think you’d done your last Loki…and then this show came along?
You know, I did. [Laughs] I love Tom like a brother, and one of the things I love about him is his unbelievable ability to keep quiet. I fancy that we are close, and he knows that I keep my mouth shut. But I knew nothing until the wheels started turning on Loki, and I got the call. I went, “Wait a second, how long have you known?” And he just — insert his trademark laugh, right there. I’ve done other things with Tom, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear from him, but I was surprised we were going back into Loki.
How has Loki’s look changed throughout the MCU films, and in Loki?
We warmed him up. He’s a Frost Giant, but as we get farther and farther away from the first Thor, I think instinctively, we’ve ever so slightly warmed him up by a shade or a shade and a half, if you will. I think that’s so you’re not constantly reminded that he’s a Frost Giant. We don’t need to spoon-feed the audience; they know who Loki is.
Loki was interesting, because you were going back to a look the character had before, in The Avengers. Did you approach his look the same way for the show as you had the first time around?
Because I had actually done that look, it was easy. I pulled out the same makeups and the same elements and did it the exact same way. What we did to save time because I’m meticulously precise about these things, the second time we did it, I arranged to have a wonderful makeup effects artist in Atlanta named Andre Freitas make a cast of Tom’s face. And with that cast, I was able to make a template.
When we got those wounds perfect, I put the clear plastic template on [Tom’s] face and marked where those wounds would lie. When that template was pulled off his face, I used a cutting tool to cut out the places where the wounds would be. So, every morning when he worked in Episode 1 with those residual wounds from The Avengers, I would put that template on, airbrush or stamp the makeup through the holes, and we were off to the races. We just saved 15 to 25 minutes of me trying to be perfect. I can’t even tell you how many times I put them on and took them off. And Tom, God bless him, never says a word. He lets me do my thing.
Throughout the show, we saw the TVA had a very particular style — retro, yet eerie. How did you translate that into looks for Mobius, Ravonna, Hunter B-15 and the others?
Character specifics. The parameters were Blade Runner to Mad Men, with some Brazil, and a few other elements in there. I think you get a sense of what our parameters were just from those listings. With that template, Mobius, Renslayer and characters like them, we just expanded on. Like with Renslayer, we could do a little more beauty on her because of her position. With Mobius, the character dictated the scruffy hair and the mustache. It made sense. It was only a natural extension of what was written on the page. All the creatives weigh in on those things, and the last line of defense is the actors sitting in the chair.
In Loki, we saw plenty of different Loki variants. How did you approach creating separate looks for different versions of the same character?
That’s a fun question. I think it lends itself to not trying to reinvent the wheel. Very often the costume designer on these projects is brought in long before makeup and hair, because of the amount of fabrication that has to happen before shooting. In order for a costume designer to completely sell their costume, very often the illustrator that does the design implements aspects of makeup and character in the design. Because of that, because Christine Wada is a genius, much of the heavy lifting was done. I would say 50-60% of what was in her designs, we ran with; that way, we could make each Loki variant an individual with their own story. Whether you see the details and textures onscreen or not, the overall package is necessary. It lends itself to each Loki having their own backstory and character.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about Sylvie, as she was a huge fan-favorite this season — talk to me about her makeup. What story were you focused on telling with her look?
She’s an amalgam of several influences from the Marvel universe, and because of that, we threw all of that away and decided the best thing for Sylvie would be to play up her natural beauty. It was a matter of keeping her very natural and accentuating the elements of her that we could turn up the volume on without being a distraction. I played up her eyes a bit; I did a little more eye makeup than I usually would for a no-makeup look.
What was the collaborative and creative process like on-set?
Fantastic. What happens is you’re talking to our director of photography, Autumn [Durald Arkapaw], and our director, Kate Herron, and the creative producer, Kevin Wright, and Michael Waldron, and Christine Wada, the costume designer, and Amy Wood, the head of the hair department, and it only happened a couple times, but I wanted to pinch myself. Because here I am, having high-stakes creative conversations with people who share the same love for our craft and art as I do. A lot of those conversations have to be shut down because we can’t stop talking! Because we can’t stop creating and evolving. It was wonderful. It’s a fabulous feeling.
Was there a great, “light bulb” moment that stands out to you?
Yes! I’ve already tipped the hand, and I don’t know if Owen would take the credit, but — when Owen came in, we had several days to work with him. We all had ideas, and when he came in, the topic of hair came up. He said, “I see Mobius with silver hair.” I thought, That’s a brilliant idea! I ran it past Amy Wood, she loved it, and now, up to the finished product, I can’t see Mobius with anything but the silver hair.
What was your favorite look of Loki’s in Season 1?
I like episode 2, just because he’s clean and dapper and handsome and interesting. I think Christine Wada nailed it, because he’s without his green-and-gold suit or his suit from Ragnarok, and for the first time he was dressed as a civilian. And he still looked fantastic. I also liked the end look, because Tom and I had extensive discussions about where the nicks and the cuts and the dirt all came from. He is a mastermind at puzzling these things together. I do like the final look, because just the makeup tells the story — the same story he’s been through is told on face and arms.
Loki, All Episodes Now Streaming, Disney+