AND CUT! Q&A with Hollywood Hair Guru, Michael Whiteby Leah Furman
Here, Michael White talks to Hair's How about his work on Kirsten Dunst's latest film, All Good Things, and even reveals which celebrities' hair he most enjoyed styling.
Hair’s How: How did you decide to become a hair stylist?
Michael White: My father and uncle were hair stylists, so I was groomed for the business since I was 10. I went to beauty school immediately after I graduated high school. My first job was at Vidal Sassoon in Beverly Hills, which is where I got the foundation to become a successful stylist.
HH: How did you get into working with celebrities and on films?
MW: After many years behind the chair at Vidal Sassoon, I amassed a large client base. Then I joined the Sebastian team at Cassandra 2000, a magnet for Hollywood actors, models and musicians. My clients were mainly in the film or music business and they would hire me to do their red carpet, photo shoots, press or music vid-eos. At one point, an actress client asked if I would come do her hair for a movie and that began my career in film.
HH: How does working with celebri-ties differ from working with non-fa-mous people?
MW: I always treat my non-famous cli-ents with the same level of respect as my celebrity clients. Working with celeb-rities is what I do and I have to believe that I am the best at it because there is so much competition. Whereas the non-famous are excited just to be in your chair. Either way, I get great satisfaction from anyone I can be of service to.
HH: You have been nominated for a BAFTA (the British Academy Award) for your work on Milk, what did that feel like? Did you go to the BAFTA awards ceremony?
MW: When I was nominated, I was over-whelmed. Creating the looks for Milk gave me great self-satisfaction, which felt so good. Then to feel the recognition of being nominated made me very happy. The ceremony takes place in London, so I was unable to go as I was working on another film. But I was gifted with an incredible trip to Thailand for my nomination which was a highlight in my life.
HH: Are there any hairstyles that cat-egorically do not work on camera?
MW: Yes, of course. The camera sees detail. A style that has no composition will fail. I find simple elegance and uncon-trived glamour are always a hit. Styles that are created with form and move-ment are the most successful. The cam-era is unforgiving. You cannot get away with sloppy and messy. I call those styles a rookie mistake.
HH: What is the most requested style in movies and TV right now for women and men?
MW: The story that is told is what deter-mines the style. If I am doing Brothers and Sisters, it’s about the elegance and glamour. If it is a comedy, I might do something simple and fun. Women in movies tend to want to look more natu-ral, whereas television has more detail and style. For men, movies are about the character. Is he to be rough or is he to be groomed? For TV, more men request to look sharp and handsome.
HH: How does the hair and makeup for a film different than for everyday.
MW: That’s simple. Lights and camera. It takes a lot of different things to give a person that perfect complexion and the right hair. If there is no balance in make-up and no composition in the hairstyle, it will not be accepted. The camera picks up everything. Everyday makeup and hair would not have enough contouring and style to be in front of a camera. That’s why when you see celebrities in paparazzi photos, they are sometimes not recognizable.
HH: What is the process of creating a character’s hair style? Do you come up with these styles yourself? Does the actor decide? If you collaborate , who is it usually with and what is the process like?
MW: It begins with the script. After I read the script, I get a feel for the story and the characters. I collaborate with the director first and then it is presented to the actors. Because of the looks I have created throughout my career, I have always been given the freedom to create my concept for the looks of the story. After we do Hair and Makeup tests we will go back and tweak a little. The process usually begins a month before we start shooting.
HH: What was the look you were going for with Kirsten Dunst in All Good Things?
MW: I created a style to express her nat-ural beauty. I’m a believer in having a clean palette to work with, so hair should be freshly shampooed for products to work properly. In working with Kirsten, I prepped her hair by shampooing with Paul Mitchell Instant Moisture Daily Shampoo and used Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Sculpting Foam to create body. I added extensions to her hair to create an angelic look and finished with Paul Mitchell Super Clean Spray. I kept her blonde which to me is so appealing about her. She knows how to express style and what we ended up with was beautiful ele-gance with an effortless look.
HH: Of all the celebrities that you have worked with, which had your favorite hair?
MW: My favorites are Sharon Stone in Total Recall, Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes in The Family Stone, and Calista Flockhart in Brothers and Sisters. As far as men, my favorites were Brad Pitt in Seven, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, and most recently Paul Rudd in James L. Brooks’ untitled film project.
HH: You have worked with a lot of men. What would you say is the dif-ference between working with men and women?
MW: With men you have to be good at cutting and grooming. With women, you have to have an ability to create some-thing that enhances her beauty and per-sonality.
HH: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
MW: I have been so fortunate to work with the best actors in the business. I have traveled to work all around the world. My films have told many stories, from early in history to the future. As I take inventory on my career, the thing that has been my highlight is my BAFTA nomination for Milk. To be involved with a film that was rewarded with so much recognition has just been something I will never forget.