Ahmanet awakens today with the release of The Mummy (2017) on Blu-ray, DVD, 4K Ultra HD, and VOD platforms from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and for our latest Q&A, I had the chance to catch up with Yianni-Georgiou, one of the artists behind the amazing makeup of The Mummy, to discuss bringing the undead to life (including Sofia Boutella's title character) and looking back at the classic Universal Monsters films for stylistic inspirations.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Lizzie. How did the opportunity to work on The Mummy come about, and what were you drawn to in particular with this project?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: I got recommended to the producers for The Mummy because Guardians of the Galaxy was going to America to be shot. And our producer from Guardians thought he wouldn’t be able to take me with him, so he wanted to put me on a really nice project and give me another job, so he recommended me.
Were you a fan of the Universal Monsters or any other cinematic creatures prior to working on this film?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: I’ve always been! I love Frankenstein, Dracula, all of them. I’ve always been a fan of them. I would never want to spoil anything on a Universal Monsters film because I’m such a fan. I’d always want to make it even better if possible. I have a horror-based family and we all really love horror, so I don’t think I can just name one.
What characters in particular did you help bring to life through makeup and hair design on The Mummy?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: I had a hand in everybody. I was kind of the overall hair and makeup designer for the whole film. We did have a prosthetics designer on board, David White, who I worked with on Guardians of the Galaxy, but because our director, Alex Kurtzman, wanted everything to be more realistic, everything kind of landed back in my court. Even all the undead that come to life, when the mummy caused the undead, my department did all of that makeup. They all look very realistic, with non-silicone-based makeup. I looked after everybody bar Tom Cruise! We did the undead makeup, which did have a bit of visual effects for [spoiler warning] Jake as well when he gets bitten by the spider, and then when all the priests are walking the mummy casket through the sand, that was all from my department—all the cuts and the bruises and their look, all of that was designed by me and my department carried it through.
Did you have creative guidelines on the film’s visual look when it came to makeup effects, or did you have a lot of freedom in your stylistic choices?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: I had quite a lot of freedom. I knew Alex really wanted to pay homage to the 1930s look, but when it came to being a woman, obviously Universal didn’t want her to have a crinkly face! So, we then took that stony color and sort of sprayed it onto a model skin and then painted veins into it and then I tried different color-raised writing and it wasn’t until I photographed that onto Sofia for the test that I did that the writing looked like scarification coming out of the skin. I photographed that and made that sepia and when Alex saw the sepia photographing, he said, “This is the color, this is the color, this is what we need to do!”
I then knew we needed to sort of make the blood more like a blue, purple, black. It kind of comes up blue/black in the movie because I knew then that he wanted to almost make the underneath the church scene more of that sepia color. So it was all through testing and trying out different things. With the frustration of not knowing exactly what he wanted at first, I tried this sepia range on my camera and he kind of went, “I want it to look exactly like that,” so I knew then where I had to go.
It takes a team of talented artists to make a movie of this magnitude. Who are some of the artists that you worked with behind the scenes that you especially enjoyed collaborating with on this project?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: Well, I had several of the team that I worked with on Guardians of the Galaxy before, so the head of hair on it came along with me as well, and then my daughter, Isabella, did a lot of the research and was always part of the progression and the development, and then I had another makeup artist with me, Charlie Hounslow, who was developing the prosthetic side of it and how we would make the writing stand out and everything, which was then sent out to a different maker, so in the main team there were about 10-12 people throughout. With the feared look of the Mummy when she was in the torn outfit, David White did that torn Mummy outfit, but all the makeup came from my department and I did all the makeup design for all of that.
It would take about five artists to do Sofia’s makeup every day as Ahmanet and then another hair person to actually do the hair on her and then another person getting the wigs ready for the following day, so there was quite a big team that looked after just Ahmanet. When it was the beauty look, I carried through most of that, but even with the beauty look, she had all the tattoos and body painting and all sorts going on, so it was always quite a big job when Sofia was on set. With Annabelle Wallis, my daughter and I looked after her mainly. I set up all her looks and then my daughter would look after her and be on set with her and would do her makeup every day, so once her makeup was done, Isabella and I would help out with any hair work that needed doing.
Do you have any favorite artistic influences from film or other mediums that inspired you while working on The Mummy?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: Not particularly, but I looked back at all the original Universal films for inspiration. We took a look back at different old paintings from tombs and took a look back at what was happening with fashion during that time, and just did a ton of research. We wanted to bring her into our day even though she was from the past. I wanted to make sure the new audience would be attracted to her, so I wanted to give her a quirky edge that didn’t just leave her in the past. I think we managed that with her body and arm work and her piercings and whatnot. At first, Universal was worried about that, but she’s got those stylistic details that stand out, like the gold through her tooth when she’s Ahmanet that she carries through to the Mummy. All that was taken from all different parts of research that we did.
In addition to The Mummy, you’ve worked on previous horror-themed films such as Sleepy Hollow and 2012’s Dark Shadows. What do you enjoy the most about working in this genre in particular?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: The creativity. I love working with Tim Burton as well because he always does something different. When you’re in that kind of genre, you know it’s going to be creative and you know that something wonderful is going to happen at the end of it. That’s what I really love about working in this genre.
With The Mummy now out on home media, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease, and where can our readers find you and your work online?
Lizzie Yianni-Georgiou: I can’t say what I’m up for, but I am up for something! I can’t really say so at the moment, but look out for it. My website lizziegeorgiou.com is being renewed at the moment and will re-launch very soon. You can also check out the “how to” video we did with MAC on how to get the look of Ahmanet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu_KQzXnkRE). And there are quite a few interviews that can be found online that I did when Guardians of the Galaxy was nominated for the Oscar.