Hair guru Robert Stevenson is no stranger to the world of hair styling and has worked as a wig consultant and stylist on films such as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, forging a 14-year working relationship with the bald actor Samuel L. Jackson along the way. He's been nominated for and won several awards for his work, being awarded The Best Contemporary Hair Styling Feature Films Award for The Butler at the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards earlier this year.
Stevenson's latest project was no mean feat, as he was called out of retirement to work as a wig consultant for the new James Brown biopic, Get On Up. The film also stars Dan Akroyd, Viola Davis and Jill Scott, and is co-produced by The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, whilst director Tate Taylor is probably best known for his BAFTA-nominated work on The Help. Story continues after the video.
Brown was always obsessed with ensuring he looked perfect, and his hair was the most important aspect of his style, proclaiming, “Hair is the first thing. And teeth the second thing. Hair and teeth. A man got those two things he's got it all.”
His wife revealed that even in old age, when his hair was thinning, he needed to ensure it looked great. In a recent interview she said, “I would spend hours doing his hair because he wouldn't leave the house until he had his 'James Brown hair' just so.”
Bobby Bennett, the last surviving member of Brown's original band, The Famous Flames, tells a story about how the 'Sex Machine' singer had to wear a wig to cover hair loss. He explains, “I’m the one who did James Brown’s hair... We was in the theatre in downtown NY with Alan Freed. James Brown sprayed some stuff in his hair to make it look real black and his hair broke off and left nothing in the front. James Brown had to wear a wig for over a year.”
, which is the first movie to really get under the skin of the influential soul legend, chronicles Brown's rise from poverty to become one of the world's most famous musicians, and Boseman gives an outstanding performance, bringing Brown's ego to life amid a backdrop of outrageous 60's costumes and, of course, hairstyles.
Hair consultant, Robert Stevenson, was excited to work on the project, having seen James Brown live when he was younger, “James Brown was a pretty incredible man, and I remember seeing him when I was a teenager, back in ’62. His shows were like the circus coming to town and we’d save all our money just to go to them.”
Recreating the musical legend's iconic looks was definitely a challenge and as many as 15 differently styled wigs were created for actor Chadwick Boseman, who stars as James Brown in the film. Stevenson says, “That was the kind of man James Brown was... He would always be out in front of everything, and for us to do it right we had to research everything we could find.”
Stevenson's team painstakingly pored over photographs, books and films to research Brown's various hairstyles, with each wig costing between $2,000 and $4,000 and taking up to a month to create and style. But obviously it wasn't just Brown who needed help in the hair stakes - as the hairstyles of the day often required a bigger, more 'bouffant' look, wigs were made for the actors playing his backing band and other characters too, with up to 12 wigs on screen in any one scene.
Whilst promoting Get On Up, Stevenson let slip why another of his clients - Samuel L. Jackson - decided to shave his head. “He was losing his hair at one point and said, ‘If I just shaved it all off could we still create looks with wigs?’ ” says Stevenson. “I said, ‘Sam, we can basically do anything with wigs.’ That’s when we started getting into it.”
Given how much of their profession is based on looks and appearing youthful regardless of age, it is not uncommon for actors to worry about male pattern hair loss. Some - like James Nesbitt - openly turn to hair transplants, whilst others, such as Matthew McConaughey, prefer to follow a comprehensive hair loss treatment programme to either prevent or regrow their hair. If you are concerned about male pattern baldness it is advisable to contact a hair loss specialist who will be able to discuss the most effective options for your specific condition with you.
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