banner image

:: Spotlight :: Richard Dean - Hollywood make-up maestro

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Richard Dean was a recent visitor to Australia to promote Max Factor products, in particular Lipfinity. He is a famous name in the make-up industry having had big Hollywood names amongst his clients. Whilst he was in Melbourne recently, I spoke to him about his wonderful career and the significance of Max Factor.

How did you get your start in make-up?

The first time I did make-up was at fifteen, in a play in my old town of Michigan. Somebody taught me how to do make-up. I had no idea and had never experimented with make-up before. They taught me how to do old-fashioned theatrical grease paint make-up, which is the most unbearable process imaginable. It’s a heavy cold cream underbase first. Then they grease paint at that time - very inflexible material. It was a texture of heavy white toothpaste - a German brand that you dotted and scraped around a face as if you are plastering a wall. Then you put a handful of powder on and splash it with water. It’s supposed to make it waterproof and sweatproof.

That was my first experience ever - so horrifying. I suppose it makes you a little more confident. I eventually got my Masters Degree at university in speech and theatre. I focused my whole degree in design and costumes. Incidentally, make-up was one of the courses. By the time I lived in Europe I had lots of friends who were in plays and we did make-up for them. It was strictly a hobby like painting and it just evolved. I became an administrator for a performing arts group and then looked at doing television make-up.

What was the breakthrough for you?

I don’t know if I ever had a Eureka moment. Almost thirty years later and I’ve yet to make a decision but there have been some great moments, especially when I worked on the film ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’. The company was a West Coast one and they sent me to shoot in the East Coast and I worked with Julia Roberts. We’ve since worked together for over fifteen years. It was one of the happiest moments. I don’t know if it was a breakthrough but it ended up as a terrific relationship. I worked on the film ‘Fatal Attraction’ with Michael Douglas. I’m still working with him over twenty years later. Those relationships are something you really hold on to.

Tell us about Julia Roberts?

We clicked soon after we met. When she arrived at the make-up trailer she had already done a make-up test with somebody else. They had changed location. Because of some tax benefit, it was done elsewhere. I didn’t know the background too well. So, when she came in, there was a lot of pressure on the make-up test. It’s the first time that the actress is going to stand up in front of the camera. They know that they’ll just stand there and their total look will be scrutinised by a number of people. They don’t have any lines to speak and no distractions. They will be stared at. It’s incredibly humbling. When they play characters they forget about it. It was the first time I’d worked with her and the cinematographer. I remember having a lot of products ready. The hair had taken so long that I had a sense of unease. It left me less time. The first time I met Julia, she said, “Who’s this person?” She thought she knew exactly who she was getting. She sat in my chair and I worked as quickly as possible. When she went to the costume designer, Julia was complimented on her make-up as a fresh, young look. She came back and told me that she loved how she looked. We connected that way. I learned a valuable lesson from her – not to try to over-correct everything. Because when people are insecure, it’s easy to do too much. You have to conceal very accurately and delicately as to not draw attention to the fact that there is something concealed in the look. That stuck with me.

Julia doesn’t wear any make-up in real life. She doesn’t have any excessive vanity – startling considering how scrutinised one can be. She’s quite unfussy about it all. I looked at her face and thought, “I can’t believe that people get obsessed about a little spot here or there.” I don’t see any on her. Frankly, I don’t imagine she’ll be obsessive towards her look. Everybody has a passing moment for sure.

Does Michael Douglas, much older than his beautiful wife, become worried about his appearance?

Michael seems to have the ability to remain so low-key and slightly uninterested about that stuff. I have to nag him about the sun, when he plays golf, but he’s so laid-back. I’ve never seen evidence of him obsessed with how he looks. He comes from such an incredible history but he is also a very good and successful film producer. He has a reserved presence, not ever to butt or push people around. He lets things take their natural course. He’s a smart businessman.

What are your thoughts on today’s young movie stars and the people you’ve worked with recently?

I’m still mostly associated with Julia, of course. I have done some work with Kirsten Dunst, Julia Styles, and Marcia Gay Harden. Maggie Gyllenhal is one of the most magnetic and eccentrically dynamic people I’ve seen also. I worked with Eva Mendes and Amber Valletta in the film ‘Hitch’. Amber has turned from a model to an actress and there is a real difference in the purpose of make-up. With modelling, it’s specifically about the surface. It’s a backdrop for whatever detail is being presented. For an actress, it’s all about the camera sensing invulnerability. You want to know them. In that film Amber had the Paris Hilton persona, but I didn’t want her to be Paris Hilton. I wanted her to have an un-self conscious kind of beauty. Amber is a warm, sweet and co-operative person, and not one to be really shaken by make-up demands. I try to play down the make-up.

On interesting exercise would have been working with Madonna for the film ‘Dick Tracy’…

The filmmakers only wanted to use seven colours like a comic strip does. So every yellow had to be the same – the coat, hat, car – all the same. I wasn’t meant to work on that film but the costume designer rang me to say that they were having problems with the tests they were doing. The make-up artists there couldn’t work it out. Madonna’s make-up artist couldn’t stay for the tests and I came in and did it. I had worked on Desperately Seeking Susan too, with Madonna. Again, it was a stylised look.

Tell us about Max Factor and its latest products, especially Lipfinity?

The whole reason these products work for me, and I get excited about them, is that Max Factor created movie make-up. But he created it as a response to technological demand. There were no beauty lines at that time and young women didn’t really wear make-up. Max Factor had to create things that could work with film stock - black and white, and then the first colour film. Basically, he was he was an artist who was a craftsman and also a master of technology.

The company is maintaining that legacy. Lipfinity is an example of that because women want the long wearers in lip colour. They have created technology so that it’s good for ten hours. The lipstick is flexible and it won’t budge. A second coat - a moisturising gloss can be applied as often as you want. The colour won’t be disturbed. It’s certainly a revelation in movies when, over a number of days, people are kissing and eating. It won’t wear away in one scene.

For more information, visit

www.maxfactor.com.au