Makeup guru Ivana Primorac spent the past year turning soft-featured actress Claire Foy into an angular Queen Elizabeth II, long-faced John Lithgow into a curmudgeonly Winston Churchill and an assortment of actors into palace royals and political figures — many of whom are alive — for Netflix’s “The Crown.”
The entire first season of the series debuted in November; a second season has been ordered, with six episodes planned.
Primorac, a prolific hair and makeup designer, has worked on such diverse films as “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “The Imitation Game” and “T2 Trainspot- ting.” For “The Crown,” which Peter Morgan created and wrote, evolving out of his 2006 Queen Elizabeth biopic “The Queen,” she aims to reflect “both the history and the now,” Primorac says. “It’s important to portray [the royal family] truthfully.”
To convey this sense of reality, the hair and makeup team was helped by a wealth of public footage of the royal family, as well as film from the queen’s private life. When Elizabeth was still a princess, her father, King George VI, gave her a Paillard Bolex movie camera, which she used to document many of her personal moments — including those from the time she got married and her honeymoon tour and also the private side of her public tours after she became queen.
Several different wigs kept Elizabeth strategically coiffed to show the early progression of her hairstyles, which soon settled into a constant look. Primorac also relied on a range of cosmetics to aid the subtle aging process as the queen navigated the decade from blushing bride to skilled monarch.
“When [Queen Elizabeth] was younger, we made sure that the skin was very dewy and light,” Primorac says. “As she got older, it got more powdery and more traditional — like the way
Her Majesty does her makeup to this day. She uses powder, a bit of blush and lipstick.”
Indeed, lipstick was vital to the character’s creation. While Primorac doesn’t know precisely what brand the queen uses, she guesses it’s Elizabeth Arden, which was very popular in the 1940s and ’50s. “We do know that it’s been the same two shades,” Primorac says. “[The queen] has always worn the same shoes, the same hairstyle, and she always has the same handbag. So there are certain things that she doesn’t change, and I’m absolutely certain that lipstick is also one of those things.”
The “Crown” team used lipsticks from Tom Ford, Rodin and Armani, switching between several shades of red and pink. Primorac would use specific types depending on how Foy felt about the scene, how young or old Queen Elizabeth was or how serious she was in the scene.
The sheer amount of visual references available to Primorac was at times overwhelming, she admits, “especially because you want to build an arc to someone’s character and see that development. [Like most people] they cut their hair every month, and their looks constantly change. But over time, you can pinpoint what it is that makes them into the person they’ve become and who they are in the public eye. Once you sift through all the material, eventually you find the clue that helps you build [the woman.]”