While the elaborate wigs in A Wrinkle in Time are out of this world, the makeup is a character all on its own. It makes sense if you consider how three of the main characters are literal stars, living in the human form. All three have extravagant beauty looks: Oprah Winfrey’s eyebrows were totally erased and replaced with gemstones throughout the movie, Reese Witherspoon wore green lipstick, and Mindy Kaling contoured her face with purple blush.
LaLette Littlejohn served as the film’s makeup department head and Derrick Rutledge worked as Oprah’s on-set makeup artist. Together, the two explained the film’s makeup process and how the stars felt about their eccentric looks to the Cut.
On Mindy Kaling’s purple blush:
LaLette: I love purple. Purple is prestige and someone had to have that, so we gave Mindy purple blush and it was beautiful on her skin. I also wanted her to look like a doll. When you are a child, you speak to your dolls, and I wanted the children to feel comfortable on that level. There was one scene where her voice was especially calming as she recited some poetry, so we used a turquoise jewel on her face because it felt fitting. The turquoise represented calm.
On Reese Witherspoon’s green lipstick:
LaLette: Reese didn’t understand her look as much. The makeup in this film was very different from the way normal film makeup looks. Reese had a problem with the green lipstick; she wasn’t sure if it looked good on her. But her hair was red and I knew the green would look beautiful on her. Fortunately, when her makeup artist put it on her, everyone loved the look.
On Oprah’s glittery eyebrows:
Derrick: I said to Oprah: “I have an idea. Because you are the wisest, the brightest, the all-knowing star, why don’t we make shiny eyebrows and lips a running theme throughout the movie?” I wanted different parts of her face to reflect light. I went to thrift stores and got old bracelets and anything that looked like the minerals the gowns were made out of. Each eyebrow took two hours to make. I had to measure her brows first, and then I had to erase them off of her face using a technique that a lot of drag queens use: you glue the eyebrows down flat, press powder onto them, blow it dry with a hairdryer, and then you take another layer of glue and press it into the brows, add another layer of powder, and then foundation on top. I did that every day.
LaLette: Oprah said we could do anything. Derrick did her makeup, and one day he told me that the stones on her eyebrows were popping off every time she moved her forehead. Derrick came up with the idea of putting the stones on a piece of lace, the same lace that you use for wigs. He would cut of the lace and glue them to the stones, and we never lost a stone again.
Derrick: For the scene in the cave, Oprah was actually three stories in the air. At one point one of her eyebrow stones came off. They had her in a harness and wouldn’t bring her down, so I had to go up there to fix it, three stories in the air. A security guard had to hold my pants from the back while I fixed her eyebrows.
And on her glittery lips:
Derrick: I took whatever color I used for the brow and put it on her lips. For example, in the cave scene I lined her lips with brown pencil first, and then I put an orange lipstick on top. Once I put the orange lipstick on, I would apply a glitter adhesive on top, and before it completely dried, I would press the glitter on her lips with a flat-head brush.
On the decision not to use Pat McGrath’s famous glitter lip kit on Oprah:
Derrick: A lot of people thought Pat did the makeup when images from the movie first came out. I based a lot of the glitters colors on the colors of her outfits, and unfortunately Pat didn’t have a lot of those colors. Instead I used glitter from Lit Cosmetics. They have at least 200 shades.
On Zach Galifianakis’s guyliner:
LaLette: He just wore a little. We brushed his eyebrows up and gave him a little bit of mascara, too. Zach’s look was the coolest.
On how they made the makeup last in the New Zealand heat:
LaLette: I like an additive called Rejuvenator. I got it out of Canada. You put a few drops of it in any makeup and it makes the makeup permanent until you’re ready to take it off. To remove, you have to wipe it off with 99 percent alcohol, or use a lot of grease. You can mix it with lip colors, anything.
On how long the cast had to stay in the makeup chair:
LaLette: They took about an hour to an hour and a half in makeup each day, and then they would go to hair. Once they got into wardrobe they couldn’t sit down because the dresses were so big. Oprah had to lean on a chair.
On taking off all of that glitter:
Derrick: It would take at least 30 to 35 minutes. I had to take a makeup remover with oil in it and let it sit on her eyes for a little bit, and then I wiped it off. Oprah would come in the next day, after she had taken a shower, and she still had glitter on her face. Glitter never wants to completely go away.
This interview has been edited and condensed.