Ve Neill Talks The Hunger Games and More

Makeup Department Head and Designer - Ve Neill was able to get an exclusive interview with award-winning makeup artist/designer Ve Neill.  This artist won three Academy awards for Best Makeup for the films Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Ed Wood.  And her work on The Hunger Games could garner her another award, don’t you think?  She is also one of the main judges for the SyFy makeup competition show, Face Off.  She’s also currently working on the film The Host, and will be returning to work her magic in the sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire.

Here are some of the enlightening answers that she revealed in the interview –

On meetings with director Gary Ross and production designer Philip Messina:

I obviously read the book first and then definitely read the script. You’re hired for your knowledge and your expertise so I like to go in and say what I think and what I’d like to do, but ultimately we’re the tool of the director. We have to go off his inspiration and what vision he has. You also work together with everybody. I worked very closely with Judianna (Makovsky), the costume designer, because all these visions have to work together. Nothing can be done independently of each other or you’ll have a jumbled up mess. We all did work very closely together and we all brought our expertise to the table and we made a beautiful meal. [Laughs]

On working on the look of the Capitol with Gary Ross and whose ideas were used:

We came to something in the middle because I never got to see any wardrobe, and conceptually we always go to the extreme. We want to be big and fabulous and have our makeup to show, but ultimately you have put [people] in that world, get them dressed and they have to have hair on their head. It’s something where we all have to work together. They had done a lot of work ahead of me with the wigs, but we always have to go off what people are wearing. After we got to see a lot of Judianna’s costuming, we took our designs we were working on and adjusted them to the whole look so we had a beautiful picture throughout. We didn’t want anything standing out more than another and it all had to work together in a very symbiotic way. I think we were a terrific team.

Ve putting the touches on Elizabeth Banks' Effie Trinket look

On adapting the extreme visual appearances of the Capitol citizens from book to film and what worked or didn’t work, including feline features and skin coloring:

I’ve got to tell you we didn’t have to do too much because we did [the coloring] once and I immediately said, “Oh, no, no, this is not going to fly!” It’s really great to read that stuff but when you actually start seeing it then it’s different from your mind’s eye.  For some of the things, it was just too garish. When you put makeup on to color coat skin it never looks right. Maybe in one of the future books, if they want to start tinting people digitally that might work, but just very faintly. As far as doing it with makeup, it never really reads well and looks like the Hulk, or something. You really have to be careful with things like that. And as far as alterations, like making people look like cats, it wasn’t the story we wanted to tell. All we had to do was make sure that these people were very Imperialistic and outlandish and just over-the-top. We didn’t need to go there with those other things. Plus, it’s very time consuming to do that type of work and we didn’t have that much time to do it. We had upwards of 400 people working some days and it took nine hours just to get [the citizens] into beauty makeup, hair and wardrobe. Turning them into cats just wasn’t an option for us.

On which character she was most satisfied with:

I was pretty satisfied with everybody. I was really happy that everybody came out so beautiful. Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, he was so handsome and he put that gold eyeliner on and looked so amazing. He loved it so much that he actually asked me to give him some so he could take it on tour with him. I called up Make Up For Ever and got him the eyeliner and the gold powder and he took it with him. I dunno, we’ll see if he uses it or not. [Laughs]

Seneca Crane's Beard sharing the spotlight with Wes Bentley


On if she knew about Seneca Crane’s Beard Facebook page:

I did! I had to fight to get that beard and I’m so glad I won. I think Gary and Judianna thought it was too much but I said, “Oh, no, no, it’s fabulous! We have to keep the beard!” It was one of the tests I got to do ahead of time and I’m so glad. It’s an iconic look now which is pretty great.

On how much gore she knew she could get away with in regards to the blood and wounds of the movie:

I’m very aware of it because I had just done The Amazing Spider-Man which is also PG-13 and we did a lot of prep work there. I knew the coloring the blood had to be, I knew how much we could do, and what we could do and couldn’t do with the blood. I really knew our limitations ahead of time and it was good that I did because most people don’t know that going into a film if they haven’t actually done it, you know? It winds up getting taken out or they can’t use it so it was good that I had that knowledge going in of what we could see and what we couldn’t see.

[Spoiler alert] On Peeta’s leg injury:

No, we never talked about losing the leg. We did do part of a huge wound but we wound up not seeing a lot of it which was fine because I think it was too much. I think they showed just enough of everything to really get the point across of how severe the injury was, along with [Katniss’] burn. I think all of it worked out really well.

Conor McCullagh, 1st season winner of Face Off, was also involved with The Hunger Games

On Conor McCullagh, winner of Face Off: 

I had Conor do the sculpting for the tree bark on Peeta’s arm. I was already onto prepping for the Capitol when they had to go back and do the sequence with Peeta [hiding] in the rock, so I had him do that too. I wanted Conor to be able to showcase his work a little bit so that was really nice. I mixed everything up ahead of time. I told him exactly what to do and he did a beautiful job for me so you can’t ask for much more than that. He also did a lot of Cato’s wounds at the end after the mutt attack.

[Spoiler alert] On Catching Fire:

Yes, I’m already prepping it in my head! [Laughs] I bought a paperback version of the book and I’m already going through and highlighting and getting all my ducks in a row so I’m really prepared this time.

There are so many injuries and so many weird things that happen to them that I have to start planning ahead for water and sunburn. I’m researching a lot of products to make sure the kids don’t get sunburned when we’re out there.  Water and sun can screw up makeup so that’s what I’m starting on first.

I have to say I’m truly in awe of Ve’s talent and ability to create the world we see on film.  It is so good to know that The Hunger Games production was able to bring her in, as well as a slew of other professionally talented artists, on board.  Some questions were answered that people may have wondered about in regards to why certain things weren’t done, and I hope this relieves some of the gripes people have about things not being exactly how they are in the book.

Ve Neill and Conor McCullagh working on Leven Rambin (Glimmer).
Image provided by The Hob

For the full article, go here.

For images on Conor’s work [spoiler images from the movie], check out this Tumblr post.

A big thanks to all those involved behind the scenes of this amazing movie!

By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary