When I wrote my SXSW recap in March, I listed Bottoms as my favorite film of the festival. Emma Seligman’s follow-up to Shiva Baby took me by complete surprise; a queer, teen comedy that feels both modern and familiar. Rachel Sennott, who co-wrote the script with Seligman, stars alongside Ayo Edebiri as two friends who start a “female Fight Club” at their school. These girls don’t pull any punches, and Bottoms certainly doesn’t hold back when delivering raunch— a refreshing and side-achingly funny update to the high school comedy genre.
In a Q&A with Awards Daily, Bottoms makeup department head Natalie Christine Johnson tells all about how she transformed her cast of sweet twenty-something starlets into a group of awkward high schoolers out for blood.
Awards Daily: Tell me about your early conversations with Emma (Seligman), creating lookbooks, and your early vision for the film. Did you use any other teen comedies as inspiration?
Natalie Christine Johnson: Emma and I took to each other right away in our first meeting. She was the icing on the cake that was such an amazing script. Our vision was always to recreate those classic nineties movies we all grew up watching, which had such an impact on us, with my own personal spin. Emma was really trusting of me and loved what she saw on camera test day. Other than the obvious Fight Club, we pulled inspiration from 10 Things I Hate About You, Jawbreaker, She’s All That, and Can’t Hardly Wait, to name a few.
AD: The actresses are all in their early to mid-20s; how did you “age them down” to a youthful, high school look?
NCJ: Luckily, our ladies were so youthful at heart that this came easy. I focused on skincare to create the perfect base for the neutrals and subtle pinks that instantly gave their faces a brighter, cleaner look.
AD: Tell me a little about the differences in each actor’s makeup and how their looks mirrored their “cliques/social status” in school.
NCJ: PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri) were very bare and natural to reflect their sense of innocence and inexperience. Isabel (Havana Rose Liu) and Brittany (Kaia Gerber) were our popular cheerleaders, so their makeup looks were more elevated to drive home the fact that they are our “it” girls. Hazel (Ruby Cruz), Annie (Zamani Wilder), and Sylvie (Summer Joy Campbell) finish out our motley crew of fight clubbers, and when you tune in, you’ll see we hit everything on the nose in our own iconic way.
AD: How did the makeup evolve as the girls become closer and the film progresses?
NCJ: It definitely evolved by pulling back a bit because I wanted it to show that as the girls became closer, they were no longer hiding behind their identifying looks and were comfortable being themselves by wearing their wounds like badges of honor.
AD: What was your favorite scene to work on?
NCJ: My favorite scene, hands down, is the final battle scene at the football game. It took over a week of night shoots, and we started with the girls being clean until all hell broke loose. That was our trickiest scene because we had to get the girls wounded and bloody, switch them to clean, and then get them back to bloody. Another element was that the weather seemed like a cast member that week. We had scattered thunderstorms that whole week, so it was a game of redlight-greenlight. I’d like to add that we killed it.
AD: How did you approach the bruising and blood in the fight sequences?
NCJ: My first stop was to contact our talented stunt coordinator, Deven MacNair. I wanted to get my hands on rehearsal footage so that both our departments’ work reflected every punch, slap, etc., seamlessly. All the bruising was done in stages to give the audience a sense of timeline. As for blood, I love a good blood spit after a punch.
AD: What was the energy like in the makeup trailer and on-set?
NCJ: The energy was exhilarating both on and off set. After the camera tests, the trailer felt like summer camp. Everyone was so excited to be there, and we always had good tunes on. Rachel had the best playlists.
AD: Do you have any fun tricks of the trade that you can share?
NCJ: A fun trick of mine is cutting any thick concealer with jojoba oil. It makes your skin look so flawless and hydrated.
AD: What’s next for you?
NCJ: I do have an upcoming project. The Passenger, directed by Carter Smith is coming out in the next few months. This film was so incredible to collaborate with the director and actors from a Makeup Department Head’s point of view, and I can’t wait for viewers to tune in.
Bottoms hits theaters on August 25.