RED, RED, ELECTRIC RED WAS THE COLOR OF HIS HAIR…
I’d love to believe that I really had great haircuts.
Who is Martin Samuel? The name might not ring a bell, but you are sure to be familiar with his work. He is the man we have to thank for one of David’s best and most iconic haircuts, the one he sported as Thomas Jerome Newton and the Thin White Duke – no less! The two alter-egos were incredible characters in David’s mythology and in our collective consciousness. But they were materially defined by smart clothes and strange but iconic hairdos. In 1975, Samuel had already gained considerable experience in his field, working in fashion and taking his first steps in the world of cinema. In this interview the English hairstylist, who worked with the likes of Madonna, Johnny Depp, Scarlett Johansson, Keira Knightly, Olivia Newton-John and in movies like Little Buddha, A Kiss Before Dying, Pink Floyd – The Wall and Evita, tells us how he collaborated with Bowie to create the look for The Man Who Fell to Earth. David kept the famous wedge haircut for two years, and it is featured on two of his album covers. Samuel also talks about his career and when a certain duke asked him to follow his entourage from station to station!
Mr. Samuel, you have been working in the world of cinema for 40 years. A strange and uncommon job I suppose, especially because you had to relate every time with different people: actors, directors, other insiders…
MS: In my career I have been working in many films and with some amazing actors, from David Bowie to Johnny Depp, Madonna, Penelope Cruz… Each actor is unique and when you make a movie you are creating a a character from a script telling a story. The needs are very different from a regular person. It can be for a contemporary period or for a fantasy, but basically the creative process is the same: you are helping the actors every day meeting their needs and making them feel relaxed. I usually do the make up and hair in a specific room or in a trailer, where the actors can refuge from the set and be themselves, feel relaxed. We are the first people they see in the morning and we are with them through there long day on set, making them look good for the camera at all times. It is a thrilling and rewarding experience! When I left my salon life I started to work on a lot of commercials and I learnt about pleasing the director about the camera and lighting, about the importance of making the hair look good from all the angles for the screen. I have been very lucky to work with some of the most talented directors of this generation, as you can see from my credits.
I know that before to enter into the cinema industry at the end of the Sixties you worked in the first unisex hair salon in London. Well, I think it was an exciting experience…
MS: Yes! I was the creative director and helped to launch the first unisex hair salon in London, Crimpers, in Baker Street. It was an amazing time London, during the Swinging Sixties: the fashion revolution with people like Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon, they were changing the way women wore their clothes and hair and I was part of that amazing innovative time. At the same time the Beatles had opened their shop Apple in Baker Street, selling all their magical mystery fantasy clothing. I worked in Crimpers for 2 years with clients but also doing photo shoots with fab photographers and famous models. Duffy, David Bailey, Terry Donovan and David Tack at the time promoted the salon. And my career was changing from salon life into the world of print and film.
The list of movies in which you worked is impressive, as that one of the awards you were candidated to. Finally you won a Bafta for the third episode of Pirates of the Carribean, but which was the greatest satisfaction for a movie?
MS: One of the most exciting moment of my career was really winning the Bafta award in London for Pirates of the Caribbean – Curse of The Back Pearl. I was working with Penelope Cruz on the movie Sahara in Morocco and Disney flew me back to London for the ceremony in which I had been nominated, but I had no idea I would win! It was a wonderful honor having started my film career in London and moved to Hollywood working on blockbuster movies and being honored by my peers. I also received my first Oscar nomination for the film. Working on Pirates of the Caribbean saga it was one the most challenging time of my life collaborating and creating the look for Johnny Depp, Keira Knighting, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush. The responsibility of the cast and all the characters was challenging, working with director Gore Verbinski. An amazing and unforgettable period of time, 4 years out of my life and it was worth every moment! Working with Madonna on Alan Parker’s Evita was the up to that point in my career an incredibly creative experience because I created 42 different hairstyles for her performance as Eva Peron; she was in every scene 6 days a week for 5 months… changing hair, changing clothes, changing jewelry and she always wanted options! I am proud to say she was awesome and looked fabulous in every scene in the movie and I adored her and she graciously thanked me at the L.A. premier for my work on the movie.
Do you prefer to create a hair-style for a man or a woman?
MS: I love working with glamorous women, whether it’s a star actress or a gorgeous model or celebrity, and that goes for guys as well. It’s my job and I know and have been told I do it well and I love it indeed.
One of the first important movies in which you are accreditated is Nicholas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, with David Bowie and Candy Clark. You were already interviewed before about this, but… how was to be in that troupe, and to work for a sci-fi movie that later became a real cult?
MS: David… wow! In 1975 Nic Roeg asked me to fly out to New Mexico and work on the film. So I had the opportunity to do the haircut for Bowie: one of the most exciting things to happen to me, ever! David was always relaxed with me. We had our time together every morning, getting him ready for the days shooting, and the times I would go to his suite in the hotel both in New Mexico and when we were in L.A., to do the color. I felt privileged to be allowed and accepted into the inner sanctum of his life. There was always a lot going on. He travelled with lots of books and always watching foreign films, getting inspiration from art and reading. The film has always been a great talking point by any director looking at my resume. It was a great success, David and Nic loved it!
I know you and Roeg collaborated to create that orange-blonde hairstyle especially for David’s character. Is it correct?
I was told to bring the color red tint with me as that was what David wanted. At the time you could only get it in UK or Germany. I met David as soon as I got there. He came to the make up room and we set to work on collaborating on the color and the cut for his look in the movie. David looked strange and wonderful as Jerome Newton.
Bowie asked you to follow him on tour. For about a year. Why in your opinion David maintained that look for so long? Probably not many people know this, but you are the main responsible for the hair look of one of he most famous and loved alter-egos of David: the Thin White Duke!
MS: Of course the crowning moment was when David asked me to join him on the Station to Station tour. He wanted to keep the look of TMWFTE for the tour. That haircut worked perfectly for The Thin White Duke and I was truly honored.
Did you follow him for every live date or just some?
MS: We started the tour in London, at Wembley, and I would do his hair and then be back stage during his performance, usually with Iggy and the rest of his entourage. We travelled all over Europe. There would be breaks in between each city and I would be flown out to do the cut and the color and spend a few days there. At the end of the tour he asked me to cut his hair short and take it back to his natural color. He was in Berlin at the time. He loved it there and we always had fun in Berlin.
I always loved the several and different hair-styles you created for Candy Clark!
MS: As well as doing David’s hair I created many hairstyles for Candy and I had a number of wigs made for her progressive aging looks. Nic was very involved in the process. It was great to work with Candy, she was very involved into her character and we had a great time creating all the hairdos.
Some months ago I interviewed Candy Clark for our page and she spent some wonderful words about you, not only from a professional point of you, but also about your persona.
MS: It was a fantastic time… I still see her at functions in L.A., she’s an amazing lady and actress!
The musical Lazarus and Bowie’s death. Anything you’d like to tell about?
MS: I would like to say I was… so completely shocked, and very sad, to wake up on the 11th of January to the news of David’s untimely death. I was stunned and … my grief was like losing a good friend or a family member. I miss him still and I’m so sorry that his life ended so abruptly. Lazarus is the most apt epitaph to David’s life an amazingly creative piece as was his entire life. I treasure the years I spent with him. Rest in Peace David.
Your forthcoming projects?
MS: I am just getting ready to do my next amazing project… to be announced soon!
Interview conceived and conducted by Matteo Tonolli
(Thanks to Sara!)