Monday, May 23, 2011

Getting The Pirate Look with Martin Samuel

The hair design is critical because it is integral to the development of the character in a film." --Martin Samuel, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Chief Hairstylist.

 Martin Samuel

Martin Samuel, Chief Hairstylist and Hair Designer for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy talked with Longhairlovers about his styles for stars Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Naomi Harris.

LHL: Was working with Keira Knightley's hair extensions more challenging than working on hair that's naturally long?

MS: Yes. The shooting schedule was over a year and the hair extensions needed replacing quite often, as Kiera's hair grew down. Her hair also needed color touch-ups and I was continually replacing and renewing the extensions. I found the best shampoo and conditioner for Kiera to use to keep her extensions looking healthy and soft and easy to comb through was Karastase pink series. On set I used loads of Evian spray and Joico Integrity leave-in conditioner.

LHL: Any special styling considerations when working in the Caribbean climate's humidity?

MS: We shot on the water in ships. The actors' hair needed to look damp and tousled and the humid climate was perfect for that look.

LHL: Besides Joico Integrity and Kerastase Pink, did you have any other favorite styling products while making the movie?

MS: Yes, my favorite products included Joico Protect and Shine serum, Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Moisture Mist, SeaPlasma Re-hydrate, and Keihls Silk groom.

LHL: What challenges exist on a movie set that are different from in-salon work?

MS: Working in a salon, one sees one's client weekly or monthly. On the film set I am taking care of them daily so our relationships are much closer. In fact the hair trailer becomes somewhere they can completely relax away from the set. Also the continuity over a 12-month shooting schedule was quite a challenge as the actual story takes place over a much shorter period of time. We shot a lot out of sequence so keeping the actors in character was challenging.

Styling The Characters

For Johnny Depp's Captain Jack character, Samuel created critically acclaimed captivating look using beads, braids, hair and bandanas.

Keira Knightley's character Elizabeth has three new looks in the second movie, Dead Man's Chest. The first is an aristocratic upswept 1760s look for her wedding, which later becomes sensuously disheveled. Her hair is swept up onto the crown of her head and in clusters, which he softly waved around her face with a wedding veil fixed into the hair. Samuel used single bond, custom-made European quality extensions to achieve more length.

The next look is of Knightley as a boyish sailor with her hair cut short in front. To achieve this look, Samuel blended the short hair into the long hair. The short hair was swept forward and the long hair was drawn back into a single long braid and then wrapped in a black ribbon.

The final look is of Knightley as a very sexy female pirate. Using extensions, Samuel retained the natural movement by keeping the hair moisturized and free-flowing to look more adventurous. As part of this look, in certain scenes, the character dons a leather tricorn hat.
For Naomi Harris' character Tia Dalma, Samuel created a mystical, Medusa-like look that mixes braids, dreads, feathers and other adornments.

To render a whimsical, weather-beaten and grungy 1760s look on the Black Pearl Pirates, Samuel used wigs and hairpieces when the extra did not already have long hair. He decorated the hair with leather coins and other accessories that a pirate of that time would have collected from the raids of other ships.

For the Asian Pirates, Samuel researched at the Victoria and Albert museum in London and shaved the heads of the all the Asian actors to recreate an authentic Chinese period look. He used custom-made half wigs, which fit on the crown of the head, and the hair hangs down in a long, single thin braid.

Samuel conducted further extensive research for the design of the hair on the 1760s cannibals, relying on his best source -- National Geographic. It was a very specific look for which Samuel had all the actors' and extras' heads shaved and had very small wigs designed. He cut the hair on the wigs and then used various styling products to get the muddy and clay-like texture, which become a striking element in this movie.

Martin received a BAFTA and an Oscar nomination for his work in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. For more Pirates photos, visit Martin's web site at

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