Martin Samuel's career as an international film and celebrity hairstylist has encompassed over forty years and over fifty films. He won a BAFTA for his work on PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003), and won further BAFTA nominations for EVITA (1997), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST (2006) and HITCHCOCK (2012). Martin was Oscar-nominated for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END (2007) and HITCHCOCK. He was personal hairstylist to David Bowie on his Station to Station tour, and was the hairstylist on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976), creating the iconic Bowie hairstyle that was also featured on the album covers for Station to Station (1977) and Low (1977). Martin has also been a personal hairstylist for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz, and his filmography also includes films with Alan Parker, Tony Scott, Nicolas Roeg, Bernardo Bertolucci, and many others. In the first part of our interview we talk about his early years as a hairdresser and hairstylist, and his experiences working in  commercials and early movies from Alan Parker, Michael Apted and Nicolas Roeg. We also talk about the recently departed David Bowie.
What inspired you to become a hairstylist?
I used to love watching all the Hollywood musicals on television and in the cinema when I was a kid. There was always the same credit for the hairstylist – his name was Sydney Guilaroff. I was fascinated by all the glamorous hairstyles he created for the movies and I knew that one day I wanted to be like him. It was the early 1960s and I was not a great scholar at school, but I was very creative and I wanted to express myself. I decided I would become a hairstylist. I went out and got a Saturday job in a local salon and I started to learn the trade. I left school at 15 , and the salon took me on as a fully fledged stylist. I started building up my own clientele. The 1960s were a very exciting time in London - Vidal Sassoon, Mary Quant and others were changing the face of fashion and hair cutting and this started me on the path of my career, which took me to working as a salon hairstylist in places like London, Paris and Spain.

How did you come to work on commercials with the likes of Alan Parker and Ridley and Tony Scott?
I went to work for Allan McKeown in his Albemarle Street Mayfair Salon. He had a very showbiz entertainment industry clientele. This was around the time commercials were beginning to use hairstylists, and Alan had built up a connection with production companies. He would send his stylists out to the studios to work on the commercials, and just take a percentage of the fee, which was cool. I was there for a while but then I was asked to help launch Crimpers of Baker Street, the first unisex salon in London, which was very exciting as I was the creative director as well as doing clients. I was promoting the salon by working on models with some of the great photographers of the day. A great friend of mine, Mark Ramon, a freelance hairstylist in commercials and in print, wanted to become a photographers representative and he handed over his connections to me. So I left the salon life as I knew I was ready to start the next step in my career – getting into the world of film. I was already working on commercials with future film directors like Alan Parker, Ridley and Tony Scott, Adrian Lyne, Hugh Hudson, and Michael Apted.

How was the transition to working on commercials?
Because I had already had a lot of experience doing hair for both men and women, and making them feel at ease and relaxed as well as doing their hair, the transition to working with photographers and models and directors and actors on commercials came naturally to me, and I had an understanding of what was needed for the camera. Everything had to work. The person moves, the camera moves, and you're telling a story.

What were some of your first films?
My name was out there and I was getting offered films, including STARDUST (1974) with David Essex, Adam Faith and Keith Moon, for Michael Apted. It was a big movie and a long shoot and we filmed in London, Spain, Florida and Los Angeles. After that experience I knew that working on films was my forte. I also did my first film with Alan Parker. It was a TV film called NO HARD FEELINGS (1976), which was a drama set in my favorite period, the 1940s. I was then asked to do a TV film for Tony Scott, a beautiful period piece called THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFIO (1976).

Was it much of a leap from commercials to films?
I was able to adapt. I don't think I even really thought too much about it. I had learned so much working on the commercials. I learned about pleasing the director, about the light, and about the importance of making the hair look good from every angle. I also learned about working closely alongside the costume designer and making the look work together. The continuity is very important. I am a hair stylist, and my job is essentially the same wherever I go. I was steeped in all of this from watching all these films in my youth. I was doing what I always wanted to do. It was so exciting. I was now working in the film industry and I loved it.

How did you adapt to working with actors and stars?
The needs of an actor are very different from a regular person or client because you're creating a character from a script. It can be contemporary, or period, or fantasy, but basically it's the same - you are making them feel relaxed, and look good for the camera and the character they are becoming. I would be given a script. I'd break it down. I'd meet with the director, and he would tell me his vision. Then I'd meet the actor and finalise the look.

How did THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976) come your way?
I was supposed to do BUGSY MALONE (1976) with Alan Parker. It was already greenlit but the dates had not yet been set. I got a call from makeup artist Linda De Vetta in New Mexico asking me if I would be interested in doing a film with Nic Roeg and David Bowie. I was blown away and so excited. I was sent the script and then Nic Roeg called me. We talked about the different looks, and we discussed David's look and color and what I would need to bring. We also discussed the looks for Candy Clark, as there were a lot of changes for her as her character transitioned and she aged and got fatter. I went to see Alan Parker and he told me that there was still no shooting date for BUGSY MALONE. Alan advised me to take the opportunity to work on the film with Nic Roeg. I had his blessing. I was very relieved that it wasn't going to be the end of my relationship with him. In fact I worked on four other great movies with Alan. I gathered up my wife Mary and eighteen month son Joe and headed out to New Mexico. I was unbelievably excited to start this adventure.

What are your recollections of working with Bowie?
He was just the sweetest, most respectful and lovely man. There were no sides to him. Whatever problems he had or whatever was going on, he was always the same to me. I spent so much time with him, as you do when you're doing a person's hair for a movie. You're working on them in close quarters, you're waiting around with them and you're travelling with them. We were all just flung together in this Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque, and I worked on set for the next three months. David never liked a big entourage but I was always accepted as part of it. I remember how easy he could zone himself into his performance as an actor, or as a performer when I used to watch him getting ready to perform on stage. It was unique.

How much of a collaboration was creating David's hair in the film?
David had a strong idea and so did Nic Roeg. David's hair was much longer at the time and I created the cut and intensified the color. The color he wanted was very specific which I had known and brought with me from London.

What was the process like of doing the scenes where David's character is in his alien form?
 The makeup and hair for the him in his alien form was very intense and we worked a whole week on those scenes. It took about three hours to get everything done. He had three make-up artists working on his body. I had to do his hair so they could fit it under the bald cap, and Linda De Vetta would complete his face at the end. His call would be for 4am, and he would just lie there and sleep while they worked on him. We would wake him up so he could go to the bathroom before the final pieces were added to his body covering his genitals.

Did you feel David was great casting for the film?
Yes of course. He was perfect because he WAS 'the man who fell to Earth'. That was just the way David was at that time: strange and wonderful. I think he was a very different person back then from the David we saw over the the last 23 years with Iman and his family life.

What is a memorable experience for you being David's hairstylist on the Station to Station tour?
I was honoured to be asked to join him on the tour and that he wanted to keep the look we created for the movie. I travelled all over Europe with him, maintaining the color and cutting his hair for the show. To be in London and be riding in the limo with David going to Wembley Stadium every night was mindblowing. In STARDUST we were reenacting all those large stadium scenes of a major pop star driving in limos to a performance, but here I was doing it in reality with David Bowie. There were all these kids with orange and blonde hair running after us. It was awesome.

That look was also featured on the covers to the Station to Station and Low albums.
After we had shot the cover for the Low album he had grown a lot of the color out. He hadn't been recording or touring, and he told me he wanted the whole thing cut off. I flew out to Berlin where he was now living and I cut it very short and took it back to his own natural colour. That was the end of that look, but it has become one of the most iconic of his hairstyles.

Did you get the impression that David Bowie was the stage persona and David Jones the real David?
Yes, I think so. Until he walked on stage he was quite normal and calm but then he transformed when he got on stage from David Jones to David Bowie. Watching that was amazing.  

Was working on big Hollywood films quite different from working on the British films you had worked on?
My experience on films in England really grounded me before I came to Los Angeles and started working on Hollywood movies. As I got more and more in-demand the films got bigger. The first big Hollywood film was COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER (1980) for Michael Apted, who had directed STARDUST. It was great working with him again but now here in L A. After that I did the fantastic XANADU (1980) with Olivia Newton John. which was an amazing experience, and we have stayed good friends. I did get more fazed because the films, the directors and the scripts all got bigger. But I learned to take it all in my stride.

How was reuniting with Alan Parker and Nicolas Roeg?
Alan asked me to work on his film SHOOT THE MOON (1982) with Diane Keaton and Albert Finney, which we shot in San Francisco. I was very happy working with Alan again. After that my family and I left L.A. and came back to England, living in a house in Herefordshire. Alan then asked me to work on PINK FLOYD - THE WALL (1982) at Pinewood Studios and also in Devon. That was a great experience creating the looks for the movie and going to work every day and listening to the music of Pink Floyd. The film I did with Nic was called EUREKA (1983), which was an amazing 1940s drama set in Jamaica with Theresa Russell and Gene Hackman. I took Mary and my two boys to Jamaica for three months, and we had a great time.

Working on EVITA (1996) with Alan Parker must have been a great experience.
Yes Evita had been my favourite Lloyd Webber musical ever, and to be working with Madonna, to be on set every day listening to the playback of the movie and to have been responsible for the look of the hair was phenomenal. You're swept up in a euphoria that's beyond comprehension. Madonna had 42 different looks for the movie. She was used to having her own personal hairstylist, so it took her some getting used to accept a different person, but after that initial period, we got on great. The film was a fantastic experience because Alan allowed me a lot of artistic freedom. The life of Eva Peron was well documented and the 1940s is one of my favourite periods. We were being faithful to the period but I was introducing my own flair and design in the hairstyles. I love doing period movies. On ANGELS AND INSECTS, which was a particular period in the 18th century, I created all the beautiful and complicated hairstyles for Patsy Kensit, Kristin Scott Thomas and Mark Rylance as I had done previously on EVITA.

As the films got bigger, there must have been more of a need for delegation. Do you enjoy leading teams?
Very much so, yeah. I had already worked with some great teams over the years both in L.A. and the U.K. You just get thrown into it, and you're only as good as your team when you do a movie like, for example, LITTLE BUDDHA (1993) with Bernardo Bertolucci. We shot that in Nepal for three months. I really had to pick my team carefully. I had some great hairstylists on that from both London and India, as I did on JANE EYRE (1996) with Franco Zefferelli. Italian directors are very passionate and very particular.

Do you enjoy doing research when you work on historically based films?
It's essential really. I go to museums and I try to see as much stuff from the period from books and from the internet as I can. That's where we got our inspiration from on LITTLE BUDDHA. We were dealing with the Ancient World, and all the references for the hair of the courtiers and so forth I got from stone statues and things like that. One has to be very vigilante.

How did you come up with the unique look for Jack Sparrow on the first three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films?
Those films were years of hard work and organising, with enormous departments. Getting asked to do the first film was an amazing experience. Gore Verbinski is a brilliant director and a lovely man. It's always that little bit easier when you're invited onto a film. I have been fortunate in that respect. Once we started the prep for the movie there were so many fab characters to create and lots of camera testing for each one. We had to design the hair for the individual pirates. I'd worked with Johnny on BLOW (2001), so I knew he wouldn't be around until a few weeks before shooting. We did the best we could before he arrived. Gore had told me Johnny wanted this zany, Keith Richards kind of look with braids and some jewelry, and a bandana. Penny Rose had given him a fitting in another country. We got word he was coming arriving in two days so we had to make sure a wig was ready. Penny prepared a lot of different hats and wanted to make sure whatever I made would fit under the hats. I started sowing and making braids and some beads. I came up with a prototype and was happy with it, but I hoped Johnny would like it. He was amazed at what we had done. He said ''How did you know that this was something I might like?''

Did you have a lot of artistic freedom on the look of the first film?
Johnny made some additional suggestions, and Gore gave me the brief on everything he wanted, but he left me to it. When I would ask Gore for his input on the hairstyles and looks he would say in a nice and lovely way ''I'm doing a million different things, Martin. You're the hairstylist, mate. Just go ahead and do it, but remember it's got to last at least fifty years.'' Once we got Johnny's wig nailed and he was happy with his look, it was plain sailing as they say. We never knew the first film would end up the enormous success that it was. Parts 2 and 3 were a different story. We shot them both together for over eight months in many different countries. I had about twenty extra hairstylists coming and going throughout the trilogy, as well as my regular team. We used hundreds of wigs and hairpieces, which we carried with us through the whole schedule. It was a massive undertaking, but very rewarding.

How much maintaining was needed?
The wig was very heavy to wear but we had the bandana which helped to keep it on without too much anchoring. There were pieces of his own hair that were blended in with the wig, so I was able to make it quick and easy to put on, which was good because Johnny, like most actors, wanted to be in and out of that trailer as quickly as possible. I didn't have to do much prepping of his hair, just for the waterwork. Once we got to the second and third films, the prepping became much more important because of the stunts and the need for the wig to stay on at all times. In the end Johnny had about four identical wigs which I made myself. The dreads would often get destroyed so we had people making these dreads in three different colours at all times. There were water wigs, stunt wigs and wigs for just acting for Johnny, and many copies for the stunt men.

You also worked with Keira Knightley on DOMINO, which reunited you with Tony Scott. 
Gore had asked me to join PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN around five months before we started. He was doing a lot of his casting in London as all his main cast were British, and fortunately I happened to be making a film in London at the time with Colin Firth so he had me meet up with Keira to talk about how I was going to create the look of Elizabeth, her character in the movie. She was only seventeen at the time and I had to meet her in a pub in Shepherds Bush. She was fun and we have been mates ever since. On DOMINO I had the opportunity to work with Tony again, and it was a great experience. Tony was an awesome director and I really miss him. I had to cut off all of Keira's hair off for that film, and it was a fantastic part for her, and a terrific movie.

It must have felt very gratifying to win the BAFTA for the first PIRATES.
I was in Morocco doing SAHARA (2005) with Penelope Cruz, and Disney flew me back to London to attend the ceremony. To be back in my home country where I started from and to be receiving the equivalent of an Oscar was the best moment of my life. 
How do actors generally feel about the time they have to put in with hair, make-up and prosthetics?
They like the end result. But it is so time consuming. For HITCHCOCK, we got Anthony Hopkins' hair, make-up and prosthetics down to an hour and forty minutes. Tony was extremely patient every day even though he didn't want to have to do it, and at the end of every day when he finished shooting he wouldn't wait to go back his trailer - he would just rip all the prosthetics off! It was always a bit scary, but then he would go back to the trailer and get cleaned up properly , I loved doing that movie, working with Scarlett Johansson and of course Dame Helen Mirren. It was fantastic having the opportunity to recreate the making of PSYCHO (1960), and I was rewarded with BAFTA and Oscar nominations.

Is it difficult sometimes to adapt to working with iconic people?
Yes and no. You know who and what they are, but that has to get lost in your relationship with them because you are only there for the reason of making the movie and doing your work, and being their support when they need to relax or let off steam. They are creative artists, and they're all different, but you learn with each new experience of how to help them and at the same time do your job. We are all there to make the movie or the stage show or the photo session. It can be a challenge or a wonderful and rewarding experience. I was Johnny's personal hairdresser on SECRET WINDOW (2004). We travelled together, we were on junkets together and I was part of the entourage. I had to act accordingly to his status, as I did with David on the Station to Station tour. I worked as Penelope Cruz's al a personal hairstylist on six movies and print jobs, commercials and on the red carpet. We had a lot of fun in L.A. and Europe, and she was always a joy to work with. We are still great friends.

Is it hard for you to sit and watch films that you have worked on?
On movies that I have done I just sit there squirming in the seat analysing the hair and all the little details that no-one else sees. I can't enjoy the film until I've seen it at least twice.

Can you see yourself retiring at any point?
Yes, I can, but not in the near future. I have already slowed down tremendously. I only do one film a year, and during the rest of the year I am doing smaller things and spending more time with my family. I've been lucky that over the last four years I have been able to do some high-profile films right here in LA, like OBSESSED (2009), BURLESQUE (2010), HITCHCOCK and LOVE AND MERCY (2015). I'm doing another film with Sacha Gervasi soon. I do a lot of commercials now, and I have a lot of lovely clients that I work with. My career has been so eclectic and varied, and I have had the life changing experiences of living here in LA twice and living in London and then in the countryside in UK.

Which films are you the most proudest of?
I'm so proud of the first three PIRATES films. I'm proud of the work on EVITA - working with Madonna and how we maintained the beautiful hair over six day weeks and six months and in three different countries. It was a major challenge keeping up with the continuity. Then there's THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH and working with David, and the opportunity of doing the Station to Station tour with him. Each film has been its own unique experience. I'm proud to have been able to achieve all that I have achieved and to still be working.

I'd like to say that I was so shocked and very sad to wake up on the 11th January to the news of David's untimely death. I was stunned and so very sad. My grief was like losing a good friend and/or family member. I miss him still and I'm so sorry that his life has ended so young and so abruptly. We knew that there had been health problems, but we suspected nothing like this. I treasure the years I spent with him. Rest in peace, David. 

I spoke with Martin by phone on 20th January 2016, and via email in January and February 2016, and would like to thank him for generously giving me his time.   

Look out  for Martin's forthcoming autobiography.

Martin's website

Photos (except fourth photo) are the property of Martin Samuel and cannot be reproduced without his permission.  

Text Copyright © Paul Rowlands, 2016. All rights reserved.

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