Why We Like Them:
As writer, star, and film director, John Cameron Mitchell is unquestionably the creator of Hedwig, transgendered rock star and protagonist of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. But would the moody East German songstress have become such a sensation onstage without the hair and makeup design of Mike Potter? And would the film version of the show, which takes Hedwig beyond her iconic wing-tipped wig into a series of outré fashion statements, have been possible without the contribution of costume designer Arianne Phillips, who worked closely with Potter to create a series of camera-seducing looks for the character? Potter, who has contributed makeup and hair stylings to music videos and magazine layouts, is fairly new to feature films; Phillips is a veteran of such major movie productions as The Crow, The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Mod Squad, and Girl, Interrupted. But together they helped Mitchell achieve a rare feat: the transformation of a thrilling piece of theatre into something completely new, and just as valid, for a new medium.
"Working on Hedwig
was the wholly collaborative experience that I always thought filmmaking was supposed to be."
Photo of Potter and Mitchell: S. Giraud/©2001 Fine Line Features
What Their Peers Say About Their Work:
Thérèse DePrez, Hedwig production designer: “Mike, who certainly is a Hed head, was completely dedicated to the project, and took to film very smoothly. His wigs are amazing, each and every one. And Ari's work is so detailed and original, especially when you realize what constraints we had with our budget, with having to hire a Toronto crew, and working out of town. When I was meeting with John quite early on, and we were thinking about costume designers, I was in quandary whether Ari would be interested in doing something like this, because she's done so many big-budget things. And then I remembered that she and I did Going All the Way together right after she did Larry Flynt. She's a lot like me, where we'll go from a huge project to something that we really, really have our hearts into. She became obsessed, and she and Mike completely hit it off. This was a project where you needed that bond.”
In Their Own Words:
Arianne Phillips: “Working on Hedwig was the wholly collaborative experience that I always thought filmmaking was supposed to be. John Cameron Mitchell's writing, direction, and characterization of Hedwig were constantly inspiring; my creative process was nurtured, supported, and informed in a most intimate and rare fashion. The extra bonus of collaborating with the extreme talent and vision of Mike Potter's makeup and wig design made coming to work every day a real treat.”
Mike Potter: “I've worked with John for six years developing this character, and she only really looked one way until the day we started filming. Now people can say what their favorite look is. I'm always introduced as the guy who did Hedwig — but now it's on the level of people I don't even get to see or meet contacting me via the Internet. I guess I've hit something that touches them.”
What's They're Doing Next:
Following Hedwig, Phillips designed costumes for One Hour Photo, a film starring Robin Williams. She recently completed Guy Ritchie's remake of Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away, starring Madonna; the designer is also personal stylist for Madonna and Courtney Love. Potter has continued doing hair and makeup design for photo shoots, “working with beautiful girls, making them look however I want.” He is also collaborating on a futuristic film project, Spectropia, which is designed to be an interactive museum installation.