The Great Gatsby Hair Designer on Staying True to the 1920’s

Article by:  Cheryl Wischhover of

The Great Gatsby finally opened this weekend, and did a pretty boffo box office (although it got some mixed reviews). But no matter what you thought about the film overall, no one can argue it wasn’t visually stunning. The combination of sets, costumes, hair and makeup all made for a gorgeous two and a half hours.

We already spoke in depth with costume and set designer Catherine Martin, but we wanted to hear all about the film’s incredible 1920s hair styles too. Kerry Warn, the film’s hair designer, was on-hand to answer all our burning questions.

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Director Baz Luhrmann always does period movies with modern, anachronistic elements, and The Great Gatsby is no exception (cue the rap soundtrack). So how historically accurate are the hair styles in the film?

“We absolutely respected the period. The 1920?s were so modern at the time and have had such a powerful influence on fashion,” Warn told us. The styles were based on research and direct descriptions from the novel, but then interpreted with modern elements. For example, Warn made Daisy Buchanan’s (played by Carey Mulligan) familiar 1920s bob more modern by making the bangs softer, rather than cutting the more severe Louise Brooks style fringe that was popular at the time.

According to Warn, the size of the production was daunting. “The biggest challenge was definitely getting 300-400 extras looking camera ready in hair and make-up in time!” Warn told us. “I have a fantastic team working with me that I owe a lot of credit to that kept everything looking the way it should look.”

While some of the principal actresses, like Carey Mulligan, cut their hair for the film, Warn used wigs for the extras who didn’t want to go that far. The wigs were essential to maintaining an authentic hair look in the film, because “we had to respect that in the 20?s there were no highlights or bleached blondes,” Warn explained.

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As you can probably imagine for a production this size, the team went through a ton of styling products. According to Warn, some of the dancers had to perform cartwheels, and their hair couldn’t (and didn’t!) move–that helmet-head look was intentional. The other unique challenge? Filming in 3D. “With 3D you have to be so careful about stray hairs.”

Despite having to keep every hair on 300 extras in place, Warn would probably do it all again. “The thing I loved the most was having the opportunity to work with Baz and Catherine [Martin],” he said. “They are such a wonderful creative force.”

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