• Jennifer Bell on location in Jordan during the filming of <i>Transformers: Dark of the Moon</i>.

Jennifer Bell

Not many people can say that their work has been seen by nearly 50 million people around the world, but Jennifer Bell can easily make that claim. As the lead stylist for one of the most successful movies of all time, The Avengers, Bell brought some of Marvel’s beloved superheroes to life. We talked to the in-demand hairdresser—she’s currently working on the next installment of Iron Man—about pleasing comic book fans, breaking into the film industry, her favorite projects and more.

When did you discover your passion for hair?

My passion actually ignited after I started doing hair. I was looking for a new direction in my life and had an opportunity to go to beauty school. As I learned to work with hair, my passion only grew.

Favorite Oribe Product?

Royal Blowout Heat Styling Spray.

What got you interested in the film industry?

When I started school, my boyfriend at the time worked in the film business. I would visit him on set and thought it seemed like a great working situation. From that point it was my goal to do films.

Did you ever work in a salon?

I worked at Shell Burton’s, an upscale salon in West Hollywood, after I got out of school. Even though it was my goal to do films, I knew I needed that experience. I worked there for about a year assisting Shell. It was the perfect place to start because he had a lot of celebrity musicians as clients, and I got to assist him on music videos. It was the ‘80s, so they were a big deal then!

How did you break into films?

After a year in the salon, it was time to move on. I went back to bartending to make money and have my days free, and I started pounding the pavement….working for free, doing anything I could to get some experience. There was a lot more non-union work back then. When I realized my next hurdle was going to be getting into the union, that became my obsession!

One day I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I was asked to assist the Dept Head Hairdresser on a non-union film. As luck would have it, it was organized and went union in the first week. I got my required 30 working days and joined in 1988. From that point, the pavement pounding continued….but once you join the union you can put your name on the roster and do ‘day-playing,’ where you have the opportunity to meet more people and get more experience. Then things just snowballed, and the more people I met, the more I worked.

Do you have a favorite look that you’ve created?

I think Love Ranch was one of my favorites. Even though the movie didn’t do well (always a disappointment), it was one of the most creative and challenging projects I’ve done. It was based on a true story set in 1976 at the Mustang Ranch in Reno, Nevada. Helen Mirren was such a pleasure to work with and was up for anything.

How much do you work with the director on the hair looks for the various characters?

It is always my goal to please the director and the costume designer! When I get the script, I do a breakdown of each character and do a presentation. Once I have the director’s vision clear in my head, that is what I approach the actors with.

What’s it like to create superhero hair?

Creating superhero hair is not as exciting as it may sound. These characters have been around for a long time and have a huge following from the comic books, so you can’t stray too far. It’s more about adapting a two-dimensional style into a three-dimensional one that looks believable.

Who has your favorite look for The Avengers?

It’s hard to choose a favorite. In The Avengers, each character has their own distinct look. I think Loki was the one we got to have the most fun with. He was definitely a group effort—his costume was spectacular and very inspiring.

Were you a fan of comic books growing up?

I was not really a comic book fan, but I’m still amazed at how loyal the true fans are… I have a huge need to please them!

Who’s your favorite superhero?

Iron Man, of course!

You’ve worked on films of many different genres, from huge blockbusters (Transformers) and period pieces (Love Ranch) to sci-fi (The Invasion) and comedies (The Hangover Part II)—do you have a favorite? How does your job differ with each type of film in terms of creativity, preparation, etc.?

I love every genre of film making. For the last couple of years I have been on a roll with these big superhero movies and that has been great, but I am ready for a nice romantic comedy!

On a large action movie, you have stunt doubles for the main cast…sometimes more than one. That is a challenge in itself and usually includes a wig. The better the doubles look, the closer they can shoot them.

Period movies include a much larger prep time, and I work more working closely with the costume designer. The majority of the characters wear wigs, which involves a whole new aspect of prep and maintenance throughout the shoot. It’s a lot of hard work, but very rewarding at the same time.

Sci-fi is where I have the most freedom to create looks. I usually get a few notes about the direction they want to go, then it’s up to me to put it all together. This isn’t something I do alone. I have a great crew that I work with, and it is definitely a group effort. That is one of the things I love about this business: Being open to everyone’s ideas only makes you look better in the end.
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