The Man Behind Disney's Wildest Beauty Looks

From the weirdly wonderful Mad Hatter to the Red Queen


Oscar-winning make-up and hair designer, Peter Swords King knows a thing or two about beauty; the fantastical, Tim Burton kind that you could only conjure up in your wildest dreams. He's the master behind Johnny Depp's most extreme transformations and has worked on The Hobbit, Into The Woods, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and most recently, Alice Through The Looking Glass. Oh, and he designs the beauty for every single character in these film – including the extras. We caught up with Peter to talk wigs, creating the Red Queen and standout moments on set.


The beginning

'I started out at Bristol's Old Vic theatre as a trained hairdresser and gradually progressed to working in Opera. I finally opened my own wig company, 'Owen King and Co' (now 'Peter Owen Ltd') where I worked for 25 years. My former business partner still runs it and it's where I get all my wigs for films made.'

First film

'My very first film was The Draftsman's Contract, which was celebrated for it's huge, white 17th century wigs. I've always been an artist and understood light and shadow and colour, but I've never had any training in make-up, it's all been a natural self-teaching process.'


Character design

'Never underestimate the importance of extras. You see the background artists on screen, so they certainly shouldn't be ignored. Each character needs to look as good as your lead because at any moment, someone could suddenly pull all the extras to the forefront of the camera. And then you're scuppered…'

Team effort

'There were a team of five of us [makeup and hairstylists] on the main bus for Alice Through the Looking Glass and around 40-50 people to dress everyone. But my biggest beauty team was 38-people on The Hobbit.'

Creating characters

'Natural-looking characters like Alice take around an hour or so to complete. Mia [Wasikowska] didn't like wearing lots of make-up, which made things easier! The White Queen would take two-and-a-half hours but the Red Queen took the most time because of everything that we had to apply: the nails, the eyelashes the prosthetics and wigs – there was a lot!'

Career highs

'My most recent highlight has to be Star Wars – I still can't believe I'm working on it. If someone had told me when I started out that one-day I'd be designing for a movie of this scale I would have just laughed. It didn't really sink in until I saw Chewie, R2D2 and C-3PO all on set, and then, I sort of went, "OMG, I'm actually doing Star Wars!'

Alice Through The Looking Glass is available on 3d blu-raytm, blu-raytm & dvd now.

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