When Colleen Quinton left Newfoundland for Montreal, a life in film was the last thing on her mind
Working as a makeup artist in Montreal puts Colleen Quinton face-to-face with world-famous actors.
Late in October, however, the Catalina native was busy turning a hockey star into a monster.
"(Montreal Canadiens right winger) Alex Kovalev contacted me through a mutual friend and asked me to transform him for the Canadiens' Halloween party," Quinton said during a recent telephone interview.
The star player was intent on being totally unrecognizable to his teammates. "So, I went to see him with one of my prosthetics guys, Mario Soucy, and we designed a completely new face for him. It was a riot and we all had a lot of fun."
Quinton had dabbled in modelling while working for the provincial government. She moved from Newfoundland to Montreal in 1984, leaving her secretarial job with the provincial government for a taste of big city life.
"I had no idea what I was going to do there but my sister Sandra had been working as a summer student on a film that was taking place in Tickle Cove. She was with the costume department and the crew was from Montreal."
Her sister put her in touch with the film's makeup artist, who told her he needed an assistant in Montreal.
Weeks later, Quinton was on her first movie set.
"I had no knowledge of the city; I didn't speak a word of French. I'd never been on a film set in my whole life. But that's the way I started and he trained me from there."
As she became bilingual and learned her craft, more work came her way, work that has taken her to China, Morocco, Thailand, Prague, Cuba, England, Malta and Italy.
During the filming of "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" in China, she headed a crew of 100 Chinese makeup artists.
"The beginning of our time in China was in Beijing, in a desert. Then we moved to this fabulous studio set in Shanghai … Some days on that production we had 1,000 extras in the streets … and because the movie was set in 1946, every single extra had to go through hair, makeup and costume."
Rather than working in a studio, makeup artists begin their days in the makeup trailer but then spend the rest of it outside with the actors and crew. It's important to be physically fit, Quinton said.
"Last winter I did a film in January in Montreal, outside all night in -28 or -30 degrees and then four months later, I found myself in the desert in Morocco in plus 52."
There are screen tests before every movie to meet the actors. This is where the collaboration begins between makeup artist, actor, producer and director.
"You have to size up who the person is who is coming to sit in your chair, and there's a certain decorum that you follow. I usually take my cue from the actor. They have a say in how they want to look, too - after all it is their face."
As lead Canadian makeup artist in the film "The Aviator," Quinton headed a crew of 30 makeup artists and 30 hairdressers.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, the movie is based on the life of Howard Hughes and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hughes and Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn.
Working on such period films - this one followed Hughes' life from the 1920s to the 1940s - requires much research, Quinton said, in order to be true to be period portrayed in the film.
"There's something quite magical about walking into a room where you have 500 extras and they're all in period makeup, hair and authentic costumes of the 1920s. To stand on that set and to look at your work in such a beautiful production and watch the camera crew work and to be proud of the work is the stuff that dreams are made of," Quinton said.
Quinton has worked with Blanchett on several occasions including the movie "I'm Not There," based on the life of Bob Dylan which also starred Heath Ledger, Richard Gere and Julieanne Moore.
By their sides
While she's been in the film business for over two decades, Quinton said actors continue to fascinate her.
It's vital, she said, to stay by their sides at all stages in the production.
"I watch them go through the process in the makeup room that helps them evolve into the character. By the time they get onto the set, they have become that person. I have stood in rooms and watched actors like Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Sir Ben Kingsley and Josh Harnett do a scene ("Lucky Number Slevin") and it has sent shivers up my spine."
Quinton has fond words for an actor from Atlantic Canada.
She met Donald Sutherland when they were working on the movie "Human Trafficking."
The two connected immediately and have been friends ever since, she said.
"I think it has to do with him being a Nova Scotian and me being a Newfoundlander."
Quinton has no problems talking about her life as an artist, but she isn't prepared to discuss individual actors.
"It is a code of silence, if you will, that is upheld rigidly and it is the proper way for it to be."
While she's been offered numerous opportunities to work on films in this province, Quinton said, sadly, she was never available when the projects came up.
Coming from a small town in rural Newfoundland has served her well with people from around the world, she said.
"Newfoundlanders are raised with integrity and a notion of hard work. That, and my personality as a Newfoundlander, has really helped me … Half of the reason of my success is being the practical Newfoundlander that I am and will always be," she said.
While giving Montreal Canadiens' star Alex Kovalev his Halloween makeover (above) was good fun, Colleen Quinton's bread and butter are the films and TV shows that call Montreal home, such as "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," released earlier this year. She is shown above on the set.
Here is a list of some of the film project Quinton has worked on:
"The Factory" (2009) (post-production) (key makeup artist)
"The Last Templar" (2008) TV mini-series" (post-production) (key makeup artist) (2008)
"Cadavres" (2008) (key makeup artist)
"Wargames: The Dead Code" (2008) (V) (key makeup artist)
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" (2008) (key makeup artist)
"A Previous Engagement" (2008) (key makeup artist)
"I'm Not There" (2007) (key makeup artist)
"Lucky Number Slevin" (2006) (key makeup artist)
"One Dead Indian" (2006) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Human Trafficking" (2005) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Miss MÉtÉo" (2005) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"King's Ransom" (2005) (key makeup artist)
"Maman Last Call" (2005) (key makeup artist)
"Tripping the Wire: A Stephen Tree Mystery" (2005) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"The Aviator" (2004) (key makeup artist: Montreal)
"Fungus the Bogeyman" (2004) (TV) (key makeup artist: Canada)
"I Do" (But I Don't) (2004) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"My First Wedding" (2004) (key makeup artist)
"Robinson CrusoË" (2003) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Beyond Borders" (2003) (key makeup artist)
"Pressure Point" (2001) (key makeup artist)
"Within These Walls" (2001) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Further Tales of the City" (2001) TV mini-series" (key makeup artist)
"No Alibi" (2000) (key makeup artist)
"Bonanno: A Godfather's Story" (1999) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"More Tales of the City" (1998) TV mini-series" (key makeup artist)
"Thunder Point" (1998) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Whiskers" (1997) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Windsor Protocol" (1996) (TV) (key makeup artist)
"Urgence" (1996) TV series" (makeup artist)
"Sirens" (1993) TV series" (makeup artist) (unknown episodes)
"The Myth of the Male Orgasm" (1993) (makeup artist)
"Haute tension" (makeup artist) (1 episode, 1991)
"Shades of Love: The Emerald Tear" (1988) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Sunset Court" (1988) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: The Man Who Guards the Greenhouse" (1988) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Tangerine Taxi" (1988) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Moonlight Flight" (1988) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Crazy Moon" (1987) (assistant makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Indigo Autumn" (1987) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Sincerely, Violet" (1987) (V) (makeup artist)
"Midnight Magic" (1987) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: The Garnet Princess" (1987) (TV) (makeup artist)
"Shades of Love: Lilac Dream" (1987) (V) (makeup artist)
- Source: Internet Movie Database, imdb.com. Photos submitted.