SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read unless you’ve seen “Don’t Worry Darling” in theaters now.
“Don’t Worry Darling” by Olivia Wilde is set in the blissful utopia of the Victory Project in the 1950s. Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) are residents of the insular desert town, where men routinely drive to work, wave goodbye to women, take ballet lessons and prepare dinner. It’s a ‘Stepford Wives’ scenario.
But everything doesn’t add up, because the women have to stay away from their husband’s office building, Victory HQ, and not know what they do for work. Soon, Alice begins to suspect that even greater secrets lie beneath the surface of their idealistic lives. After a neighbor disappears, she digs deeper.
In the film’s second act, viewers learn that the Victory Project is a contemporary VR world where men can control women and turn them into “perfect wives.” In the real world, Jack is unemployed and sitting at his computer all day, listening to a cult-esque podcast while Alice works long hours in the emergency room – until he captures her and forces her into the simulation.
Incel Jack is very different from Victory Jack. Gone is his slick, neat “Mad Men”-esque look. Instead, he’s unattractive with ill-fitting clothes, long hair that hangs limp from the grease, and a face full of acne.
Hair department head Jaime Leigh McIntosh and makeup head Heba Thorisdottir spent two hours giving Styles the look that makes the internet buzz.
The key, McIntosh says, was not to push Styles so far that his new look would be a joke. “It was about finding that balance and a fine line to push him in a different direction, but not that far,” McIntosh says.
Her first challenge was the singer-turned-actor’s thick head of hair. “I wanted to make it lanky and lifeless,” she says. But despite stroking his hair, McIntosh jokes, “I couldn’t fucking do it. Harry’s hair is just so full of volume.”
She eventually resorted to having a wig made. “If it’s long and sloppy, it was two pieces stitched together. When he had the short back and sides, I used the top of the wig and cut it to blend with Harry’s own sides and back,” explains McIntosh.
The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Thorisdottir. When production was on hold for two weeks, she let Styles grow a beard. Thorisdottir says she would “cut it to make it look skinny and skinny. We just punched holes in it.”
The team regularly discussed ideas with Wilde about what else to do with his incel persona. One that quickly became confused was the idea of scarring Jack. Thorisdottir says: “It is so obvious to do that. We felt like if there was a scar, we needed some back story on where he got it from and how it happened, and you’d understand why he did what he did.
It was Wilde who suggested giving Jack’s character acne scars instead. Thorisdottir says, “I know people with acne scars, some of them are super insecure and self-conscious. So I called Jason Collins.”
Collins, an Emmy-winning special effects makeup artist, created the acne scars that riddled Jack’s real face. “He put them together very quickly, and we tested them on Harry and he went for it,” says Thorisdottir.
Again, it was about balancing how much acne to give Jacks character, staying within Styles’ comfort level, and making sure it didn’t distract from his acting. Thorisdottir went through several versions of building a face with acne scars. She recalls: “A [version] was worse than the others. I remember he didn’t say anything, but I remember feeling we might have gone too far.” She adds, “I feel like we were able to tell the story with it. We weren’t trying to make Harry look bad, we were explaining his insecurities and why Jack is the way he is.”
Suits by Arianne Phillips completed the look. Thorisdottir says the discussions revolved around how big the clothes should be. “It was always hoodies and baggy clothes, like someone who doesn’t want to be noticed,” she says.
McIntosh adds, “Harry loved it. He really leaned into the character makeup. He had a lot of fun and was really looking forward to it.”