updated: 20/02/2009

ancient Egypt: various Cleopatra makeups

Cleopatra has appeared in many movies and TV mini-series: sometimes as the leading role and sometimes in a cameo (eg in a biopic of Julius Caesar). The curious thing about her appearance in the movies is how of-its-time each portrayal appears when you look back on them: Elizabeth Taylor’s makeup and hair was very of the 1960s and some of her less formal looks could have come straight out of The Sandpiper or Reflections In A Golden Eye – one of her wigs even looks remarkably like a swimming cap she wore in a beach scene in Suddenly, Last Summer; Claudette Colbert actually wore the same hairstyle in other movies with a contemporary setting: and Theda Bara looks like exactly what she was – a silent movie star.

Dreamgirls (2006): A car salesman, breaks into the music business with big dreams and signs the Dreamettes, and starts wheeling and dealing. Along the way he turns them into Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) and the Dreams – sounds vaguely familiar. Deena’s career takes off and soon she’s been touted as the lead in a new Cleopatra movie. Shutchai Tym Buacharern was makeup department head; Francesca Tolot was makeup artist (Beyoncé Knowles).

Tina Turner (2000): The late great Kevyn Aucoin transformed Tina Turner into Cleopatra for his book Face Forward.

Xena: Warrior Princess (1997): In the episode ‘The King of Assassins’ Joxer’s identical brother Jett, a cold-blooded assassin, is planning to assassinate Cleopatra (Gina Torres), but Gabrielle, Autolycus, and Joxer intend to stop him. Francia Smeets was hair & makeup supervisor on some episodes of Xena around this time but Im not sure who was responsible for the makeup for this episode; if anyone knows the makeup credits for this screen test please email me.

Cleopatra makeup test (1959): In 1959 Joan Collins very nearly became Cleopatra but the epic was delayed, and when it was made a few years later it was with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role: the rest is history. Personally I think Joan Collins could have made a better job of it – she would probably have hammed it up but at least it would have had some life – though the movie would have lost all the publicity of the Burton–Taylor romance. If anyone knows the makeup credits for this screen test please email me.