American Hustle, the new film from David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), opens with a can of L’Oreal’s cult hairspray Elnett and a very complicated comb-over. Even for a movie set in the late ‘70s, that’s a lot of focus on the hair. It wasn’t always so, says Kathrine Gordon, head of the film’s hair department. “Christian [Bale] and I spent two days figuring it out,” Gordon says of the character’s unique comb-over technique. “We came up with a back story and the unusual thing is that he actually incorporated my idea into his whole character. I taught him how to do it and David re-wrote the movie. I’ve been doing this for 35 years and that’s never happened.”
Needless to say, the hair in American Hustle is as dazzling as the all-star cast. More secrets from the set, above.
“Jennifer wanted to be a blonde for the movie, but she was going to have to go back to The Hunger Games, so we had to use wigs,” says Gordon. While Amy Adams’ character had constantly changing hair, Lawrence’s is often piled atop her head. “David knew that he wanted her hair to fall forward, and I wanted it all over her face, so it was really a modified Gibson (a style that was really popular at the turn of the century).”
Jeremy Renner plays a New Jersey mayor in the film, and Gordon initially wanted him to go gray. “He’s such a young guy that it looked over the top,” she says. “Instead, it evolved into a sort of politician-meets-rockabilly style that really worked for a New Jersey politician.” It took a lot of work to make his pompadour stand tall for 17 hours of filming each day: “We blew it out, used curling irons, backcombed it, combed it out, hair sprayed it, over and over again,” Gordons says.
Studio 54 was in its heyday in the late ‘70s, and Gordon borrowed heavily from its stars, women like Patti Hansen and Diane von Furstenburg. “Amy’s character is a hipster, a whole different kind of character than Jen’s Long Island housewife.” In what’s already the movie’s most-talked about scene, Adams and Lawrence have a confrontational moment in the bathroom. “The more her hair got messed up the better I liked it,” Gordon says of Lawrence’s curls. “When it’s organic and moving, like in real life, that’s what makes people look sexy.”
Adams has a killer wardrobe in the film—vintage Halston and DVF dresses topped with big jewelry and even bigger furs—and a voluminous head of hair to match. It ranges from bouncy curls to a tight perm depending on her character’s mood (and role). “The hair is the crowning glory of the character,” Gordon says. “Even if you don’t notice the hair right away, you will notice if you put the wrong hair on the costume.”
“A friend of mine lent me their yearbooks from New Jersey so we could see what people really looked like,” Gordon says of the hundreds of extras for whom she was also responsible. As for Bradley Cooper’s ‘do, well, you’ll have to see the movie for the secret behind his tightly wound curls.