Carey Mulligan’s Cassandra is a femme-fatale for the cinematic ages—a performance that has catapulted her to the top-tier of the Best Actress race. Part of Mulligan’s Promising appeal is her ability to transform from scene to scene, and sometimes even from take to take, going from sexy to sweet, sassy to menacing with unshakable tenacity—hitting every turn of director and writer Emerald Fennell’s twisty script.
Helping to convert Cassie from girl-next-door to the nurse of nightmares is the work of hair department head Daniel Curet. Whether it was the subtle hairstyling of a day at work or a rainbow-themed homage to the Joker, Curet’s Promising Young Woman creations are a masterclass in contemporary hairstyling.
Read our interview below to learn more about Curet’s inspirations for Cassie’s golden mane.
Awards Daily: Carey’s look reminded me of nineties Britney Spears, that all-American girl with golden blonde braids. What was your vision for what you wanted to do with the character?
Daniel Curet: It all started with a few conversations with Emerald [Fennell], the director, prior to our first meet and greet. I knew Carey had just flown in, and she had just landed. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s a little aggressive, don’t you think? Bringing somebody to the salon right after they land?’ But Carey’s such a trooper. We ended up in a hair salon in the Valley nearby where she had a rental house, and I brought my bag of goodies.
We had talked a lot about basing some of her looks kind of around Brigitte Bardot. There was something about the Brigitte Bardot look with the heavy fringe and all that. Once I met Carey, she had sort of shoulder length hair, and we tried a couple of different things. And, when I pulled out some hair extensions to lengthen it, that felt like the right way to go. And Emerald just lit up.
I took her to my friend’s salon, and we colored her hair to match a bunch of hair extensions that we taped in. That’s what created that volume of hair. I wanted her to have a lot of hair. We put in maybe twice as many hair extensions as you probably would and then cut the fringe in a really heavy blunt way to give her that look.
And the braid that you’re referring to, for that one shot that pans up the back and around the front, that was just like a quick on-set thing. And the hair is so bulky that it just really made that braid extra thick and luscious. I don’t know if I necessarily thought it through, as much as it was just a gut instinct. Once we decided on the length, I just felt [Carey’s hair] needed to be luscious. [Laughs].
AD: Tell me about Cassie’s wigs, I’m thinking, particularly, of that fantastic cotton candy-colored wig she’s wearing when dressed up as the nurse.
DC: Emerald had always envisioned a nurse’s costume, and she had envisioned something with fantasy hair and had toyed with using color. Of course, I pulled in a bunch of references from what we had available. When we landed on that rainbow-striped, colored wig, the color we loved came in a one-length wig. The wig with that heavy fringe, which became a signature anchor look for Cassandra, was a little straighter, a little thinner, and not quite as nice. So, we ended up taking the fringe off of one wig and sewed it onto the other wig that we liked, and created a new look.
And most people won’t know that we had to do three wigs because we had a stand-in. While we were changing Carey out of one look and into that final look and taking time with her hair and makeup, they filmed some things on set with the stand-in to expedite filming. And then, of course, we had a stunt double for the struggle on the bed.
But the rainbow look was two wigs that I had to sew together to create a new wig. And then I finished it by curling and cutting it on Carey. And Carey was really insistent on that length. That was really was the first time, I thought, that she inserted herself. Because most of the time, I would ask her about nuances, and she would defer to whatever Emerald would like. Carey just trusted Emerald so implicitly with everything. So that’s how we ended up with that one.
AD: Promising Young Woman was a quick shoot with a small budget. What did that mean for you in terms of your work?
DC: Well, you know, when people watch movies, they don’t realize the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into even creating a simple thing. But when you’re working on a film with budgetary and time constraints, you have to work quickly because time is money.
Many of Carey’s hair changes were anchored around the establishing look, which was the heavy Brigitte Bardot fringe, or bangs, depending on where you’re from, with curled hair. To me, she wasn’t necessarily going out in disguises. It was more like she was adopting things about people she was attracted to or saw, that meant that all of the hair changes generated from the primary look except for this one final thing that was a total departure.
I think it’s well worth noting that contemporary hair on projects like this, where you create iconic characters, like hopefully the nurse, is something that people will pick up on and dressed up as Halloween—our girl power version of the Joker. But at the same time, one of the things that is often overlooked in the hairdressing world is that the contemporary styles of today are going to be the period hairstyles of tomorrow.
Some people will say, ‘Oh, that’s just a contemporary look.’ Yeah, but this is very right now. And when you’re going to look back and want to recreate a specific time period, you’re going to look at the films of that time. And I think that’s what Carey’s looks represent.
AD: I have to say that another one of the looks I absolutely loved was that high-ponytail Cassie has when she goes to the bar.
DC: Yeah! We’re sending a portfolio of looks for The Academy, and I was just writing about that one. And the funny thing about that is that it was filmed on the same day that we did the opening scene where she’s going home in the messy bun, eating the hot dog, doing the walk of shame.
Going from a messy bun to this high ponytail, and brushing it out and reversing all the tape-in hair extensions, so they didn’t show and all that kind of stuff. And then I added another hairpiece in there to lengthen the whole ponytail. It happened very quickly.
AD: And what’s next for you?
DC: I am about to start on a TV show with Daniel Radcliffe and Steve Buscemi called Miracle Workers. It’s in its third season, but this will be my first season working with them. Each season is set in a different time as this is on the Oregon Trail in 1844. It’s kind of Prairie and Western styles— a lot of wigs!
Promising Young Woman is in theaters and available On Demand now.