Emmy-nominated hair stylist Daniel Curet (Pushing Daisies) sculpted some of the most iconic looks for recent powerhouse films including 2020’s Promising Young Woman and 2018’s Widows. This year, he is a Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Award nominee for Netflix’s NYAD, which tells the inspiring true story of Diana Nyad in her quest to become the first person to successfully swim from Cuba to Florida. Curet has worked in several mediums that have given him a lot of insight into making hair styles work in difficult situations. For NYAD, Curet’s main task was to keep the cast’s hair looking great and realistic when they’re primarily filming on a boat in an infinity pool.
In this fun interview with Awards Daily, he talks about the unique challenges such environments pose with hair styling. He also reveals a surprising use for Jell-o.
Awards Daily: I read about the special mixture you gave everyone for the slightly wet hair look. How did you come up with it and what was behind the need for it in the film?
Daniel Curet: So they filmed the boat in an infinity pool near the ocean with green screens to fill in scenes later. It was clear that the boat was too small for there to be showers and it seemed appropriate that everyone should look salty, like they had dipped in the ocean or had suntan oil. But with the filming of the boat scenes we had no access to them unless they stopped to fix something so when we pushed them out of the makeup chair we had to come up with something that would hold up to the natural elements. We took hair pomades that were less water soluble and mixed them with some salty sea spray that kept the wet look we needed.
Awards Daily: In the film when Nyad makes it to Florida we get the scene of the crowd greeting her and later at the end of the film we see video of the real Diana Nyad completing that journey. Did that real life video help in crafting the hair for the film version?
Daniel Curet: We got lucky, because a lot of people came camera-ready. People in the industry know it isn’t feasible to style hundreds of people with a staff of seven hair stylists. We were in a remote tent and had to leave it to my local hires to make them look appropriate. Thankfully it is a contemporary movie and a lot of people in the Dominican Republic look like people in Key West, and people ten years ago look about the same as they do when they go to the beach now. Our goal was just to take anyone who looked distracting or looked too much like being in the 2020s. So we picked our battles. We had one guy near the back that looked like a guru and people wondered what we were going to do with him. I said leave him he looks great! So we really got lucky not to have many distracting people.
But I did get called a year later to come back because they wanted to VDX in more background people. We had a week filming in a tank that made them look like they were about knee deep in water, and we had to change their hair styles. Because they used the same 25 or 30 people in about every shot in different configurations and in different outfits. We had a blast! It was really fun!
Awards Daily: I read you used a trick from your time on Pushing Daisies to keep the hair intact under the swim cap. What can you tell us about that?
Daniel Curet: In the finale, two of the main characters were retired synchronized swimmers who were called back for a synchronized swimmers duel. The costume designer wanted me to put a Spanish mantilla on one of the characters (as well as one for her stunt double) who also wanted to have a Spanish hairstyle. Trying to keep that up under water was a challenge, but then one of the girls who was a background character in the synchronized swimming scene told me that for synchronized swimming they would use regular unflavored jello in their hair as a setting gel. It makes a thick liquid when you mix it with water and then put cold water in it and acts as a gel. Then when it hardens it becomes very water resistant.
We used that for this film because all of Annette Bening’s doubles had long hair, and we needed a tight enough wrap on them so the swim cap would look snug like it does with Annette’s hair and avoid a long strand coming out and looking wrong on screen. So I thought to use this trick because it would protect their hair from the chlorine and keep their hair intact because they will not keep the caps on all the time. But then thankfully Annette did all of her swimming and all of her stunts. So these girls, even though they assisted in the swimming and they were in the water, they had a fabulous vacation in the Dominican Republic!
Awards Daily: I read for the flashback scenes you worked with a lot of background actors to get that sixties look. Can you talk about what went into that?
Daniel Curet: That was a little bit more intensive, and luckily the scenes were very self contained. One was a birthday party at the coach’s house with a bunch of little girls so we just used braids and bows. The hard part was finding period color for ribbon in the Dominican Republic, but we did our best. The tones were not quite as pastel as I would have loved but in the end they were mainly blurs in the background. Then young Diana had a headband and teased bump and long hair. We had to work with that because the young actress they cast (who gave a great performance) couldn’t cut her hair to look like Diana when she was younger. Diana, if you look at all her pictures, always had short hair. So we took creative license with that, as well as putting contacts in her eyes to make them blue like Diana’s.
The actress playing the mom had a period appropriate shape to her shoulder length hair that I had to pin in the sixties hairstyle. The people in the stands during the swim meets were focused on as well. So by focusing mainly on these people, with the rest being blurs in the background who just had to have a shape about them.
Awards Daily: Looking at your filmography, you work in film, television, and music videos. How do you decide on a project?
Daniel Curet: I always think that the project decides on us. After a while of you hitting the pavement looking for work, people seek you out because of your work. I heard a long time ago from Frances McDormand on Fargo, “The work gets you work.” And it really has.
Awards Daily: This is more because I am really curious, you worked on Promising Young Woman, and I wanted to know what was behind the awesome rainbow wig that Carey Mulligan wears?
Daniel Curet: Right! So Emerald Fennell was probably one of the most creative and daring and inspirational directors that I have worked with lately. All of Carey’s looks and the arc of how they play throughout the movie is something Emerald and I went through several times and had it mapped out. But that being said, there was always a little room for improvements or adjustments based on what Carey’s input was. So I showed many fantasy wigs and the rainbow one to Emerald. She said of the rainbow one, “I kinda love it but do I dare go with a rainbow colored wig?” I said, “Yes, you should dare.” So I egged her on. The thing was Carey’s signature look for Cassandra was the Brigitte Bardot bangs, and being in a sexy nurse costume with a hat and wig that came with no bangs didn’t tie with looks that she normally had. We needed to make her recognizable in costume, so I found another wig that did have bangs and the colors but the colors were distributed differently. So we decided to cut the top off of one wig and put it on the other and marry them together.
Then on the day of filming with it Carey looks at it and says she wants it to be this length and that was the first time that she had been opinionated about something. Which I thought was quite subversive and pretty great. The thing was I was trying to cut it with nice razors and I am going through three razor blades. Then I just had to take out the paper scissors because the plastic of the wig was not cutting with the razor. We had to make that wig three times. One for Carey, one for the stunt woman, and one for the stand-in.
Awards Daily: Final thoughts?
Daniel Curet: Working with Jimmy (Chin) and (Elizabeth) Chai was an amazing experience. I fell in love with Chai when we had a Zoom conversation with her. Like I said, the projects pick us. My agent puts my resume out and people respond and then I get an interview and I go with the first job that comes along. I don’t really think about it too much. I just want to work with nice people. Jimmy and Chai were really lovely people to work with. Even though this was their first scripted film, as documentarians they didn’t want to make it look like a biopic. So we had some creative license for the actors to embody the characters they were playing without having to look like a photocopy.