A Conversation with

Sacha Quarles

For celebrity and movie stylist Sacha Quarles, it would seem that hair was in his blood. 揗y mother was a huge inspiration, Sacha says, referring to mom Aaron Quarles, who has styled hair for such movies as Dead Man Walking, Hannibal and Eat Pray Love. We talked to Sacha about his original foray into the business side of films, his work on several seasons of Sex and the City and his recent experiences on the sets of movies like Men in Black 3, Gangster Squad and the upcoming Dead Man Down.

How did you get your start in the beauty industry?
I went to school for business and began my career working in film production. While going through movie budgets, I saw what a great living you could make doing hair on set. Since I had studied sculpture in college, which I thought was very similar to working with hair, and knew hairdressing was in my genes, I decided to go to beauty school. After that, I went to work in a salon on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

What made you leave the salon world?
I began to work with the New York City Opera and fell in love with the theatrics of it. While there, I got a call about doing hair for the first Broadway production of Jekyll and Hyde. I worked closely with Dale Brownell, who taught me so much about styling wigs. From there, I did Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.

What was the first movie you worked on?
It involved a little nepotism匢 helped my mom on Flawless (1999) with Robert DeNiro (whom I still work with) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I then keyed alongside her again on Wonder Boys (2000) with Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire and Katie Holmes.

You were nominated for two Emmys for your work on Sex and the City. How抎 you score that gig?
To be honest, I got that job by accident! After wrapping Wonder Boys, I was walking by the SATC set in Union Square and saw the hair and makeup trailer. I had a friend doing makeup for the show (it was in its second season by then), so I popped in to say hello. That night, I got a call from hair department head Michelle Johnson asking me if I could help out the next day. Michelle invited me back again the rest of the week卆nd then for the next three seasons.

What was that experience like?
It was an incredible experience, both professionally and personally. I loved working with the women on the show梩hey were not only fun, but smart. They really knew what worked for their characters and taught me a lot about doing hair for specific personas. My favorite was Kristen Davis Charlotte because her hair in the show was always so beautiful and polished. Sarah Jessica Parker抯 Carrie was more of a free spirit, which was fun in its own right, but I liked creating sleek Upper East Side-appropriate styles.

After SATC, you went back to doing movies. How do you choose your projects?
I抦 very lucky that, at this point in my career, I抦 able to be selective. First and foremost, I accept jobs based on actors I want to work with. Second, I look at the subject matter and the period the movie takes place匢 love a good challenge. Finally, I抳e often accepted jobs based on the quality of the director.

Tell us about some of your most recent projects.
One of the highlights from last year was Men in Black 3. I was on the Oscar short list for that, which was a huge honor. I got to create incredible papier-m鈉h hair for Emma Thompson and gave Nicole Scherzinger incredibly precise and sculpted bangs (I attached them with eyelash glue to keep them in place during action scenes), along with great styles for Alice Eve and grooming for Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones.

I was Josh Brolin抯 personal stylist for Gangster Squad, in theaters now. The style was very period-based協aded in the back and on the sides and longer on top. I used Dax and Oribe Original Pomade to give it shine and hold.

Dead Man Down, which comes out March 8, is a dark love story set in the present day. There wasn抰 a ton of beauty involved, but when there was, I used Oribe products a lot on Noomi Rapace. I used Soft Lacquer to give her curls and touched up with Supershine throughout the day on set梚t抯 so light that it doesn抰 build up. One of the challenges with this movie is that a lot of the looks were supposed to be very undone, which I had a hard time with.

Spike Lee抯 Old Boy is also coming out桰 had so much fun working with Josh Brolin (again), Lizzie Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson. I had to take the characters throughout 20 years, so there were a lot of wigs involved!

You抳e worked on jobs spanning several time periods. How do you prepare?
There抯 so much research involved. It抯 not only a time period, but a socioeconomic class, geographical location, etc. I used to get books, but now I mainly do a lot of Googling.

Once you have some ideas in mind, you need to really understand what will work for the specific character and the actor or actress. It抯 similar to a salon consultation梱ou have to be able to explain WHY it will work. It's often a negotiation with the actors and directors.

Do you have a favorite era to style for?
Definitely the 1960s匢 like big, polished hair!

Which movies do you think have showcased the best hair?
I love period movies like Elizabeth and The Queen, but I also love seeing brilliant cuts like Meryl Streep抯 cropped Miranda Priestley 慸o in The Devil Wears Prada.

How has your business background helped you on set?
It抯 been a huge asset to me卆nd I think it抯 really helped me build a reputation as a stylist who抯 both talented and smart. You have to have some business sense in order to manage budgets and understand how much man power you need.

You抳e also done a lot of red carpet and editorial work. How does that differ from your movie experiences?
I love doing editorial and red carpet work with celebrities because I get to create beautiful hair that抯 for them卬ot their characters. I抳e been blessed to work with some really amazing people and photographers, which is really gratifying. Plus, you get to live the lifestyle of a celebrity at times when they put you up in the best hotels, take you on their private jets and travel with them around the world.

What advice do you have for stylists?
It抯 all about presentation. I抳e had assistants show up on set in sweatpants卆nd I抳e sent them home. You have to look professional梠r you risk others not respecting you and your craft. Always put your best foot forward.

Also, be open to learning, no matter where you are in your career. I learn something new with every job and opportunity. I study the other stylists around me to see their techniques and their creative process梚t抯 important to see how others approach things.

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