It’s a gut punch of a moment, and we had to find out how it was created. Hair department head Michael Kriston got on the phone with us to reveal that, from the moment those clippers made first contact, there was no acting required; a Los Angeles-based stylist named Natasha Newman Thomas volunteered her locks for the sake of the scene. He explains more in the interview below.
VF Hollywood: How did you guys convince someone to shave her head live on the rowdy set of a Scorsese film?
Michael Kriston: This young woman is the sister of a very good friend of Leo DiCaprio’s, and he told her about this. She was not an actress. She was tall, attractive, and terrified! I mean, when she finally got involved and showed up and everything, we actually had a person who does background as a standby, in case she freaked out.
How do you even begin to prepare a person for the experience?
I sat her in my chair and I said, “You do understand what’s going to happen?” And she said, “Yes, yes yes.” I said, “But you’re also going to be doing it in front of about 400 people screaming at you in this huge scene.” And I don’t think she actually knew that. So we did her hair . . . I think that scene actually takes place sometime in the late 80s, so it’s big hair, that kind of teased-out look, and she was in a suit with big shoulder pads.
And what about the person who had to shave her head—did you train an actor or was it a hair-department member standing in?
I had to train P. J. Byrne, who plays Rugrat in the movie. I picked out the clippers [Oster brand] very specifically so they would go right through her hair—they were very, very powerful. [The actor] was terrified himself, because he did not want to hurt her—he did not want to pull her hair out by the roots or anything like that. But I knew with these clippers that it would go very quickly, and also she had very thin, fine hair.