Anjelica Huston on Morticia's Makeup, Oscar Prep, & the Scent She's Worn Since '86

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Legendary writer Joan Juliet Buck and Oscar-winning actress Angelica Huston have been close friends since childhood. On the occasion of her new memoir, Watch Me, Huston agreed to a candid interview with Buck. Click here to read part 1 of the exclusive chat, in which they talk fragrance, boys, and puberty. Read part 2—on careers, makeup, and Oscar emergencies—below.

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Anjelica and Joan posing for Interview magazine, October 1987. Photo by Matthew Rolston/Corbis 

JJB: Putting on makeup was a big hobby in London when we were teenagers.

AH: It made me late for school all the time. And not only did I do that, but I’ve always been prone to wash my hair every day. I’m still not happy unless my hair is clean every day. In the old days, I didn’t have a hairdryer, so it involved bending upside down in front of the air heater on the floor, which took hours. And your hair never really came out the way you wanted it to.

JJB: And when you’re a teenager your hair gets greasy, and my solution was to either wash my hair in the morning, or crochet a new hat.

AH: With which to hide your hair. And you got calamine lotion on it. Cause the calamine I remember being pretty much a full time thing up until your late teens?

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Anjelica and Joan with their mothers, Ricky Huston and Joyce Buck in front of Joan’s house on Chester St in London, 1964.

JJB: In my 20’s I was taking some antibiotics to make my skin clear.

AH: You were always taking something! When you went to live in Paris, you always had tons of little things that were cellulaire, crazy little potions that you went to some very specialized chemist to get, homeopathic things, and foot balms and vitamins for the feet. The French have vitamins for everything.

JJB: They do have vitamins for the feet. God bless them!

AH: And suppositories. I don’t get sick anymore, because I was always being threatened with suppositories. The years we went to Klosters for holidays, my mother was in touch with those Swiss doctors.

JJB: OK, when you played Morticia Adams, how long did your makeup take?

AH: Hours. Actually Morticia wasn’t so bad. My makeup artist was Fern Buckner, whom I met doing a Woody Allen film (along with Romaine in the hair department, Woody used to call them the Salad Sisters). Fern devised this really clever makeup with pieces of silk that she would glue to my temples. Sewn to the silk were 6” of elastic band, which she would tie behind my head to give me a kind of Asian look. Then it looked like the rest of my face was dropping, so we devised some other lifts around my jawline. And by lunchtime I was in agony. It was like being in traction. I couldn’t turn my head. And then, of course there was the makeup and that was extensive, and it had to be white, white, white, and it was a bit of an ordeal. And then the endless fingernails.

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Anjelica as Morticia Addams in The Addams Family, 1991. Paramount Pictures

JJB: Did they feel like claws?

AH: One whole hand got slammed in an elevator door, and then I had to have those stick-on ones and they came off all over the furniture and on my dog Minnie. I thought she was bleeding, but it was one of my fingernails nestling in her pretty grey fur. You’re not supposed to grip things when you have fingernails. You’re supposed to kind of just press them together with the pads of your fingers. I am not like that. I grab hold of things like I’m about to wield a pick or a shovel.

JJB: I don’t think we have ever gone and had our girlfriend mani/pedi session. 

AH: That’s because you’re mostly in some sort of foot distress. Or have been, over the past couple of years while I was living in New York. You shared your foot doctor with me though. A very nice man on Park Avenue who helped me out a lot because something had fallen on my toe.

JJB: Richard Kushner is one of the true angels in New York, an extraordinary foot doctor. Darling, now that we are older ladies…you haven’t changed your look and you look fabulous.

AH: Thank you so much Joan. You haven’t changed your look that much. I recognize you. Good haircut.

JJB: Thank God for John Barrett! The hair is gray, though, I just hate dying it.

AH: Hard thing to keep up with. I’ll say that. Particularly if you’re a brunette. That’s why so many brunettes suddenly become kind of apricot-y, it’s because they let it go to gray and then suddenly it’s pinkish-blonde.

JJB: Let’s not talk about the men who are suddenly redheads.

AH: I have problems with that. What do they use on their hair? Why does it always look like oxblood?

JJB: It’s the kind of thing you can’t really ask. The thing with men is to be in total belief the whole time.

AH: I know. “Oh yes honey, you’re a blonde. I know.”

JJB: I certainly don’t wear a white mask under my makeup anymore, but you wear makeup so well.

AH: That’s so nice of you Joan. I remember your being less nice about how I wore makeup sometime back. 

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Joan’s engagement party for Anjelica and Robert Graham in New York City, 1991.

JJB: What was the moment?

AH: You were in Paris and we were having a disagreement…

JJB: Which we do periodically…

AH: …Call us crazy. And you told me I wore too much makeup. Actually, I thought about it after that. You said no one’s even wearing mascara in Paris. I’ve only recently been able to think of getting up without running immediately into the bathroom to apply mascara. It was certainly primary for years, even before brushing one’s teeth.

JJB: That is actually what a woman should do! I’m sure I also said, “No one wears tights anymore, you should go bare-legged in your high heeled sandals in December.” All that French BS, really.

AH: I still can’t wear tights anymore, because of that. I just think tights look corny now, those flesh-colored ones. You look like a nurse.

JJB: We should start a nurse look with nurse uniforms and big red crosses, it would be good for society. The thing about putting on makeup, you’re an actress, you’re a star, so you don’t want to leave the house without looking your best. Right?

AH: But at a certain point, one kind of must.

JJB: I don’t always make an effort. I tend to go out some days looking like my father. 

AH: As I recollect, Jules was always beautifully presented.

JJB: He was always beautifully presented, but he didn’t wear makeup.

AH: Sometimes you just don’t have time. Or you’re coming back from yoga class. I like to look good when I aim to look good, but it’s nice sometimes to just be kind of sloppy. 

JJB: Also, you don’t crash around in sunglasses.

AH: I do in LA, but I can’t in New York; it’s so corny. In LA you actually need them because the sun is ultra, ultra, bright. Me and my whole household are wearing them because we’ve all been advised by our eye doctors that it’s the thing to do.

JJB: But you think it’s corny in New York because it’s…

AH: Overcast. It just looks silly. My dad was very anti wearing sunglasses. Only people who want to be looked at wear sunglasses, he said.

JJB: When you’re red-carpeting it up, it’s almost like getting ready for the wedding day. The underwear has to be perfect. The everything has to be perfect. Or can you just go, OK, into the dress, into the makeup and that’s it.

AH: It kind of has to be perfect, certainly for the Academy Awards. It’s quite some time since I’ve been at the actual event and I’ll mark myself again by saying in the old days before the Kodak theater, when you were at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, they were gracious evenings, and I remember finding my own clothes back in the early days. You didn’t have a publicist or a stylist. You just went out and found yourself a great dress and put on your makeup, and maybe got your hair done, but It wasn’t like now.

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Anjelica winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Prizzi’s Honour, 1986. Corbis Images

JJB: I remember one Oscar time when I was at French Vogue and staying with you—I’d brought a borrowed brown Yves Saint Laurent dress and you were trying on all these other clothes going, “No, no, no, I can’t, I can’t,” and finally I said I’ve got this brown Saint Laurent…

AH: Yes, thank you! It was really last minute because I thought everything I was trying on looked terrible. Everything was bondage and stitched and boned and I just, eww. I felt terrible in everything until I tried on your dress.

JJB: We can share things but we are not at all the same size or shape, it’s kind of weird.

AH: I know, that dress was really great.

JJB: What do we have to tell younger women about beauty or seeing themselves?

AH: Tell them to have a good time. Tell them to have fun.

JJB: That’s much more generous than mine, which is, “Lay off the glitter lip-gloss.”

AH: And also sometimes I don’t like that half-shaved head look.

JJB: I think that’s part of some radical construct that’s deeply sexual and political and has a meaning that evades us completely.

AH: I’m just too old to get that, and I don’t like the way it looks overall. I like piercings better. And there’s another thing, really a cultural thing, tattooing. It’s something I just couldn’t possibly embark on because I know I’d wake up tomorrow and wish it gone. I’m so in awe of all those people who just live with it, day in and day out. I can barely live with the skin under it, you know.

JJB: “How did that blue bird get there?”

AH: The blue bird turns really blue and blobby after a couple of years. 

JJB: And what about going out in the sun?

AH: I’d say bask, but don’t bake. And of course, use sunscreen.

JJB: As an actress you transform. I think the self isn’t fixed. I prefer not always having to look at the same person in the mirror.

AH: And one of the reasons why you always like to dress, to a certain extent, fancy dress. You like to dress up as things.

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Who wore it best? Anjelica and Joan trying on real teddy bear jackets in Los Angeles, 1993.

JJB: I absolutely do. You’ve noticed?

AH: Yes! You are always in balloon pants, and, I don’t know, partial turbans. You just are fanciful that way. A sort of Mongolian thing—Mongolian, Indian—various subcultural references are found in your wardrobe of late.

JJB: Definitely Silk Road costumes, whereas you are more the white satin shirt and the necklaces. And there was the period with a thousand gold bangles.

AH: Now it’s a thousand pearls. I’m liking land of a thousand pearls.

JJB: Pearls like to be on the body. They get stuff off your body.

AH: They get all lustrous.

JJB: Perfume—are you still wearing 1000?

AH: I’m still wearing what you gave me a hundred years ago.

JJB: 1986?

AH: No, 1000.  But the year was 1986. That’s just how long I’ve been wearing it. You said to me, you should try this perfume, it would be good on you, and I’ve worn it ever since. And you know how you stop being able to smell your own perfume? What I really like about Jean Patou 1000, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately and sometimes I just lay back in my corpse pose and a little whiff of Patou 1000 escapes, a little cloud of it above my nose and it make me happy. 

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Jean Patou “1000” pictured above. 

JJB: Just you talking about it on the phone, I can smell it.

AH: You can?

JJB: Yeah.

AH: It’s magic, isn’t it?

JJB: I see the potential in things, but it doesn’t always apply to me. From the moment I bought 1000 as my perfume, I knew that it was actually yours.

AH: It is.

JJB: The same with Valerie Wade, I knew that Creed’s Angélique Encens was hers. But now I’ve found a new perfume that thrills me, and when anyone asks me what it is, I give the name of something else. I know I’m always giving away stuff, so I have to stop myself.

AH: Don’t stop yourself from that. That’s a lovely thing. To be able to identify how someone should be smelling, to have that perception. That’s a real nose. That’s what your nose is for, Joan.

JJB: Oh God, I’ve missed my vocation.

AH: See. That’s why we have noses. 

JJB: And what’s your nose for, darling?

AH: Me? For rooting around and smelling it out.

JJB: It’s for finding your bottle of Soir de Paris from Woolworths in Galway in 1959. Safely kept and transported through many lives to Los Angeles in 2014.

AH: There you go!