“I look for colours that… say something to me – that make a statement,” says Academy Award winning make-up designer Michèle Burke in this video. “I look at the face or I look at the character, and I think ‘what is the first thing I want them to look at?’”
Burke has created such looks as Tom Cruise’s battered face in Vanilla Sky, Mike Myers’s bald-headed Dr Evil in Austin Powers and the ethereal bright-eyed Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. “I look at the totality of the person – the hair, the skin tone,” she says. “Who is this person going to be?”
She describes how she stumbled into the profession – “I didn’t know you could do something like this” – and how she picks the shades to suit a personality. “If you played a character in a film that was distasteful, I might choose colours that are in the opposite spectrum, to make you look in discord, a little bit off. Whereas if I wanted you to look appealing and gorgeous, I would choose warm, uplifting colours.”
If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.
And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, Travel and Autos, delivered to your inbox every Friday.