Why Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May Doesn’t Have Silver Hair Like the Comic Book Version

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Kaliardos: Yes, we tried lots of different things. And you kind of can’t say yes or no until you try it and see. We tried super curly…

Tomei: …we tried bangs.

Kaliardos: It was my husband who liked the long hair. It just looked so right because it was a nod to the ’70s. And you had those great vintage platform shoes.

Tomei: I’ve had those shoes for a long time. They’re from a flea market. 

Kaliardos: They’re kind of like the YSL shoes they’re redoing now. We realized the face should go with that [theme] — ’70s and shiny, with blush and a sculpted eye, eyeliner, really good lashes…. I saw May’s beauty as active.

Tomei: We used the word “active” a lot. Because in the comics, May never leaves the house. We wanted to imply that she had a whole life beyond the slice that we were seeing [onscreen]. We thought about her sexual life and things like that. The things that you don’t see, we wanted to imply.

Kaliardos: She’s not just there for Peter [Parker’s] sake.

Tomei: I think there’s a tradition where she’s been in the dark about what [Peter] is doing. But the studio and [our director] Jon Watts didn’t want May to be in the dark. There is very much a maternal aspect to her and that has great, great value, but the keyword was making her active again. And that was reflected in the hair and in the clothes — things like having a purse where her hands can be free and she can be involved.

Kaliardos: Even finding the right glasses was important, and of course a consideration for what the makeup would be on the eyes. It’s not just like, “Oh, I want this amazing eyeliner.” It has to be, “Well, how does it all fit into what the whole picture is?”

Tomei: And it has to not take too long. Because how much time would May have in her day? She’s still a working woman. Her priorities are her values and her work and Peter. So we thought about that.

Kaliardos: It also can’t be a drag [for us] to deal with every single day. I come from the fashion world; I don’t work on a lot of films. It’s very intense, it’s really long. You’re in a place where sets are being built and taken down and there’s a lot of things happening and everyone’s really working hard to get it done on time. So you don’t have that luxury of spending hours and hours or retouching things. Sometimes we have very little time to do a change or to do the makeup, so you have to come up with something that can be done and continued and matched all the time. But because we know each other so well, and I know her face, I could really do her makeup with my eyes closed now.

Tomei: We got it under a half hour. 

Kaliardos: It’s something I don’t experience very often in my career, this kind of collaborative, really intense closeness that we have.

Tomei: You have such a love of the art form. It’s really fun to get inside the character together.

This story originally appeared in the December/January 2021/2022 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.

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