How Lucy Boynton Used The Power Of Makeup To Tap Into Her Latest Character

The Greatest Hits star opens up.

Courtesy Of Searchlight Pictures
Lucy Boynton in The Greatest Hits

It’s an oft-cited scientific fact that listening to music is among the most powerful forms of memory recall humanly possible. A certain song can bring you right back to the moment when you first heard it. In Searchlight Pictures’ new film, The Greatest Hits, Lucy Boynton explores that undeniable connection through nonlinear storytelling. But it’s not just the excellent soundtrack that tether’s Boynton’s character, Harriet, to her new and old loves — it’s also the cosmetics, used to connect points in time and illustrate her ever-changing state of mind as she moves through the stages of grief and in to an altogether new romance.

With Donni Davy running the film’s makeup department, there was little doubt The Greatest Hits would feature some of the most noteworthy beauty looks since Euphoria. Throughout the movie, Boynton’s characters’ style ranges from demure and closed-off to jubilant and eclectic, including dramatic lashes, trendy blue eyeshadow, and concert-ready smatterings of glitter. Boynton describes the task of bringing Harriet to life aesthetically as a conscious and collaborative one, utilizing both carefully-chosen beauty and fashion to deepen the movie’s emotional realism. In fact, it was that bracing look at love and loss that drew the actor to this project in the first place.

Ahead, Boynton speaks with TZR all about her role and what it took to bring Harriet to life.

Building Her Character From Scratch

The timing of The Greatest Hits couldn’t have been better for Boynton. She says she was searching for a project that featured a beautiful love story, but was particularly conscious and mindful of the type of material she’d be putting out into the world. “When I read [the script], it just felt like these two really beautiful love stories set against this killer soundtrack, but in a way that felt really grounded and gritty — it felt like the portrayal of love that is slightly less sugarcoated, slightly more realistic,” she explains.

When audiences first meet Harriet, she’s reeling from the death of her beloved boyfriend. Boynton describes her present-tense look as more colorless and muted, often wearing simple makeup and her boyfriend’s old clothes. When she connects with a new man, things change. “And you feel that she's pulling stuff out of her old wardrobe and getting a little bit more adventurous with the way that she wants to present, like she wants to be present in the world again, and that's reflected in her look,” she says.

Courtesy Of Searchlight Pictures

The Magic Of Makeup

Much of the narrative, Boynton explains, is a show-don’t-tell illustration that uses settings and style to demonstrate where the characters are literally, linearly, and emotionally. “With Olga Mill, our costume designer, and Donni Davy, our makeup designer, we really were able to demonstrate to the audience who Harriet was before this grief really took the color out of her life. We got to do these really interesting makeup looks and show what a kind of eclectic curious, youthful person she was,” Boynton says.

Working with Davy, as well as her real-life makeup artist Jo Baker, Boynton says she considers the experience a crash-course in just how extensively makeup can be a form of self-expression. “[Davy] is just so wonderfully colorful and experimental and wants to allow people the space to be themselves, and I think that was really beautiful in drawing out Harriet.” Boynton said Davy had several printed-out face charts, using them to hand-create designs, which they’d discuss together before actually applying on the skin. “It was all very kind of fluid and easy so I always looked forward to it — every time we got to set for a new look, I knew it was going to be something fun and interesting.” Davy even worked with Boynton on the film’s press tour, like a real-life homage to the character.

The makeup created by Davy did more than just shape the character, too. In describing some of her favorite looks from the film, Boynton says the artist considered functionality from every standpoint. There was one moment in particular, a flashback scene, in which Harriet first meets her late boyfriend at an outdoor concert. “It's this really beautiful, shimmery iridescent look with greens and pinks on the lid, and then she put pearl stick-on gems right in line with my pupil. In one context, it just looks, when it catches the light, really beautiful. And in another context, it kind of looks like it mimics a tear — so it kind of worked with both avenues.”

Courtesy Of Searchlight Pictures

By tapping into such universal feelings through a wildly accessible medium, Boynton, Davy, and the entire team have a serious hit on their hands.

The Greatest Hits is now streaming on Hulu.