Ewan McGregor went on the record earlier this year about his feelings regarding faux facial hair, which led to the star of “A Gentleman in Moscow” growing his own mustache. But while the mustache is real, the series requires McGregor’s Count Rostov to age decades over the course of eight episodes. Creating a believable transformation required close collaboration with the limited series’ hair and makeup lead Jacqui Fowler.

“As a designer, you don’t want him to look the same as how he’s looked in the past,” Fowler told IndieWire. “And it’s quite hard because he’s got an eclectic mix of work. We thrashed around some ideas. At first, he mentioned wigs. And I was like, ‘Oh no, no, no, let’s not do wigs. Let’s do it on your own hair.’”

That presented a challenge because his hair and facial hair weren’t the same shade, so Fowler had to tweak his coloring. And McGregor was adamant about growing his own mustache for “A Gentleman in Moscow.” “At first I was thinking, ‘God, how are we going to do this?’ Because [his mustache] is so light. But we worked it out.”

Fowler looked to Russian men from the era for inspiration for the mustache, something she knew would be a big talking point. “I didn’t want to make it too Poirot or too technical,” she said. “The Hussar soldiers had big mustaches. That was what I wanted to get across. The Hussars would have it where it would droop down, but it says in the book — that’s the guide — it turns up at the end.”

Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov In a Gentleman in Moscow episode 1, streaming on Paramount+ 2024. Photo Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime
A Gentleman in MoscowBen Blackall/Paramount+ with Showtime

That twist meant that McGregor did don some additional facial hair. When we first meet Count Rostov as he’s sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel, he sports a head of wild curls and a luxurious mustache that twirls up on either side. The mustache’s ends don’t last long, but the initial impression is vital to the character’s evolution over the course of the limited series based on Amor Towles’ bestseller. “We added these little extensions [to McGregor’s mustache] as we had to cut them off in the shot,” Fowler said. “We were very lucky, in lots of ways, that he could grow a great mustache.”

Working with McGregor’s own hair — which they permed for his youthful looks — required careful coloring and tweaking to de-age and then age him subtly. Working from a mood board on which Fowler and McGregor collaborated, they added temple fills that they could remove to give the illusion of thinning hair.

Using McGregor’s own hair posed some logistical challenges when the shoot was interrupted by the SAG-AFTRA strike, prompting reshoots across multiple episodes, often on the same day. “If we went young in the morning, we had to wash the hair color out and then start again, and then add the grays into it ’cause it was just too dark for the contrast. And then we’d add the makeup on top. It just depended. Nine times out of 10, we were able to work out which was a better route that day just to save time. Because otherwise, it’d be an hour makeup change.”

Despite the stress, Fowler points to the buoyant enthusiasm everyone brought to the adaptation. “It was a very happy shoot, I have to say, and that comes from the top. I think there was a lot of excitement in general, credit to the producers and directors. We felt we were creating something special. Hopefully, the audience [will] appreciate it, and we’ve done the book and more wonderful, rioting justice.”

New episodes of “A Gentleman in Moscow” stream on Paramount+ on Fridays and premiere on Showtime on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET.

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