Dmitriew says of the main cast, Nebula’s makeup work has to be the most precise. “It’s hard to say which [makeup] was the most complicated,” he says. “Sometimes it’s hair prep, sometimes it’s a lot of underlayers. I think Nebula is one of the harder makeups on that whole show, because it’s the hardest to get super clean.” Dmitriew himself worked on Nebula’s makeup in prior movies, going into the final film having already applied it 90 times. Because of the clean lines in the makeup there was little room for error. During the testing phase, Nebula’s makeup took around three hours to complete, but with practice, they were able to complete the look in an hour and 15 minutes. 

In Vol. 3, Nebula has a more human response to her interactions than in previous films and was intentionally made to look more humanlike as well. In fact, her makeup plays into part of Rocket’s backstory, which was a note from director and writer James Gunn. “Rocket has the story [that he] has been helping [Nebula],” says Dmitriew. “Her right arm was modified [by Rocket]. From the very beginning, James was like, ‘Rocket’s been improving her — that would have been something that he did.’ But did you notice there’s a huge change in this makeup? Normally, her eye has the big mechanical eye piece, so that metal plate went all the way across her eye. In this movie, it doesn’t — Rocket removed it at one point. Really, it’s the first time that we’ve seen both her eyes.” Dmitriew shares that Nebula never had a left eyebrow before because that’s where the mechanical part went. Now with both eyebrows, more emotion is expressed through the character.

“That’s one of the reasons why she defends Rocket so much,” says Dmitriew. “When he wakes up [after flatlining on the table], the first thing [Rocket] says is, ‘Where’s Nebula’? They have such a bond and that is part of their bond.” 

Behind the Guardians’ Hair Transformations

Adding to Nebula’s transformation time was that Karen Gillan, who plays Nebula, didn’t shave her head for the role like she did in the first film. Russek shared that they had to figure out how to create a bald-looking head without getting rid of Gillan’s naturally long hair because, as a working actor, she had other projects too. Russek also notes Gillan was getting married right after filming wrapped. “Shawn Smith, who has been with Legacy FX forever, came up with this amazing way to do the bald wrap,” says Russek. “Not a lot of people know how to do it.” Getting the rest of the team up to speed with a bald wrap class was one of the first things they did when the film’s production started.  Since the movie was filmed in Atlanta, the team had to overcome issues like swampy weather which can affect how the bald wrap holds up. “It’s a process with a lot of gel and blow dryer,” Russek says. “As you are sectioning it off, you have to apply the gel and then blow dry as you’re going. You start to mold it.” Overall, this process took 45 minutes on average to complete. 

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