Inside the Beauty and Bruises of SXSW’s Hit “Bottoms”

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

We recently spoke to Natalie Christine Johnson about her work as the makeup department head behind the hit SXSW Selected film Bottoms.

PH: Hi there Natalie! Can you share some of your professional background, as well as how you got involved working in the makeup department? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: Some of my favorite projects that I’ve worked on include American Hero, Into the Badlands, The Whole Truth, Claws, Torn Hearts, and of course, Bottoms. I feel I was always destined to be right where you have found me today. Since I was a child, I loved drawing and painting, which of course led to an interest in makeup artistry. I was working at a spa on Magazine Street when the film industry started to really pick up in New Orleans. I had a friend working as a production secretary in the office for the film 2 Guns. He knew that I wanted to branch out and get into film because as two young Hispanic kids, we were raised by television since our parents were always off working. He helped push my resume and introduced me to people already working in the business, which led to my first set experience and then snowballed into Stephen Dorff having a hand in my first Department Head job. 

PH: What has your many years of working on horror movies been like? How has that shaped your abilities as a makeup artist? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: I have loved every day of it, since it’s one of my favorite genres for personal watching. I am constantly learning from myself and my peers while pushing my skills as far as I can with the time allotted. As we all know, things are constantly changing on set, which has definitely sharpened my attention to detail. I can recreate any blood spatter in ten minutes or less. 

PH: How did you become involved with Bottoms? What drew you to this project? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: I was working on Blumhouse’s Unseen when I got the email for interest in Bottoms. After learning about the project and reading the script, I knew I had to meet Emma. After our first meeting, I was drawn completely in and made my schedule accommodate filming. The project felt so much different than anything that had ever been out there before. They had me at a 90’s feeling, high school, lesbian fight club. 

PH: How did your past experience working on horror movies differ from this more lighthearted, comedic film? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: It was actually the perfect transition. My team was so used to tracking the stages of wounds, bruises, and blood that getting to focus on elevated beauty and face painting was an absolute thrill. I enjoy working on all genres of film and hope to keep switching it up in the future. 

PH: Can you describe the range of looks you had to create? What were some of your favorites? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: It was a complete range from beautiful, natural makeups that then morphed into glam makeups to completely overdone makeups. Then just for the fun of it, we threw wounds and blood on it. I feel like every look was my favorite, but I’ll try and narrow it down. I loved doing PJ’s bruising transitions from fresh morphing into healing. Bruises are so colorful and different on everyone that we really dove in. I always told Rachel she was my Edward Norton when she’d sit in my chair ready to transform into PJ. Havana’s looks were also so fun and exciting. For her, I’d have to say her final girl look took my breath away. 

PH: What are some of the challenges associated with creating realistic makeup for an unlikely story?

Natalie Christine Johnson: For me, the biggest challenge is the timeline in any story. The Virgo in me needs to track all makeups and special effects transitions when I’m breaking down a script. Once that is done, the rest falls together perfectly. 

PH: Are there any movie makeup secrets out there that maybe most moviegoers don't know? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: Craft Services! For example, bananas or grapefruit mixed with blood make for shockingly realistic brain matter in a pinch. 

PH: What do you love most about the work you do? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: As we previously touched on before, I love that I get to help tell a story with my art. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world that my ideas and looks get translated to the big screen that I fell in love with as a little girl. These films can and will be able to be enjoyed now and by future generations. 

PH: Can you share any of your upcoming projects? 

Natalie Christine Johnson: Yes, absolutely! Unseen has just come out, and you can rent it right now. Also, I have The Passenger directed by Carter Smith tentatively coming out in the next few months. Carter, Johnny Berchtold and Kyle Gallner were so incredible to collaborate with from a Makeup Department Heads point of view. I can’t wait for viewers to tune in.
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