The Perfumes Actors Wear to Get Into Character

Must read

To help Jessica Chastain transform into The Help’s Celia Foote, a 1960s-era Marilyn Monroe lookalike, Chastain wore Monroe’s favorite perfume, Chanel No. 5.

Perfume can be a particularly useful tool for actors who need to toggle between characters on set. Noomi Rapace drew on seven distinct scents to help her become septuplets in the Netflix film What Happened to Monday. Margot Robbie reportedly wore perfumes from Playboy and Ed Hardy to transform into Harley Quinn and her alter ego, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, in Suicide Squad. And fragrance helped Taylor play an undercover police officer at a high school in the 2017 crime drama Thumper. “When I was playing the high school student, I used a Victoria’s Secret body spray, which reminded me of my own adolescence,” she says. “When my character was off duty, I wanted to feel more mature and powerful, so I wore Burberry for Men.” While playing two characters on the TV show The 100, Taylor says she spritzed “Tom Ford Café Rose for Josephine, who was the epitome of opulence. Café Rose always made me feel lavish, elegant, and a little bit naughty.” For her other role, she chose By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad: “It’s very floral, but has an earthy, cedar-type undertone, which made a lot of sense for Clarke, a character who was very kind and humble, but also scrappy and would kick your ass if she had to.”

Sometimes, the transformative power of scent comes from a learned association (like a body spray reminiscent of the actor’s formative years), but often perfume’s magic is harder to explain. That’s where perfumers come in. Their job is to turn words and ideas into scent, something Azzi Glasser has done for numerous actors and clients. Director Karim Aïnouz recently called on Glasser to create fragrances for the cast of Firebrand, his upcoming psychological thriller set in Henry VIII’s court. For the villainous, gout-ridden king, played by Jude Law, she developed a sickly blend with a distinctly “human” element (blood and pus, to be specific) and rose — a floral worn by noblemen at the time. “Honestly, you wouldn’t want to smell it,” she says. For Alicia Vikander, who plays Catherine Parr, the king’s sixth and final wife, Glasser created a more palatable concoction based on English lavender.

More articles

Latest article