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Festival Life, by Alexandra Gill
I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille

By ALEXANDRA GILL, The Globe and Mail
September 11, 2002

When John Cusack sauntered down the red carpet for the premiere of Max last night, the American indie poster boy looked casually tousled.

Don't think for a second the look comes naturally. Mr. Cusack did not simply towel-dry his hair when he hopped out of the shower. That slightly rumpled effect was carefully executed by a creative director from Vidal Sassoon's Toronto salon. The groomed brows and light touch of powder came courtesy of MAC Cosmetics.

Free celebrity beauty treatments have become a regular fixture on the film festival circuit. This year in Toronto, MAC and Vidal Sassoon are joined by Chanel on the roster of corporate sponsors.

While we all expect the female stars to look their best when they swan down the red carpet (and tut-tut if they don't), it appears that men like beauty treatments too.

Makeup artists from MAC have made 53 hotel-room calls so far this week. Twenty of those appointments were booked for men.

Fritz LaBoucane, a creative director for Vidal Sassoon, who also styled Mr. Cusack's co-star Noah Taylor and director Menno Meyjes, said this male display of opening-night vanity isn't odd at all. "If you had a full day of interviews, you'd want to look your best, wouldn't you?"

Perhaps Mr. Cusack forgot to book an appointment yesterday, when he refused to sit for a photo with The Globe and Mail. Hmm. Is that what the writer from Now weekly meant when he recently lauded Mr. Cusack's special talent for "intelligent insecurity"?

Melissa Gibson, senior makeup artist for MAC who did Mr. Cusack's makeup and will be touching up Matt Dillon tomorrow, said male beauty treatments are more aptly called "grooming."

"We don't do a whole lot with men. We make sure they're not shiny when the cameras are on, or look too dry and parched. Do they have a pimple? Do they have dark circles? It's the kind of things guys don't think about themselves."

If it's someone like Elijah Wood, she'll tell the actor he needs to shave. "He sort of has that half-goatee, half-beard thing happening. We called in a stylist from Vidal Sassoon and did a little trimming."

Whether it's men or women who require grooming, the companies involved take their sponsorships seriously. For the second year in a row, Chanel has flown Susan Sterling, the company's New York-based international makeup specialist, in for the Toronto festival.

This week, Ms. Sterling has worked her magic on Parker Posey, William Macy, Kira Clavell, Jean Reno and the entire cast of Evelyn.

"There, that looks so much better," says Ms. Sterling, as she plucks my brows into alignment in the tranquil Chanel salon at the Four Seasons hotel.

Chanel asked the Four Seasons to repaint the suite. The buttery yellow shade must be more flattering to a tired starlet's skin.

It seems I need a lot of work. "Hmm," says Mr. LaBoucane, studiously assessing my hair. "I'm thinking really shiny. Have you ever used a straightener? Yes, I think we'll do that because your ends are looking a little frayed."

This week, Mr. LaBoucane has worked almost exclusively with LeeLee Sobieski, the lead actress of L'Idole. And no, he wouldn't dream of giving her an up-do. "LeeLee is 19. She doesn't want to look like an old lady when she's going up the red carpet."

Mr. LaBoucane has nothing but wonderful things to say about his favourite client of the moment. But then again, he's not the type to gossip. When I ask him what he thought of Cameron Diaz's seriously distressed hair at the Oscars this year, he promptly corrects me.

"She had very relaxed hair. I would never talk badly about someone else's work. Who knows? Cameron might have asked for that. And does it really matter? Our MTV generation has such short attention spans. Five minutes later, you won't even remember if someone looked good or bad."

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