Donald James Mowat, CM, hair and makeup artist (born 10 December 1964 in Montreal, QC). Donald Mowat is an award-winning hair and makeup artist and prosthetic designer for film and television. He has received a Primetime Emmy Award, two Gemini Awards and several trade guild awards, as well as multiple BAFTA nominations and an Oscar nomination. He is perhaps best known for his work with director Denis Villeneuve, and for being the personal makeup artist for such stars as Mark Wahlberg and Daniel Craig. Mowat has also been lauded for his work as a volunteer and mentor and is a Member of the Order of Canada.
Early Life and Career
Donald Mowat was born and raised in Montreal to Scottish parents. He fell in love with cinema at an early age and soon began noticing the costumes, makeup and other details that went into making films believable and authentic. His taste in films was mature even in his youth. He gravitated toward the works of Stanley Kubrick and Federico Fellini by the age of 12.
Mowat began practising his craft while still in high school. He worked for local opera societies, amateur theatre groups, and on community access cable television programs. His first job on a major motion picture was the 1985 film adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s famous semi-autobiographical novel, Joshua Then and Now, which was filmed in and around Montreal. Mowat’s work as a makeup artist can be seen on major Canadian productions of the 1980s and early 1990s, including the television adaptations of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Sharon, Lois & Bram’s Elephant Show and Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future. During this time, Mowat worked mostly on TV movies. He also worked as a makeup artist on three Heritage Minutes, including those about Joseph Tyrrell, Laura Secord and Emily Murphy.
Over the course of the 1990s, Donald Mowat increasingly took on leadership roles in makeup and related effects, often working as a department head. He developed a strong reputation for creativity and an ability to work “out of the kit” — to come up with effective makeup solutions using only what he’d bring with him to the set. His wide-ranging skill set includes casualty effects, tattoo cover, special effects, straight makeup, and corrective and beauty techniques.
Since 1992, Mowat has focused primarily on feature films. His professional relationship with Mark Wahlberg includes many of the actor’s biggest movies, including Three Kings (1999), The Perfect Storm (2000), The Italian Job (2003), The Departed (2006) and The Fighter (2010), among many others. Mowat has collaborated with Eminem on several projects, including the film 8 Mile (2002). He has also worked extensively with Daniel Craig, including on the films Cowboys & Aliens (2011), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).
Mowat has lent his talents to several Canadian productions that examine key moments in Canadian history, including Million Dollar Babies (about the Dionne Quintuplets), The Sleep Room (about the MKULTRA brainwashing experiments), and Prairie Giant (about Tommy Douglas). He has also worked with Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland on several projects. Most recently, he has collaborated with Denis Villeneuve on numerous films, including Prisoners (2013), Sicario (2015), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Dune (2021). As of May 2023, Mowat had more than 110 credits to his name.
Donald Mowat is an avowed proponent of mentoring. He regularly volunteers to mentor teenagers from some of Los Angeles’s less advantaged neighbourhoods to help them get a leg up on working in the film industry. Mowat has also advocated for more diversity in Hollywood, particularly in the wide variety of technical trades working behind the scenes. He strongly believes that to accomplish this, mentoring programs should focus on developing students from local high schools.
In December of 2012, Donald Mowat received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service to film. In 2018, he received the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers from the Governor General of Canada for working to help students “find their voices and explore career opportunities in the arts.” In 2022, Mowat was made a Member of the Order of Canada for his “contributions as a makeup and prosthetic designer in the film industry.”
Honours and Awards
- Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Miniseries or a Special (Mark Twain and Me), Primetime Emmy Awards (1992)
- Best Make-Up (Mark Twain and Me), CableACE Awards (1993)
- Best Achievement in Make-Up (The Sleep Room), Gemini Awards (1998)
- Best Achievement in Make-Up (Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story), Gemini Awards (2006)
- Best Contemporary Make-Up (Prisoners), Saturn Awards, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (2014)
- Best Contemporary Makeup – Feature-Length Motion Picture (Nocturnal Animals), Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards (2017)
- Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers, Governor General of Canada (2018)
- Best Make-Up (Dune), Saturn Awards, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (2022)
- Member, Order of Canada (2022)