There’s more to the twisted romance of Love Lies Bleeding than sapphic sex and violence. There’s also big hair and bad teeth. 

Set in a rundown New Mexican town in the 1980s, this critically heralded thriller uses production design to give a sense of the grimy and corrupt community that surrounds lovers Lou (Kristen Stewart) and Jackie (Katy O’Brian). But director Rose Glass was keen to make these characters stand out with hair that wasn’t just true to the period, but true to their flawed and fascinating characters. 

Following a video interview with Glass and her stars, Mashable spoke with the director individually to dig deeper into the details of Love Lies Bleeding. There’s an array of mullets in the film, which just makes sense as the hairstyle had a chokehold on the era. However, each one was meticulously crafted for the character who wore it. 

Ed Harris brought his own skullet to set. 

Ed Harris wearing a skullet.

Ed Harris wearing a skullet.
Credit: A24

Once Harris joined the production as Lou Sr., the grim kingpin father of Stewart’s character, Glass told the long-respected actor she’d like him to look “different” than he ever had before. He proposed adding a ponytail to the base of his signature balding scalp, but before that, a hairstylist friend installed long, wispy, gray extensions on him. Glass was delighted by the look.

“It’s a ‘skullet,’ apparently,” she told Mashable of the distinctive hairdo, “Which, I didn’t know that word until reading press about this. So I’m learning every day.”

On a more serious note, Glass explained that while Harris got the extensions on his own, the ponytail never came to be. She and Love Lies Bleeding hair department head Megan Daum made “the executive decision to do absolutely nothing with [the extensions] — as it looked incredible already.”

Yet there was a curious bit of happenstance in this coiffure collaboration. In the film’s press notes, Glass recalled what happened when she showed Kristen Stewart an image of Harris wearing his skullet.

“She immediately got out her phone and showed me a picture of her dad,” the director explained. “Turns out, he’s got the same hair. She asked me, ‘Did you find a picture of my dad and send it to Ed?’ But no, it was Ed who landed on this very specific hairstyle, which seemed meant to be.”

Kristen Stewart and Dave Franco get mullet makeovers. 

Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian put their heads together.

Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian put their heads together.
Credit: A24

As a surly lesbian who works at the town’s grungy gym, Stewart sports fashion that’s explicitly queer, including oversized T-shirts with the sleeves cut off, the armholes low enough to give a hint of side-boob, and the femme mullet, which saw a resurgence on TikTok during the pandemic. While it’s a cliche online that LGBTQ people chop off their own hair (sometimes because salons can be unwelcoming to haircuts that challenge a gender binary), Stewart’s choppy yet fabulous mullet was professionally done. 

Glass explained, “Kristen’s hair cut was done by Adir (Abergel), her pal/hair stylist. So, as soon as she got to Albuquerque [for the shoot], [Abergel] basically came over and hacked the hair off.” 

Dave Franco as an '80s dad.

Dave Franco as an ’80s dad.
Credit: A24

Also mulleted for the movie was Dave Franco, who plays Lou Sr.’s son-in-law and sidekick, J.J. Franco usually sports short, sharp styles; here, he absolutely nails the look of an ’80s dad. It’s not just about the mullet, but also the matching push-broom mustache. Glass said Franco noted people “treated him differently” when he wore this make-under, but she felt the look “really suits him.” 

More importantly, both Lou and J.J.’s mullets show their connection to the intimidating Lou Sr. Even though they are estranged, his daughter can’t escape their similarities. “You’re trying to tell a story,” Glass explained, noting, “[J.J.] has got, like, a little baby mullet. He works for Lou Sr., who he’s kind of trying to impress and emulate. These are all kinds of slightly small town characters, who see their hair as their self-expression.”

Katy O’Brian rocks a radiant perm inspired by an icon. 

Katy O'Brian flexes with a perm.

Katy O’Brian flexes with a perm.
Credit: A24

In my review of Love Lies Bleeding, I pointed out how O’Brian’s costuming as a bodybuilder who has a glorious girly side instantly sets her apart from the residents of this dusty town. Her hair emphasizes their differences. While most of the locals she deals with have variants on greasy mullets, she boasts a glistening perm, which caused some worries for Glass as a director. 

“The ’80s, to be honest, was a decade I was a bit nervous of setting something in,” she admitted. “I’m not obsessed with ’80s fashion and music and stuff. It’s sort of a decade that’s kind of been done to death [in movies], if anything. So in a way it was like, we can’t just make it too cliched ’80s. But then you look at actual photos of people from that decade in that place, and it’s like, the hair was insane. So, you know, we had no choice but to take some big swings.” 

For Jackie, that meant equipping the short-haired O’Brian with a wig inspired by an icon. “Jackie’s hair is inspired by this bodybuilder called Lisa Lyon,” Rose revealed. Lyon, who died in 2023 at the age of 70, was a pioneer of the sport, as well as a muse for photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe, Helmut Newton, and Joel-Peter Witkin. In Lyon’s heyday, she flexed her muscles while wearing a bouncy, lush crown of curls.

“She had this amazing hair, which Megan did as an incredible wig for Katy,” Rose continued, noting that in itself was a risk she was unaware of.

“I didn’t realize until we were trying to fit [Katy for the wig],” Glass said, “Suddenly, everyone goes, ‘Yeah, it’s really hard to make wigs convincing. And it ruins the film if they’re bad.'” Critics and fans do tend to note when a wig breaks our suspension of disbelief, but as Glass noted, “Megan did an amazing job.” O’Brian’s hair as Jackie not only looks real, it looks regal, making her a real queen of the gym. 

Anna Baryshnikov’s real teeth were too good, and it was a problem. 

Before Jackie strides into Crater Gym, it’s Daisy (Baryshnikov) who’s begging Lou to join her for a night out at Winkie’s, trying to beguile by flipping her long, blonde hair and flashing her eager but rotting smile. But those brown teeth almost didn’t make the final cut. 

“She was written as having bad teeth,” Glass said of Daisy. “On set, we painted all this brown stuff on [Baryshnikov’s] teeth, but obviously your mouth’s wet. As soon as she starts talking, it all washed off.” This proved a problem in post-production. Glass shared, “I was like, ‘Ah, she looks too healthy and pretty and wholesome. We’ve got to give her [back] the bad teeth.'”

Visual effects could (and eventually were) employed to take Daisy’s teeth back to their intended state frame by frame, but Glass had to argue for it, as it wasn’t planned for in the film’s budget. “We had to pay extra money for the effects to give her these horrible, rotten teeth,” Rose said, “Which took quite a lot of persuading, but I’m glad I convinced them.” 

Sometimes a bit of decay can make all the difference. 

Love Lies Bleeding is now in theaters. 

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