Ryan Gosling’s platinum locks and Eva Mendes’s sultry, dark tresses in The Place Beyond the Pines, the crime drama recently on screen at the Princeton Garden Theater, are the work of a hairdresser who counts several local residents among his clientele. Gregory Purcell travels from Manhattan to Another Angle salon on Nassau Street most Sundays and Mondays, the only days he can get away from his work as a stylist for movies, television, and numerous print advertisements and campaigns.
“I really like Princeton,” the 48-year-old Roselle Park native says. “I want it to be fashionable. I think it’s a place that could really, really happen. It just needs that extra push.”
On his website, Mr. Purcell’s client list boasts such names as Sarah Jessica Parker, Meg Ryan, Dennis Quaid, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, His TV credits include Law & Order SVU, Good Morning America, and Boardwalk Empire. The film list runs from Sex and the City 2 to New Year’s Eve. Then there are the fashion shows (Donna Karan, Calvin Klein), and Broadway (Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark).
Yet he is as affable and down to earth, during a telephone interview, as the proverbial guy next door. Talking about his career trajectory, which started after he left art school to work on windows for Barney’s in New York, he recalled, “One of my friends said, ‘You do all the wigs in the windows. Why don’t you do hair?’ I thought about it, and I knew there’d be a lot of girls, and that was my big thing. I thought, why not?”
Mr. Purcell went back to school to learn the trade, and then landed a job at Vidal Sassoon. Next, he worked for Minardi, and later at John Frieda, where he eventually became creative director. “I was the only American there. They were all British,” he says. “They were building an empire all over the world, so I got to travel quite a bit.”
The Frieda salon “is huge in the fashion world,” Mr. Purcell says. He was soon working runway shows in London, Paris, and New York. “People started looking at me for movies,” Mr. Purcell says. “I got Sex in the City 2, Wall Street 2. Now I have The Place Beyond the Pines.”
Happy to share a few anecdotes about the filming, Mr. Purcell laughs as he recalls a night in the woods near Schenectady, New York, where Bradley Cooper and Ray Liotta were shooting a fight scene. “Bradley had to hit one of the actors and he hit him too hard and broke the guy’s nose,” he says. “The guy was okay, but Bradley was so upset about it. He kept apologizing and sending him gifts.”
Another memory: “Ryan and his dog would sit with me while I was doing hair. Nobody can sleep, and everyone would end up coming to my apartment. One night, we gave the dog a buzz-cut. Then on one of the TV shows — I think it might have been Letterman, he said he gave the dog the cut! But it was me. There was some really funny stuff. Eva Mendes would come in, dance around. That’s where they [she and Ryan Gosling] became a couple.”
Mr. Purcell started his own product line, called “Attitude,” as his career took off. “It’s all about texture and body,” he says. “It’s not just for women, but also for men. For a woman, hair is the biggest accessory. They have to own it, walk it, be unique. There should never be just one statement, because everyone has a different look.”
Speaking of which, Mr. Purcell is known for his own distinctive style of dressing and adorning himself. “He’s a little bit of a character,” says Patrick Vance, who owns Another Angle salon. “He reminds me a bit of Johnny Depp. And he’s a fabulous hairdresser, really top notch.”
“A lot of people call me a pirate,” Mr. Purcell says, with a chuckle. “But I just let it go.”