Make up is and always has been a big part of the movies. These days, however, an awful lot of the special effects that make up aesthetically complex characters are non-practical – generated, for example, using sophisticated CGI.
But there’s something a bit more charming about old school make up. If and when it’s possible to make a character look fantastic via the magic of make up artistry, that should always be the first choice for any production.
There have been some amazing transformations throughout movie history using practical make up effects and this video will look at some of the best. Here are ten of the craziest movie make up transformations you won’t actually believe.
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
The late Heath Ledger gave an Oscar-winning performance as Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker in The Dark Knight – and his make up certainly helped. The remarkable thing about Ledger’s make up in this movie is that there really wasn’t much of it – it wasn’t very “heavy” – but Ledger was still totally unrecognizable and mysterious under the face paint and scar prosthetics. Costume designer Lindy Hemming came up with the anarchical design, which took inspiration from pop artists like Pete Doherty, Iggy Pop, and Johnny Rotten. It was made up of three pieces of stamped silicone – a “new technology” at the time – and took less than an hour for the movie’s make up artists to apply.
Jim Carrey in How the Grinch Stole Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas saw the wonderful Jim Carrey transformed into Dr. Seuss’ iconic character, the grumpy titular Grinch. Transformation into the green, furry, pig-nosed miser was a real chore for the actor. The prosthetic make-up took around eight hours to apply by a team of make up artists – and it also took around an hour to get out of. Carrey deserves a medal for spending 92 days wearing it, as he felt so horribly confined and uncomfortable in the latex skin that he needed counseling from a CIA agent, who taught him torture-resistance techniques to deal with the discomfort.
Ron Perlman in Hellboy/Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Ron Perlman already has the gruff, square-jawed look that made him perfect to play Hellboy, but the make up that finished the job was pretty damn great. Matt Rose at Cinovation Studios was responsible for the design and transformation, which gave Perlman a red face, clipped horns, a big hammer-like hand and left his eyelids as the only part of his body that were visible. Incidentally, in 2012, Perlman visited a sick young boy named Zachary in full Hellboy make up – and he looked every bit as cool as he did in the movie itself. In a way, he looked very similar to Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, who is also very worthy of a mention on this list.
Charlize Theron in Monster
The incredibly beautiful Charlize Theron underwent an unbelievable transformation into serial killer Aileen Wuornos for 2003’s brilliant crime drama Monster. Wuornos – a former prostitute – killed six men, and Theron’s resemblence to her was uncanny by the time her make up was applied. Theron put on 30lbs of weight, shaved her eyebrows and wore both contact lenses and prosthetic dentures to portray her, but it was the work of make up artist Toni G that really made the transformation so spectacular. Theron’s skin was aged and freckles were added. Combined with an Oscar-worthy acting performance from the actress, the transformation was complete.
Eric Stoltz in Mask
The make up Eric Stoltz wore in The Mask was fantastic. Portraying Roy L. “Rocky” Dennis, Stoltz’s make up augmented a performance that was already both extremely heartfelt and, frankly, emotionally draining. The make up emphasised the devastating nature of Dennis’ condition – craniodiaphyseal dysplasia – without exaggerating it in a crude or disrespectful way. Michael Westmore and Zoltan Elek were the creative masterminds behind a transformation that rendered Stoltz completely unrecognisable.
Rebecca Romijn & Jennifer Lawrence in the X-Men Movies
Both Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence have portrayed the shapeshifting mutant known as Mystique AKA Raven Darkholme in the X-Men franchise – and the transformation both actresses underwent was pretty damn amazing. Mystique’s natural form is a beautiful blue scaly work of art, and Romijn and Lawrence had to each undergo around seven hours’ worth of make up being applied by fairly large teams of make up artists, whilst half naked, to become the character – and we think you’ll agree that both of them looked absolutely awesome.