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MAKE-UP for films goes beyond contouring, highlighting, perfecting the eyeliner and making lips look extra plump.

Behind the scenes, artists work with prosthetics, wigs and anything that can be affixed to the body or face to transform an actor into the character portrayed.

Hollywood stars often go through intense transformation for film roles. Some of the memorable transformations include Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker in Dark Knight.

Recently, prosthetic make-up designer Kazu Hiro, make-up artist Vivian Baker and hairstylist Anne Morgan became the talk of town after they won Oscars for their work in the Bombshell.

The team stunningly transformed actress Charlize Theron into former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for the movie.

Though the film was up against other outstanding nominees such as Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and 1917, Bombshell’s make-up team won, and it was a well-deserved victory.

If you haven’t seen Bombshell, it should be on your list of must-watch movies. The story of sexual harassment and toxic work environment at media empire Fox News is based on the accounts of Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and a young ambitious producer named Kayla (Margot Robbie).

The women face off against CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) after Carlson files a lawsuit against him for sexual harassment, causing a stir in the media industry.

A scene from Bombshell
A scene from Bombshell

BARBIE DOLLS

While it was Hiro’s second Oscar – the first was in 2018 for turning actor Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill for the movie Darkest Hour – Baker and Morgan were first-time nominees.

It was hard not to study Theron’s face throughout the movie as I was trying to figure out how they transformed her.

All the main characters sported similar physical traits – they were tall, blonde and slim. It was the “‘Fox” look, according to Baker, adhering to the concept of women as Barbie dolls.

Compare photos of the transformed Theron and Megyn Kelly side by side and it’s mind-blowing.

 Kelly (left) and Theron (right).
Kelly (left) and Theron (right).

POWER OF MAKE-UP

Months were spent watching clips of Fox news and studying images to observe the women’s faces.

To make the cast look almost identical to the people they portray, Hiro and his team used prostheses made with medical-grade silicone and attached them to faces using medical glue.

For example, Hiro had to reshape Theron’s jawline to make it more angular like Kelly’s.

To transform Theron’s nose, Hiro created nose plugs to widen the holes and added nose tips.

To give you a hint of how complex the process is, Hiro took a cast of the inside of Theron’s nose and created the plugs with a special computer programme before printing it in 3D.

Using the 3D printer made it easier to modify due to the short pre-production time. When the design was finalised, he was able to print 40 sets of nose plugs for the course of the film shoot.

(From left) Anne Morgan, Kazu Hiro and Vivian Baker with their awards.
(From left) Anne Morgan, Kazu Hiro and Vivian Baker with their awards.

IN THE EYES

Theron’s eyes too, had to be topped off with prosthetic eyelid pieces so that she wouldn’t open them too wide.

Theron joked about the prosthetic eyelids, saying that when she wore them, she could only blink with one eye. It was as if she had a glass eye, she said.

Besides the prosthetic pieces, make-up helped alter Theron’s face too.

Baker used make-up and eye lashes to reshape Theron’s eyes to look like Kelly’s.

Another challenge faced by the make-up artists is that make-up doesn’t completely stick to the prostheses.

Baker resorted to mixing foundation with mist and then airbrushing it. This was to ensure it stayed on throughout the day.

Of course, there’s a lot more to this process but you get the gist.

Transforming a person’s physical appearance is no easy feat.

For Theron, the entire process took about three hours.

Theron was a good sport as she waited patiently for the artists to complete their work. It truly requires talent, skills and dedication to achieve the camera-perfect results as everything is magnified on the big screen.

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