Facelifts without the knives
Technology turns back clock on stars
Johnny Depp is 53 but he doesn’t look a day over 26 in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish Cry Baby face, however. It’s all post-production visual effects, and after a decade of refining the process since Brad Pitt ran the gamut of time in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, it’s becoming commonplace in major Hollywood movies.
Depp is just the latest megastar to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen, joining the ranks of Robert Downey Jr. (in Captain America: Civil War), Michael Douglas (in Ant-Man), Kurt Russell (in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and scores of others getting digital facelifts to play younger versions of themselves. In the old days, a lucky unknown lookalike (or look-enough alike) could have scored the part of young Jack Sparrow or Tony Stark. Now, if the film has the budget, the stars get to have it both ways — and audiences get a nostalgic flashback.
Lola Visual Effects is responsible for Depp’s transformation, and most of the Marvel tricks, which have included making Chris Evans scrawny for the original Captain America and Hayley Atwell some 70 years older for the sequel.
Lola was the pioneer behind Benjamin Button, too, and sells its services to all the major studios. It’s one of a handful of vendors that have gotten in the so-called “beauty work” business. It’s meant to go unnoticed (like removing a blemish), and buried under mountains of confidentiality agreements.
“Working on the human face is one of the, if not the most challenging thing to do,” said Trent Claus, visual effects supervisor for Lola VFX. “People can tell when there is something amiss. Even if they can’t put their finger on what is wrong, they can tell that something is wrong.”
Stars like Kurt russell (in guardians of the galaxy Vol. 2) have gone through drastic de-aging treatments on screen.