Ma­jor trans­for­ma­tions

How Chris­tian Bale, Ni­cole Kid­man and oth­ers be­came un­rec­og­niz­able on-screen

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - A + E - By So­nia Rao

Ac­tors who un­dergo ma­jor trans­for­ma­tions are a sta­ple of award-sea­son chat­ter, and this year is no ex­cep­tion. We’ve heard a great deal of it al­ready: Did you rec­og­nize Tilda Swin­ton un­der all that old-man makeup? How did Rami Malek man­age to speak co­her­ently while sport­ing such large fake teeth? Just how many pounds did Chris­tian Bale put on to play a cer­tain cal­cu­lat­ing politi­cian? And so on.

But no mat­ter how tal­ented an ac­tor is, they never go it alone. Among those who help them phys­i­cally em­body their char­ac­ters are often pros­thetic and makeup artists, hair stylists, vo­cal coaches and, of course, di­rec­tors.

In honor of the Golden Globe Awards, which air Sun­day night on NBC, here’s a closer look at how sev­eral nom­i­nated ac­tors — plus a cou­ple oth­ers — trans­formed for the big screen.

John C. Reilly, “Stan & Ol­lie”

In get­ting ready to play Oliver Hardy, half of the world’s most fa­mous com­edy duo, Reilly re­ferred to one of the fun­ny­man’s nick­names: Babe.

“He was called Babe be­cause he looked like a chubby lit­tle baby from the time he was a chubby lit­tle baby to the time he was a grown man,” Reilly said. “I got in­spired by the name and said, ‘Let’s look at what some fat ba­bies look like.’ ”

So he donned a fat suit, car­ry­ing weight as a baby’s body does, and Os­car-win­ning makeup artist Mark Coulier used pros­thet­ics to turn his fea­tures into Hardy’s. It took three hours for Reilly to trans­form each morn­ing, and an­other to take it all off at the end of the day.

“Mark was such a great pain­ter, I couldn’t tell where my skin was and where the piece was un­less I felt it,” the ac­tor said.

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”

As his own di­rec­tor, Cooper had the ben­e­fit of be­ing able to por­tray Jack­son Maine ex­actly as he saw fit. That in­cluded grow­ing out his hair and beard; hir­ing Os­car-win­ning makeup artist Ve Neill to give him spray tans, darken his beard and make his eyes blood­shot for drunk scenes, as she told Vul­ture; and work­ing with vo­cal coach Tim Monich to per­fect the coun­try­rocker’s grav­elly voice and twangy, not “too coun­try” ac­cent.

“It hurt my esoph­a­gus. I would have pain for the first cou­ple of months,” Cooper told The Wash­ing­ton Post in the fall. “It’s not only low­er­ing your voice, it’s speak­ing dif­fer­ent rhyth­mi­cally.”

Char­l­ize Theron, “Tully”

Theron has trans­formed be­fore, most mem­o­rably for her Os­car-win­ning turn in 2003’s “Mon­ster.” For “Tully,” in which she por­trays a be­lea­guered mother of three young chil­dren, Theron turned to potato chips — which she had in her car, in her kitchen, in her trailer, even in her bath­room — to help her gain close to 50 pounds.

“What they say about ‘what you eat is who you are’ is so true, be­cause I ate like a per­son who just didn’t move, and I felt like that,” she said on “The Ellen Show” in April. “I was lethar­gic and tired all the time, and that was a hard thing to break. Be­cause it’s more men­tal than it is al­most phys­i­cal.”

Rosamund Pike, “A Pri­vate War”

Pike, an English ac­tress, spent a year pre­par­ing for her role as late war correspondent Marie Colvin in “A Pri­vate War.” She worked with a di­alect coach to drop her voice an oc­tave and adopt a Long Is­land ac­cent, ac­cord­ing to di­rec­tor Matthew Heine­man, and spent months with a dance coach to learn how to move and carry her­self as Marie did — hold­ing tension in her neck and splay­ing her hands when she ges­tic­u­lated, for ex­am­ple.

De­signer Denise Kum helped with Pike’s makeup, hair and pros­thet­ics.

“It was re­mark­able to see how (Pike) turned into this woman who didn’t ob­vi­ously look or sound at all like her,” Heine­man said, later adding: “I was very as­tounded and blown away by Ros’ per­for­mance.”

Chris­tian Bale, “Vice”

Bale fre­quently changes his weight to play dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters — as Trevor Reznik in “The Ma­chin­ist,” he shrank to just 120 pounds. But to play Dick Cheney in “Vice,” Bale in­stead gained 40 pounds, by “eat­ing a lot of pies” and, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent piece pub­lished in The New York Times, wore fleshy pros­thet­ics cre­ated us­ing an iden­ti­cal mold of his head. Af­ter makeup, the ac­tor bore fea­tures such as the for­mer vice pres­i­dent’s nose, his chin dim­ple and deep creases run­ning from his nose to his jowls.

“He put on the suit, walked into the of­fice with all of us, and ev­ery­body just died,” pros­thet­ics and makeup ef­fect de­signer Greg Can­nom told the Times. “I was just shocked. He looked just like him.”

Mar­got Rob­bie, “Mary Queen of Scots”

How do you make such a mod­ern beauty look like a small­pox-suf­fer­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth I? A pros­thetic nose and boils, an ar­ray of wigs and a whole bunch of makeup. “Mary Queen of Scots” fea­tures at least five stages of the 16th-cen­tury monarch’s evo­lu­tion — what Bri­tish makeup artist Jenny Shir­core called her “fresh and pretty stage” to her bald­ing, pan­cake makeup stage. For Shir­core to ac­com­plish the lat­ter, Rob­bie would sit in the makeup chair for three hours.

“Jeal­ousy and fear be­tween the two women was about power, and they were both very aware of each other’s beauty,” Shir­core told The Post in De­cem­ber, re­fer­ring to the queen’s ri­valry with her cousin Mary. “When El­iz­a­beth was los­ing her beauty be­cause of the small­pox scar­ring, she har­nessed what was left with makeup.”

Ni­cole Kid­man, “De­stroyer”

In “De­stroyer,” Kid­man plays a Los An­ge­les po­lice de­tec­tive who went un­der­cover with a crim­i­nal gang years ago but is now, as di­rec­tor Karyn Kusama told Van­ity Fair, a “mid­dle-aged woman with a past that she wears on her face.” This trans­lated to makeup that dis­played the ef­fects of sun dam­age, sleep de­pri­va­tion, stress and anger.

Kid­man doesn’t un­dergo ex­ten­sive trans­for­ma­tions as often as some of her peers do, ac­cord­ing to Kusama, who added that the ac­tress would rather be on the set than in the makeup chair. So they kept the makeup ap­pli­ca­tion process short, but still ended up with a char­ac­ter who looks as if she “wears her ug­li­ness on the out­side, all that small­ness and bit­ter­ness.”

Rami Malek, “Bo­hemian Rhap­sody”

What stands out most about Malek’s ver­sion of Fred­die Mer­cury might be his large teeth. Makeup, hair and pros­thet­ics de­signer Jan Sewell had orig­i­nally asked a teeth spe­cial­ist to cre­ate a pros­thetic set com­pa­ra­bleto the Queen front­man’s, ac­cord­ing to Va­ri­ety, but that over­whelmed Malek’s face. So it was scaled down.

The ac­tor’s jaw­line was al­ready as strong as Mer­cury’s, Sewell told the trade out­let, but his eyes were too far apart. So they tacked on a pros­thetic nose that “pulled Rami’s eyes to­gether” and fin­ished the looks with fake mus­taches and wigs.

Tilda Swin­ton, “Suspiria”

Re­mem­ber Mark Coulier, the makeup artist from “Stan & Ol­lie? ” He’s back.

Swin­ton and di­rec­tor Luca Guadagnino long de­nied ru­mors that she was ac­tu­ally Lutz Ebers­dorf, an “ac­tor” who had been pho­tographed in full cos­tume and makeup dur­ing “Suspiria’s” pro­duc­tion, and whom they both in­sisted played the el­derly male psy­cho­an­a­lyst Dr. Josef Klem­perer, one of the only men in the film.

But in Oc­to­ber, Swin­ton came clean to the New York Times about Lutz’s true iden­tity, and Coulier re­vealed how he made Swin­ton and her “very fem­i­nine bone struc­ture” seem more mas­cu­line. They com­mit­ted to the bit.

“She had this nice, weighty set of gen­i­talia,” Coulier said. “She man­aged to get it out on set on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions.”

MATT KENNEDY/ANNAPURNA PIC­TURES

Chris­tian Bale in “Vice.”

KIM­BERLY FRENCH/FO­CUS FEA­TURES

Char­l­ize Theron in “Tully.”

AMA­ZON STU­DIOS

Tilda Swin­ton in “Suspiria.”

PAUL CON­ROY/AV­I­RON PIC­TURES

Rosamund Pike in “A Pri­vate War.”

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