Hair and makeup artists are at it again, transforming actors into real-life characters. From the sublime to complete, Jared Leto, Jessica Biel, Lily James, Sebastian Stan and Renée Zellweger were among those being trans- formed and techniques including 3D scans of the artist are de rigueur now.
Suits, enhancements and a lot of prosthetics went into helping actors disappear into their parts.
Leto is no stranger to the art of transformation. Last year, he vanished under layers of prosthetics to play Paolo Gucci in Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.” For “WeCrashed” on Apple TV+, Leto worked with Kazu Hiro, who helped him become WeWorked founder Adam Neumann.
Hiro, who has won Oscars for his makeup and hairstyling turn- ing Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill for “Darkest Hour” and again for Charlize Theron into Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for “Bombshell,” it’s all about sculpting techniques. His challenge with Leto was that the actor’s face was rather different from Neumann’s.
To play the businessman who convinced the world that his communal office-space company could be worth $47 billion, Leto was willing to spend two hours in the makeup chair daily.
Hiro says, “I took a 3D scan of his face, and created a sculpture of his head cast to see where it goes.”
Hiro and Leto went through different iterations and tests before the 90 days of filming. “Sometimes likeness makeup on someone would work well, but in this case, it wasn’t close enough to do something subtle. It was almost too much,” Hiro says. “Then we talked about cutting things down in the simplest way.”
A nose piece, contact lenses and a darker skin tone all went into Leto’s transformation. It was a much harder task because “it’s easier to make a facial feature bigger. With this, they’re too close in body weight and bone structure, so what I could do was small. And if I did too much, it looks too much.” Hiro adds, “Adam is an average look- ing guy, and I had to take what was most effective on Jared, and make the audience believe they’re watching Adam.”
Additionally, Hiro changed the shape of Leto’s lips and painted on moles. Yoichi Art Sakamoto served as character dental prosthetic designer.
On Hulu’s “Pam and Tommy,” Sebastian Stan was covered in 30-35 tattoos daily to play the part of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. Hairstylist Barry Lee Moe thought a wig would help Stan embody the 1990s rocker look, but the actor wanted the freedom to touch his hair and feel it. “He wanted it to feel lived in,” Moe says.
Since those conversations happened in prep, Stan had time to grow out his hair before filming. Moe took him to Harper Salon on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to get his hair treated with a Brazilian straightening process. “We did that to eliminate his texture because his was different from Tommy’s,” says Moe.
Moe handpicked wigs from Wigmaker Associates to help James find Pamela Anderson Lee. Moe says her hair told a story and reflected her mood.
“When she was freshly in love, the hair was wild and carefree. By the time she is in divorce proceedings, her hair was conservative, with less texture, and she had bangs.”
Jason Collins, special-effects makeup designer, applied a silicone forehead to James that was blended above her eyes. He says, “It allowed us to get the shape of Pam’s forehead and to be able to utilize thin lace eyebrows to capture the ’90s era Pam with the correct arch.” Dentures were added to help give James that Hollywood smile.
Completing the transformation was a chest cast that was used to match Anderson Lee’s. Made of gel-filled silicone appliances, the cast modified James’ appearance. In NBC’s “The Thing About Pam,” Zellweger needed a fully padded suit to play Pam Hupp, the Missouri mother turned murderer.
Simple was key for Jessica Biel’s portrayal of Candy Montgomery in the Hulu series of the same name. Katie Ballard, hair department head styled Candy’s wig into a perm for most of the series and then transformed it into a blowout style for the courtroom scenes, much like how the real Candy wore her hair. Says Ballard, “Jessica wanted to really look like a real this real woman and they didn’t pull in any prosthetics.” Biel wore almost no makeup to become the real-life murderer. The minute detail was in a little scar on her forehead that is established in the first episode. Says Ballard, “Much of her transformation came through the hairstyle.”
Heavy prosthetics and makeup were key to Zellweger becoming Hupp, and that’s where makeup artist Arjen Tuiten stepped in. A meeting over Zoom was set up for Tuiten to gauge just how the actor would feel sitting down for the extensive process that also required her to wear the fully padded suit.
“It’s always a bit of work,” Tuiten says of transforming anyone using prosthetics. “People often underestimate how much is involved, but she wanted to play the character and would do what- ever it took.”
He says for research, he didn’t listen to the Dateline podcast that inspired the show. Rather, he watched videos of Huff to understand her mannerisms.
“I looked at how she would hold her arms, and expressions she did with her body. ‘Oh, her nose does that here.’ I also looked at how later she looked different, so, she had surgery that year, and I kept that in mind,” Tuiten explains of his process.
Then he took a 3D scan of Zellweger, printing pieces at a time.
It took 80 minutes for Zellweger to become Hupp, bits and pieces from head to toe that went into her disappearing into the role. Despite it being a complete transformation, Tuiten says, “I tried not to completely cover Renée because I wanted to give her as much as I could to tell the story.”
He adds, “You can also distract if you do too much.”
The pieces included a neckpiece that went around her shoulders and cheekpieces went all the way up to the temple. There was the chin piece, the nose piece, fore- arm pieces and ankle pieces that were all applied daily.
“Every day I learned something new,” Zellweger says. “How the pieces are built, how they have minds of their own and what they become during the day isn’t quite what they begin as.
“Also, I learned it’s a different kind of skill to work with your entire body covered in prosthetics.”