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Immersed in Movies: Assessing the Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar Race

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood February 20, 2013 at 2:06PM

You couldn't find three more diverse choices for makeup and hairstyling than in "Hitchcock," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and "Les Misérables." A portrait of Hitch that effectively blends Anthony Hopkins with the Master of Suspense...
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Hitchcock Anthony Hopkins

You couldn't find three more diverse choices for makeup and hairstyling than in "Hitchcock," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," and "Les Misérables." A portrait of Hitch that effectively blends Anthony Hopkins with the Master of Suspense; a far more complicated and detailed use of prosthetics and wig and beard styling for the iconic characters of Middle-earth in keeping with the greater demands of 3-D and higher frame rate viewing; and elaborate and ever changing 19th century looks to make us believe in characters on the verge of transformation and a society on the verge of revolution.

While "Les Mis" won the BAFTA and remains the Oscar favorite for hair and makeup, don't be surprised if the "The Hobbit" wins based on the extensive and hand-crafted nature of the work. And even though "Hitchcock" is the dark horse, you can't discount the total transformation of Hopkins into Hitch, which should have particular appeal to the dominant actor's branch.

The Oscar-winning SFX makeup wiz Howard Berger makes us believe in the illusion almost immediately. That's because he goes for a less is more approach, creating a believable physical resemblance while at the same time allowing the actor to deliver a sly performance about the making of the legendary "Psycho."

Berger admits it took a lot of trial and error to get the blend just right and reaching a consensus with the producers proved difficult during a series of screen tests. But Berger prevailed with an old school approach of minimal prosthetics. They stripped away more and more: smaller nose, smaller ears, less of a center brow line. Then finally the night before shooting they lost the lower lip, once the wily Hopkins pushed his lip into a wonderful pout.

Berger did the work with his KNB EFX Group in collaboration with hair department head Martin Samuels (also nominated along with makeup specialist Peter Montagna). They stripped away more and more: smaller nose, smaller ears, less of a center brow line. Then finally the night before shooting they lost the lower lip, once the wily Hopkins pushed his lip into a wonderful pout.

"The makeup consisted of four silicone appliances," Berger explains. "The biggest was the horseshoe piece that included the chin, the neck, and the sides of the face that wrapped around under his ears and along the back of his hairline. Other appliances were earlobes, nose tip, and brown contact lenses. There was also makeup to blend Hopkins' skin to the piece."

This article is related to: Hitchcock, Les Miserables, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Academy Awards, Oscars, Awards, Awards, Immersed In Movies


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.