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Immersed in Movies: Howard Berger Talks 'Hitchcock' Makeup

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 2, 2013 at 12:52PM

While the first glimpse of Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense in "Hitchcock" is startling (how could it be otherwise?), SFX makeup wiz Howard Berger makes us believe in the illusion almost immediately...
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Hopkins, Hitchcock makeup

While the first glimpse of Anthony Hopkins as the Master of Suspense in "Hitchcock" is startling (how could it be otherwise?), 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 that has both of them in Oscar contention.

Berger calls it a portrait of Hitch and admits it took a lot of trial and error to get the right blend. "There's definitely a fine line you don't want to cross and we tried to transform the two people together so you have as much of Tony coming through," suggests the Oscar-winning Berger ("The Chronicles of Narnia")."

Berger did the work with his KNB EFX Group in collaboration with hair department head Martin Samuels. They performed elaborate pre-production tests for six weeks, coming up with six different looks, assisted by costume designer Julie Weiss. Naturally, the first attempt went for an exact replica of Hitch, but that proved to be too much of a cumbersome mask. The 75-year-old Hopkins originally wore dentures for all the tests and they ended up ditching those.

Reaching a consensus with the producers proved difficult during a series of screen tests, yet 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.

"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. Julie Weiss would dress him to complete the transformation with wardrobe and a fat undersuit. This gave Hopkins the tools to bring Hitchcock back to life [circa 1959/1960 for the notorious making of 'Psycho']."

This article is related to: Hitchcock, Immersed In Movies, Features, Anthony Hopkins


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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.