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Talking the 'Bad Grandpa' Makeup with Oscar-Nominated Stephen Prouty

Interviews
by Bill Desowitz
February 25, 2014 2:57 PM
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So will the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling go to Stephen Prouty for his impressive transformation of Johnny Knoxville's hysterical and horny 86-year-old Irving Zisman in "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa"? It's certainly a triumph of old school craft, which required a complete re-imagining to believably pull it off and provide Knoxville with better flexibility for his comedic turn.

Prouty and his makeup team went on the road like Irving and grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) in the movie. Unlike the previous "Jackass" movies, though, they streamlined the original sculpture so Knoxville could be more expressive. 

The demands of the movie also required an upgrade from foam latex to silicone and the makeup team went out of its way to streamline the pieces so they were softer and thinner and had more natural movement.

For a 10-piece silicone prosthetic make-up job (including faux genitals) with hairpieces, the makeup team had it down to under three hours. They additionally shot two days of full body work that required an extra two hours, which included hand-applying gray hairs to his stomach and back and adding a little ponch. But, as it turned out, you can't see the results because Knoxville wears a T-shirt for that one scene that made it into the movie.

But there was no tweaking between shots and they had to believably prank people. "The film hinged on the fact that people were going to be fooled by this makeup every day," Prouty suggests. "There were days when he was inches from people's faces and in direct sunlight with no special lighting. That was our biggest challenge.

"One technique we did that was new: his lips were in a material called Bondo, which is a thickened glue that we manipulate into prosthetics. That allowed him a lot of expressive range on his face but also allowed us to keep it glued on."

They started from scratch with the hair as well. Most wigs and hairpieces are tied on to a lace backing, and the lace had to be fine and durable because of the stunts that Knoxville would be performing.

"The biggest thrill for me was watching Knoxville work. With its loose narrative the movie required him to engage these people cold on the street, put them in a bizarre situation, and then help orchestrate their reactions. We shot a lot of scenes where there were some heartfelt moments where he's bonding with the boy. It was nice to see that side of him that you don't normally get to see."

Knoxville got along so well with the makeup team that he started bouncing his material off them and asked for their opinions. "We even managed to slip in a couple of our lines of dialog into the film. It's a bizarre job," Prouty concludes.

Then again, how bizarre would it be for Prouty to come away with the Oscar on Sunday when he goes up against "Dallas Buyers Club" (Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews) and "The Lone Ranger" (Joel Harlow and Gloria Pasqua-Casny)?

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