Sometimes, extremely talented actors are hidden behind prosthetics that curb their acting prowess. Here are a few examples of when actors were foolishly buried under make-up:
1. Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar
When an actor jumps into the makeup chair, undergoes hours of prosthetics, and transforms into a historical figure, the chance to nab an Academy Award increases. This was the result no doubt what Leonardo DiCaprio and Warner Bros. were expecting when he signed up to play the title role in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. Leonardo played the role of the former head of the FBI among multiple decades of his life. Leonardo was aged up for the main chunks of the movie. He was given a receding hairline and a Marlon Brando-esque makeover. Because the present-day sequences were juxtaposed with flashbacks where the actor looked like his normal old self, they were more distracting. It was because he looked a little bit like Matt Damon.
2. Hugo Weaving – Captain America: The First Avenger
Hugo Weaving has been one of the actors who have spoken out against Marvel since appearing in one of the movies. He was a perfect casting choice as the Red Skull where he can actually play up his signature, over-the-top menace. But these were lost when he fully transformed into his alter-ego. The design looked fine enough. But the perpetual scowl made sure that Red Skull had one facial expression for the second half of Captain America: The First Avenger.
It is not a coincidence that Red Skull becomes a far more forgettable villain when his mask comes off. The character becomes another generic superhero punching bag, but the gravitas Hugo Weaving brought to the role is stifled under the inability to move the face. The fact that anybody could have been under the makeup was cemented completely with the recent Infinity War. It recast the role without a good chunk of the audience realizing the change.
3. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer
In comparison to other movies, it is difficult to not be hyperaware that Tilda Swinton was wearing the worst fake teeth in the world and imitating a stern, 1950s British schoolteacher in Snowpiercer. For the first time, audiences felt like Tilda Swinton was playing a character instead of being a character. This was a shame considering how hard she tried to overcome the prosthetics and how the filmmakers layered the rest of the film’s various idiosyncrasies into the visual design without making them distracting.
4. Christopher Eccleston – Thor: The Dark World
The makeup was not the main factor in making The Dark World’s Malekith one of the most disposable baddies in the MCU. But it actually didn’t help the villain look any less generic than he already was. With a combination of actual writing and the confining makeup, Christopher Eccleston was not able to bring anything distinct to the role. He was again confined to the perpetual scowl that sucked all nuance and depth out of Hugo Weaving’s performance in The First Avenger. This makes sense and Christopher has constantly spoken out about his time working on the movie. This is because anyone could have taken on the same stuntman-Esque role and nothing would have been lost.
5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Looper
Joseph Gordon-Levitt was not confined to the makeup chair for hours and transform him into a historical figure or a Marvel super-villain, but Bruce Willis instead. Looper was a film about a hitman who murders people sent back through time from the future. The twist here is that one of the targets is actually himself. To make it more convincing that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis were playing the same role, filmmakers applied prosthetics to Joseph and made him look like Bruce.
But the way this makes sense, everyone knows what Willis looked like when he was young since he was one of the popular action stars of the 20th century. But the problem was the effects did not actually make the resemblance more convincing. It just took people out of the movie and made Gordon-Levitt’s performance look more artificial.
6. Gary Oldman – Hannibal
A child molester being given PCP and told to tear off his own face with a bit of glass during a ‘therapy’ session with Hannibal Lector. Mason Verger spent most of the 2001’s Hannibal horribly disfigured and planning revenge from his bed. This cuts back to him for most of the time. You may watch the entire movie without realizing that it is actually the Academy Award-winner Gary Oldman under the prosthetics. The makeup is almost terrifying in its own way. But it is also the only time on this list that it entirely obscures the actor’s face.
It is a challenge that you see someone like Oldman signing up to take on. But the end result is definitely a mixed bag. The voice that the actor chooses for the role awards the movie with a weird campiness which hurts more than it helps. Without Oldman’s strangely expressive face to back it up, this actually feels like a weird casting choice.
7. Oscar Isaac – X-Men: Apocalypse
The casting of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse was loved by the fans. He is one of those MCU villains that were not adapted to film. But the confidence of MCU fans instantly evaporated when Fox released the first images of him in costume. He looked more like Ivan Ooze from Power Rangers film or dollar-store counterpart of Thanos. There was something off about the whole design.
The decision to go for practical effects instead of CGI was definitely admirable. But the bulky prosthetics ended up hiding more of his performance. But Apocalypse was not the film’s biggest issue. Isaac did his best. But he was looking like a man in costume instead of a terrifying mutant he was supposed to be. There was nothing he could do to convince the audience otherwise.
8. Mickey Rooney – Breakfast At Tiffany’s
Mickey Rooney jumped into the makeup chair for playing the bucktoothed Mr. Yunioshi in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. An actor getting piled with prosthetics in order to play the character of another race was par for the course in the early 20th Century; Mickey’s role has been severely criticized over the past decade. It was not only because the practice of having a white guy dressed up as a Japanese person is pretty questionable considering everything but because of the cultural stereotypes the role itself is completely built around.