Golden Oldies

February 9th, 2015

February 9th, 2015

A huge congratulations to Frances and Mark for their win last night at the 2015 BAFTAs! To celebrate, we’re re-visiting our Golden Oldies feature which highlights the incredible ageing work they created for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

From subtle silicone additions to full face and body make-up, ageing up actors can be a tricky business.  Making the prosthetics wearable, appear natural and, most importantly, look good on camera is a difficult achievement.  We’ve rounded up ten of our favourite old-age make-up looks, and can’t believe the transformations that have transpired in the make-up trailers.

The Hours

The film might have been disqualified from the running of the Oscar, due to digital alterations to the false nose worn by Nicole Kidman, but we were more entranced by the understated ageing effects used on Julianne Moore.  It took six hours to apply, after they scrapped the idea of using another actress entirely to play the aged version of the character.  Hats off to Jo Allen and Conor O’Sullivan, the prosthetics designers on the shoot, and Moore’s MUA Elaine Offers, as well as make-up supervisor Ivana Primorac.

The Princess Bride

Eccentric Miracle Max almost steals the show in this cult film.  Billy Crystal’s elaborate prosthetic make-up fits the film’s tone perfectly, and his vivid expressions shine through and make the pieces work.  Peter Montagna designed the make-up for Max and his shrill wife Valerie (Carol King) while Lois Burwell was supervisor.  Crystal describes the look of Max as a cross between Casey Stengel, an old baseball player and manager, and his grandmother.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Although the most aged and the youngest looks in the film are created with CGI, there is still a large portion of the film where make-up played an enormous part in creating this unusual character, often blending with the CGI.  Greg Cannom was the old age make-up creator, who devised layers of ultra-thin appliances which would wrinkle and move as Brad Pitt’s face did, which earned him another Oscar nomination.

Grey Gardens

Bill Corso had the task of driving Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore through the years in this HBO movie.  As Barrymore’s character grew older, they were careful to add delicate details, such as hand-drawn sunspots and subtle cellulite prosthetics.  “At the end of the movie there’s not a speck of Drew’s real skin showing.  She’s completely covered in prosthetics,” Corso revealed.  He employed a newly developed process for creating quicker and cheaper make-up appliances using moulded chunks of hardened glue.  These thinner cheek and jowl pieces cut preparation time in half, while allowing more of the actresses’ expressions to show through.

Mrs Doubtfire

Robin Williams’ transformation into his ‘older sister’ wasn’t quite the quick fix that it is portrayed as in the film.  Who can forget the scene where his mask falls out of the window and is run over by the truck?  The make-up application process took over four hours every day, and was comprised of eight separate pieces.  The overall look was designed by the legendary Greg Cannom, Ve Neill and Yolanda Toussieng.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Stephen Prouty’s work on the latest Jackass film raised some eyebrows at its inclusion on this year’s Oscar shortlist, but we consider it to be duly deserved.  Even if you set aside the commitment of Knoxville, Prouty and his team to a seriously long, extremely thorough make-up application – especially the days when Grandpa’s whole body required covering – Prouty rightly points out that the success of the entire film rested on the prosthetics and make-up being believable.  “I think. . .  our mantra with this [was] the fact that this make-up not only had to work on screen, but it had to work in person.  And it had to work in person every day for the entire shoot.  He’s in character the entire time.  So I think that was our biggest challenge, just making sure that everything was as tight and realistic as possible in person.  Because he was literally inches from people, and in order for the bit to work — in order for the movie to work — he had to fool them.  And I think that’s what maybe set us apart from some other pictures, but I think that’s what we’re most proud of.”

The Exorcist

Make-up master Dick Smith was responsible for aging Max von Sydow from the age of 44 to 74, using only make-up.  Although he is wearing more make-up than the possessed girl he was attempting to save, von Sydow carries the look completely naturally, allowing for plenty of close-up shots as the director wished.  It was by no means a pain-free job, with the actor spending at least three hours a day having his skin pulled to create wrinkles with liquid latex applications.

Little Big Man

Dick Smith once again demonstrated his unbelievable skill with a brush when he completely transformed Dustin Hoffman into a decrepit, ancient man.  “This was a landmark for me because of the great opportunity to create a 121-year-old make-up on Dustin Hoffman.  I did extensive research and spent six weeks sculpting the overlapping appliances for the head and hands.  There were many other make-up problems and filming on location with temperatures from over 100 to 30 below zero was rough,” Smith revealed here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Yes really, that is Tilda Swinton.  We, along with just about everyone else, did a huge double-take when we saw the transformed Swinton for the first time as her elderly and grandiose character.  Credit here goes to Mark Coulier and Duncan Jarman, who aged Swinton by around 30 years.  With age spots, droopy jowls and more wrinkles than some scrunched-up tissue paper, the lovely Tilda is unrecognisable.


Dick Smith’s masterful aging of 44 year old F. Murray Abraham to play the elderly Salieri is perhaps the most subtle and effective aging effects we have ever seen.  “He tells the story when he is old and that was my only task, to age Abraham to eighty-ish,” Smith explained here, and acknowledges this film as “the best job I ever had.  I did all the work, had plenty of time, total cooperation, proper screen test, etc.”

Murray Abraham credited Smith in helping him become the character, saying “Once I looked into a mirror at my face, I felt like. . .  it was completely convincing.  All I had to do was believe this guy, and it was not hard.”



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By Deborah Murtha

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