6 Painful Movie Make-up Jobs

The Thing

The film: Fantastic Four/Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (2005/2007)

The trooper: Michael Chiklis

The makeup: Chiklis spent months under latex rock designs to play Ben Grimm’s alter ego.

War story:
“The first time the face was applied in the first test for the original, it took 5, 5 ½ hours to apply,” says Chiklis. “And we got it down to two hours 15 minutes and now we get it on in roughly one hour 15 minutes. Less time spent with people poking you in the eye is a good thing!

“I dealt with it through comedy. I end up ranting schtick and making them laugh while they attack me physically. I quote Little Britain and my favourite comedy bits: ‘I look a pillock!’ I think it’s brilliant. I was turned on to it by Wendy, one of the make-up people, has it on DVD and we watch it in the trailer.”


The film: RoboCop (1987)

The trooper:
Peter Weller

The makeup:
Weller endured exhaustion and dehydration through two Robo-films.

War story: Peter Weller's initial suit-ups were 9-10 hours long but they eventually got it down to about an hour or so on the first film.

Designer Rob Bottin delivered the suit at four in the morning after weeks of back-and-forth about the design. Weller, who had been training to wearing by walking in American Football gear, was not pleased. 'He just sat there, muttering, "This ain't cool, man. This ain't cool at all!,” remembers Bottin.

Weller eventually worked it out. “My trainer said, ‘Listen, we'll slow everything down. We'll let the weight of the suit work for us.’

That turned out to be a brilliant idea, because this made RoboCop much more pathetic. Because I started to walk on the ball of my foot, instead of on the heel, his step changed. He was no longer a streamlined, ultra-hip man of steel, but a somewhat unsure, more human character.”

Borg Queen

The film: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

The trooper:
Alice Krige

The makeup:
Krige got her first taste of prosthetics work with the slimy, cyborg leader.

War story: "In the past I was never chained to the makeup trailer. It was 20 minutes for the face, 20 minutes for the hair, put on the costume and ready to go,” says Krige of her time on the set.

“On Star Trek, there was someone touching me or feeling me or gluing a bit on me or putting KY jelly on me or messing with my battery packs from the moment I set foot on the lot.

"Whenever the camera wasn't rolling, someone had a hand down my back, since the queen's batteries were always acting up. We were like a little shoal of fish. That was probably the most tiring thing of all: being constantly attended to and fussed over."

The Grinch

The film: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

The trooper: Jim Carrey

The makeup: Jim Carrey was covered practically head to toe in fur and rubber for the Christmas pic. Bet he wishes they’d developed performance capture back then…

War story: "There was no skin to be had. Literally everything was covered,” recalls the star of his hairy time on set.

“So it was impossible to scratch your nose. It was a real lesson in Zen. I had to get to a point — Every once in a while it would be really funny, they'd know I was having problem, because I would punch myself in the leg.

“I learned about pain deferment, things like that. Pinch your leg or pinch your arm, or something like that, to kind of take the focus off your discomfort. It was tough the first couple of weeks, but then I was able to transcend it. It's amazing what humans can get used to. We can live on Mars!”

Edward Scissorhands

The Film: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

The trooper:
Johnny Depp

The makeup:
Depp traded eyebrows and a tan to play the unfinished, tragic hero.

War story: "It started out as about three, three and a half hours for makeup and hair” says Depp. “

But we got it down to a very fast hour, hour and a half. We knew towards the end it would be exactly one can of AquaNet that would go on the hair and by the end I was helping the makeup artist apply the scars and stuff. We had it down."

“One night Johnny had to do a running sequence, running away from the house, I think at Christmas,” says co-star Diane Wiest.

“And he passed out. He fell down and we thought, ‘well is he acting? What’s he doing?’ and he’d passed out. Never complained, but he’d passed out from the heat of the suit.

“It was really remarkable, but somehow very revealing about him and that quality comes through his acting.”

Tin Woodman

The Film: The Wizard Of Oz

The trooper
: Buddy Ebsen – though he didn’t finish the role.

The makeup:
Ebsen was originally cast to play the Scarecrow, but when co-star Ray Bolger demanded to switch things up, Ebsen agreed to don the Tin Man suit.

War story:
Ebsen had recorded all of his songs and been through make-up tests when he reported to the set.

Sadly for him, the aluminium dust used in his make-up caused a severe allergic reaction. “It was several days later when my cramps began,” he wrote in his autobiography.

“My first symptoms had been a noticeable shortness of breath. I would breathe and exhale and then get the panicky feeling I hadn't breathed at all.

“One night in bed I woke up screaming. My arms were cramping from my fingers upward and curling simultaneously so that I could not use one arm to uncurl the other.

“Next came the worst. The cramps in my arms advanced into my chest to the muscles that controlled my breathing. If this continued, I wouldn't even be able to take a breath. I was sure I was dying.”

Naturally, Ebsen couldn’t finish the part, even given MGM’s tough contract rules. Jack Haley won the role, bur Ebsen can still be heard on a couple of the songs.

Freelance Journalist

James White is a freelance journalist who has been covering film and TV for over two decades. In that time, James has written for a wide variety of publications including Total Film and SFX. He has also worked for BAFTA and on ODEON's in-cinema magazine.