Hollywood actresses have been known to go to incredible extremes to gain specific looks for their roles. Anne Hathaway chopped off her hair and lost 25 pounds to play her Academy Award-winning role of Fantine in the 2012 movie version of Les Miserables. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Charlize Theron gained 30 pounds to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos and earn her Oscar for Monster (2003).
As it turns out, however, radical body transformation is not the only way for an actor to fully embody a role. Advances in prosthetic makeup can also create a desired look, as Emmy Rossum showed in her on-set photos that reveal her new appearance as the pop-culture figure Angelyne.
With the help of a blonde wig, fake cleavage, and a decidedly more flamboyant outfit, Rossum eerily mimics Angelyne’s unique appearance for her new show Angelyne which follows the life of the enigmatic Hollywood model.
Rossum’s transformation left many of her fans stunned – yet it’s only the latest in a long line of movie and TV roles that have been helped with special FX prosthetic makeup. While the success (or failure) of Angelyne will rely primarily on Rossum’s acting ability, one cannot deny how an effective makeup job can elevate an actor’s performance – as seen in the following examples.
In her Oscar-winning role The Iron Lady (2011), veteran actress Meryl Streep spent two hours every day getting into makeup to play the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In addition to wearing a mask designed to mimic Thatcher’s skin, Streep wore dentures, pulled her hairline back, and even used silicone cheekbones to reproduce Thatcher’s well-known appearance. The result was so convincing that not only did Streep end up taking home another Academy Award – her makeup artist Mark Coulier also earned an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
While Charlize Theron went through a drastic body transformation for Monster, she opted for a different approach when she played Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly for the 2019 movie Bombshell. Thanks to eight prosthetic makeup pieces designed by Academy Award-winning makeup artist Kazu Hiro, Theron’s face was nearly unrecognizable. The pieces were so well-designed that, while Theron’s eyelids were completely covered, the actress could still blink naturally.
In fact, the makeup was so good, according to Theron in an interview she gave on Entertainment Tonight, that her co-star Nicole Kidman didn’t even recognize her on set!
Beyond replicating the appearances of famous faces, prosthetic makeup is responsible for several iconic looks in science fiction and fantasy films, granting actors the ability to achieve looks few would think possible a few decades ago. Rebecca Romjin endured hours in the makeup chair having her entire body painted blue to play the shape shifting mutant Mystique in the original X-Men trilogy. And Helena Bonham Carter became a very convincing ape-woman for the critically panned (but visually impressive) 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes.
So, while actors may continue to starve, build up, or otherwise physically alter their own bodies in pursuit of a movie role, prosthetic makeup still offers an impressive (and arguably safer) way of getting into character.