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Crafting ‘Bombshell’s’ fair and balanced looks for Charlize Theron and John Lithgow

Charlize Theron gets her eyelids worked on
Charlize Theron gets her eyelids worked on by prosthetic designer Kazu Hiro to transform into Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly for “Bombshell.”
(Lionsgate)

It’s hard not to be stunned by the makeup and hair work featured in “Bombshell,” director Jay Roach’s account of sexual harassment at Fox News. The uncanny prosthetic and beauty makeup created to make Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow resemble anchor Megyn Kelly, host Gretchen Carlson and former Fox News head Roger Ailes, respectively, plays nearly as important a role as the actors themselves.

“Our job was quite difficult because everyone knows what both the actresses and the characters they’re playing look like,” says the film’s prosthetic makeup designer, Kazu Hiro, who won an Oscar for transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

“To tell this story well, we had to make Charlize look like Megyn Kelly so the audience could get absorbed in the story all the way. I remember sitting next to Charlize Theron in a meeting and thinking, ‘Wow, she has such a beautiful face. I don’t want to ruin it!’”

Hiro, makeup department head Vivian Baker and hair department lead Anne Morgan, who have all been nominated for the makeup and hairstyling Oscar, sat down with The Envelope recently to discuss how they used prosthetics, beauty makeup and wigs to deliver that Fox look:

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How did you prepare for all the transformations you had to do for this movie?

Hiro: We had about a six-week preproduction period, which was quite short, as I was tasked with doing the prosthetics for Charlize, Nicole and John Lithgow. We had to study all the photo and video references and compare the faces before starting to work on the sculpts. Then, we made a mold out of each sculpt and then formed the prosthetics based on those molds.

Can you give us a brief rundown of the work you did on Charlize Theron?

Hiro: Because the facial proportions were different, I had to figure out the most important elements to add to Charlize’s face to make her resemble Megyn. I had to keep it lean because I didn’t want to cover her entire face so that she could easily act with the makeup on. After I took a life cast of Charlize and a 3-D scan of her face, I made a nose plug to enlarge her nostrils and a nose tip because Megyn’s nose is turned up a little bit. She also has heavier eyelids. The final design included eyelids, nose tip, nose plug, chin and jaw. The overall makeup and hair time was about three hours each day.

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Morgan: For Charlize’s character, I waited to see what Kazu was creating and where the prosthetics would fall on her face and whether they would affect her hairline. I was able to bring down the hairline and change her facial shape. After that, it was all about re-creating the hairstyles that had been documented already, like the one she had for the presidential debate. Then, there’s the on-camera Fox look, which everyone is familiar with.

What was the toughest part of Charlize’s makeup job?

Hiro: The eyelids: Eyes are so important, and to change the look of Charlize’s eyelids, I had to make a big eyelid appliance, which had to be added every day. The skin around the eyes is very sensitive. If you use too much glue, it hurts the skin. Charlize was working almost every day for 40 days: We couldn’t afford to hurt her skin because we didn’t have time to rest or change the schedule. Combining the prosthetic makeup with the beauty makeup was also very challenging because we are applying fake skin on top of real skin; we have different techniques to make it believable, but the beauty makeup covers up any blemishes and makes it very smooth.

Vivian, how did you come up with the right makeup for the women in the movie?

Baker: The first thing that we had to consider is that prosthetics and skin don’t receive makeup the same way. That makeup has a lot of chemicals and alcohol in it, but it usually lands on top of prosthetics so it doesn’t matter, but for this movie, we couldn’t do this because women’s skin is much thinner and much more volatile to the toxins. When you put beauty makeup over an appliance, that usually reveals where the appliance is. We can hide the appliance until we start to make the skin look flawless, which is the whole Fox News look.

Kazu and I made compensations for that. It was a little bit of a mad scientist process, and I don’t know if I can mix them up in the exact same way again! I used makeup brands like Clé de Peau and By Terry. I had to thin them down in ways that they would go down on the prosthetics and the skin, and I had many different formulas so that they would blend together and hold.

Can you highlight the prosthetic work you did on Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow?

Hiro: The original sculpt I did for Nicole included her nose, chin and cheeks since Gretchen has a rounder face. But Nicole and Jay discussed it and we decided to eliminate the cheek pieces, which made the application much trickier. We also added a dimple on the chin. John needed a big change because Roger Ailes was a much heavier person. Our amazing costume designer, Colleen Atwood, made a big body suit. Ailes had a very particular head shape and hairline. I asked John if he would let me shave his hairline and then I gave him a nose, cheeks, neck and ear lobes. Later, Anne cleaned up his hairline beautifully, and she also attached hair extensions and added some color.

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Any final thoughts?

Hiro: I just feel that this is such an important story to tell right now. I also think that we had the best crew and some of the best people working on the movie because Charlize and Jay put together a really amazing team.

Baker: It was so wonderful to be part of a movie that is bringing a voice to something that we all need to talk about, and it’s not screaming hatred. Working with Kazu, who is the most revered prosthetic artist in our business, was quite amazing. You learn so much by osmosis.


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