Q&A: When job one is making humans look like trolls — or was it making trolls look human?


In the Swedish film “Border,” trolls don’t lurk under bridges or in magical kingdoms but pass as humans in our everyday world. For makeup and hairstyling team Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer, this nexus between fantasy and reality presented an intriguing challenge.

“That’s a unique aspect of this,” said Lundström, who crafted the prosthetics that Goldammer applied to lead actors Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff on set. Each actor’s transformation required three hours in the makeup chair.


“What fascinated me the most was the combination of a fantasy creature and a real person,” said Goldammer.

Melandar stars as Tina, a talented border guard who can literally smell the guilt of smugglers. Her nose never fails her—until confronted by a strange yet familiar man named Vore (Milonoff), who reveals her true nature.

Did you have visual inspirations for your trolls?

Lundström: I found this British actor called Eddie Marsan, who’s got a really interesting face. I did [a test makeup] where I basically took a lot of features from Marsan and put it on Eva. And then I decided that I wanted to change the nose, because it didn’t really fit her face; it changed her face too much into someone else. So I brought the nose back to her length and just made a different type of nose. But the chin is based on Eero’s chin, I wanted to bring something from him onto her.

How did you make the actors look distinct as individuals, yet of the same “species”?

Lundström: Eva and Eero have completely different proportions, so you don’t really have to be that worried about getting them to look too similar. But what I did was I made sure they had different noses, for sure. And also, Eva’s features are much softer. And with Eero, he’s a much more sinister character in general, so we could take him a little bit further. And I noticed that he actually used the sculpted features and made them even more exaggerated.

Goldammer: I wonder if he really spent time in the mirror working out different expressions. Because in the beginning, when I was applying the makeup on my own, Eero had to be done either before Eva, and then wait for the next three hours in this makeup, or we would apply the prosthetics on him, then we’d do Eva [and Eero would have to finish his process after that]. So then either way, he had three hours [to wait with his makeup at least partially on] where he would then go back in the hotel room or in his apartment, and he would just hang out. So I’m really curious because the moment his makeup and the paint was finished, he’d just get up and he would have changed his expression, have this cheeky twinkle in his eyes. It was really fantastic, and it was very creepy at times.


Did you do anything with their teeth?

Lundström: Both of them had dentures. [Director Ali Abbasi] wanted them to be asymmetrical in general. So Eva’s eyelids are a little bit different. She has a little bit thicker eyelid on one side, so she looks a little bit asymmetrical in her eyes. But for her mouth, I sculpted the teeth in a way so if they closed their mouths, it wouldn’t be a straight mouth anymore. It would be crooked.

What’s your technical process for crafting prosthetics?

Lundström: So basically, I have to do a face cast of the person first. And we did that in silicone. We sculpt on a positive copy of that face cast in an oil-based clay that we use. She’s got nine different pieces. Once it’s sculpted, we make molds and we cast silicone pieces out of the molds; most of it was silicone, but we also did some gelatin pieces for it, because it just behaves differently. There’s a crinkling effect you can get with silicone, where you get little wrinkles that are really annoying. So that’s why I went back to gelatin.

Are there any drawbacks to using gelatin?

Lundström: Well, in this case, we have the cold, because gelatin gets really stiff.

Goldammer: Most of the time we were outside, and it was cold at that time of the year. And there was one scene where they are swimming in the water together. So for these days, I asked Göran to make some silicone prosthetics. They look exactly the same, but they just don’t react to water. Or when we were outside for the sex scene where they were very little dressed, and it was a very cold day, you could feel how the gelatin got just a bit tougher. And I placed hand warmers on the cheeks, and it was just enough to bring them back. We didn’t have any problems. But I mean, for them, it was a pretty tough shoot, because they had to be in very cold water, running naked through a forest, shooting outside in very little clothes.