ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected] Twitter: @vfedkoblake
Varia Fedko-Blake

These days, although CGI is a director's go-to in achieving jaw-dropping special effects, nothing can beat the talents of a make-up professional.

These hard-working artists slave away transforming some of the most recognizable faces on the planet into something entirely unidentifiable. And in doing so, not only do they bring a higher level of authenticity to a movie, but give actors a chance to strike Oscar gold for their astonishing metamorphosis.

Below are 14 of some of the wildest examples of fantastic make-up skills and phenomenal prosthetics:

1. Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar

Latex body pads, a skull cap, fake teeth and colored contacts - that's what it took to transform Leo's beautiful face into that of an aged J. Edgar Hoover.

2. Nicole Kidman in The Hours

Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours, and it was her willingness to don a huge prosthetic schnoz that arguably did it:

3. Robert De Niro in Frankenstein

Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein brought us the gruesome monster played by Robert De Niro. In his transformation into Mary Shelley's mythical creature, a being sewn out of multiple corpses, the legendary actor donned a series of flexible full-body prosthetics, sitting patiently for up to 12 gruelling hours at a time to have the effects applied.

4. Emma Thompson in Nanny McPhee

Emma Thompson transformed into every naughty child's nightmare in her role as the haggard Nanny McPhee. And the larger nose and huge warts were all down to the magic conjured by the movie's make-up artists.

5. Jim Carrey in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

For his part as the formidable Count Olaf, Jim Carrey agreed to shave his head bald. And in addition to this, the design team then attached a huge nose onto his own, making him virtually unrecognizable.

Take a look at him in one of his final scenes in the movie:

Similarly, when he was filming The Grinch, Carrey had to spend at 3 - 8 hours in the make-up artists chair to achieve the unique transformation:

6. Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter

Ralph Fiennes's shocking transformation into one of the most evil villains of all time could not have been achieved without fantastic make-up work and a smattering of advanced CGI. In his role of Voldemort, the actor wore gelatin prosthetics over his eyebrows to achieve that skull-like appearance and give him those deep eye-sockets. Fiennes also wore dentures, contacts and fake fingernails.

However, Voldemort's nostrils were added as a special CGI effect later in post-production.

7. Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Although CGI greatly helped Brad Pitt age backwards (experiencing an exceptionally good-looking phase mid-movie, might I add!), much of his appearance was also achieved with heavy make-up. Apparently, Pitt often spent at least five hours in the make-up artist's chair getting ready for the cameras.

8. Charlize Theron in Monster

In my opinion, Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful women in the world. But as female serial killer Aileen Wuornos, she was anything but. In order to step into the role, Charlize gained 30 pounds and had to wear prosthetics, as well as a set of nasty dentures and painted-on freckles.

Oh, and she had to get all her eyebrows plucked!

9. John Hurt in The Elephant Man

David Lynch's The Elephant Man followed the story of a horrendously disfigured man whose appearance allowed him to rise to fame at the turn of the 19th century. Advanced make-up allowed John Hurt to achieve the look.

10. Helena Bonham Carter in Planet of the Apes

When Tim Burton decided to do a Planet of the Apes re-make, he jumped at the chance to transform his then wife into a primate. Admittedly, the result was very convincing, with Helena Bonham Carter's own nose getting completely buried under a huge amount of snout make-up.

11. Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire

One of the most famous cases of cross-dressing and prosthetics is naturally Robin Williams in the role of Mrs. Doubtfire. It took hours to achieve the look but the effect was marvelous. Take a look at how it was done here:

12. Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal

No, Gwyneth Paltrow didn't agree to ditch her green-smoothies to pile on the pounds in order to step out as a 300-pound vixen in Shallow Hal.

Unsurprisingly, her larger appearance is all down to prosthetics and a fat suit.

13. Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

In order to transform Tom Cruise into a psycho movie producer, quite a lot of make-up had to be involved. To achieve a genuine Hollywood scumbag appearance, he wore huge prosthetic hands, a hairy chest and a balding skull cap. Here he is shaking his thang to Flo Rida:

14. Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

In attempts to make him look as close as possible to wealthy benefactor John du Pont, a lot of prosthetic make-up was crucial in Steve Carell's transformation. In particular, it was his nose that caused a stir and greatly contributed to his unhinged and unsettling character's demeanor.

However, he wasn't the only one who got the prosthetic treatment. Channing Tatum received a noticeably sloping forehead and a broader nose, whilst Ruffalo's hairline was very visibly pushed back.

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