15 Special Effects Makeup Transformations That Totally Stole The Show

Actors have an amazing way of melting into certain roles. It’s hard to even imagine that they aren’t the person they are playing in that role. Part of that is because they are good at what they do. The other part is because they don’t look anything like they do in their everyday life. That’s all thanks to special effects makeup.

Stars can be transformed from handsome and beautiful into something completely different. It’s downright amazing that they can be anything the makeup artists need them to be. While we can’t imagine spending hours and hours in the makeup chair before the real work even begins, we’re glad these actors did because their roles are entertaining and we are fascinated by their transformations, all for the sake of entertainment.

15 Heath Ledger morphs into a notorious villain

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Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is legendary. He stole scene after scene in The Dark Knight opposite Christian Bale. The classic role even won him an Oscar (posthumously) for Best Supporting Actor. Critics said he reinvented the character. As much as we respect his acting chops, much of the character and how it came to life was also based around makeup artistry. The special effects showcased a mad man on the brink, teetering on the edge. Because of his characterization of The Joker and his untimely death, there were also a lot of rumors about how he approached the character. He locked himself in a hotel room, for example, for 6 weeks prior to filming in order to prepare the voice and laugh of the maniac.

14 Naomi Grossman goes insane

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Naomi Grossman transforms into the hideous Pepper for American Horror Story. Plenty of strange, creepy characters go in and out of the horror show on FX, which is based in a criminal insane asylum called Briarcliff Manor. But Pepper is one of the hit characters that comes across more childlike, but with murderous tendencies. The tuft of hair and toothy grin gets her the nickname “pinhead.” But Grossman went a long way to get the role and to fit into the character as best she could. She even shaved her head for the part. The transformation is nothing short of astounding and no one would guess that the mischievous Pepper is actually Grossman with plenty of makeup and prosthetics to help complete the look.

13 Meryl Streep ages and changes gender with ease

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The power of makeup and prosthetics is evident when actors can turn into something completely outside of what they are on a regular basis. Take Meryl Streep, for example. She’s no stranger to makeup or changing her look for a role. But in the 2003 mini series Angels in America, she took on a role that was daring even for her. Streep became unrecognizable as an elderly man known as Rabbi. Hollywood has always said Streep could play every role and with this one, she proved it, thanks to her makeup team, prosthetics, and plenty of hours in the chair watching them work. This might make a good disguise for her to try on the street. No one would recognize the famous actress in this get up.

12 Jim Carrey goes green for real

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Hollywood Star Jim Carrey got the role of a lifetime when he agreed to be The Grinch in the modern day adaptation. The movie would be something that families would watch over and over again every year for years to come. He immortalized the green Who with the tiny heart. However, he was actually given training from experts from the CIA to deal with torture as a coping method for the grueling make-up regime he had to go through. Carrey had to sit in the chair for eight-and-a-half hours on a daily basis in order to transform into the Grinch. He said it was like being buried alive every day as he turned green. As hard as it was, we’re glad he did it because we can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

11 John Travolta dresses in drag

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When we think of John Travolta, it’s hard not to go back to his infamous role as bad boy in Grease. But when we saw what makeup artists did to him for his role in Hairspray, we were no longer thinking about what he looked like in his leather jacket. Edna Turnbald is not the first person who comes to mind when looking at John Travolta. He’s not a pudgy woman, after all. And while Travolta has danced in plenty of movies before, this was the first time he did it in heels. He had to wear a 30-pound fat suit and five hours of makeup on a daily basis for the role of Edna Turnblad. And Travolta admitted that people forgot he was under there and didn’t even recognize himself at times. We can see why!

10 Dan Stevens becomes downright beastly

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If you enjoyed the cartoon version of Beauty and the Beast, you were likely amazed to see the characters come to life and dance across the screen. If you pay close attention to the Beast, played by Dan Stevens, you would appreciate his hard work as an actor performing at his best. He has to waltz on stilts, for example, while wearing a 40-lb muscle suit. There were a lot of different technologies going on to capture the look that ended up in the movie. Along with special effects makeup, he also re-acted all of his scenes in a booth with 10,000 UV dots on his face to capture his expressions for special effects later. Going the extra mile with the facial expressions brought even more of the Beast to the screen.

9 Robin Williams turns into an older woman

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Robin Williams seemed like the type of guy who would do just about anything for a laugh, including sitting through a huge makeup process to get the job done. His film, Mrs. Doubtfire turned him from a run of the mill man into a female nanny. In the movie, he does the transformation himself, but it took a lot longer off-screen to make it actually happen. He had to have a fake nose put on and spend four and a half hours every day getting into the elaborate makeup in order to portray the character. With a multi-piece mask, he had more facial expressions and every wrinkle and blemish had to be painted on daily. The movie actually won an Academy Award for Best Makeup.

8 Eddie Redmayne gradually transforms

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Fashion underwent a liberation in the 1920s, which was the decade during which The Danish Girl took place. Eddie Redmayne plays a transgender woman that goes by the name of Lilli and he won an Oscar for his conveyance of the life-changing transformation. Redmayne starts the movie looking very much like himself and the progression of what he looked like into Lilli happens gradually. Redmayne is a nice looking man, but he looks just a lovely as a woman. The makeup artists got to do a lot over the course of the movie as the character experimented with her look, sometimes taking things too heavy before getting it right. Of course, the transition had to be thought out, since the character was transitioning throughout the film.

7 Johnny Depp becomes a mob boss

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When people go to see Johnny Depp in a movie, they have certain expectations of his handsome face and character acting. Unfortunately, they only get the character in Black Mass and none of the handsomeness. In this movie, Depp takes on the mobster role of Whitey Bulger and transforms so fully that audience members had to do a double take to believe it was him. As you might suspect from other movies that Depp is in, he is a big believer in makeup and costuming. It was only five days before the movie began filming that he agreed to take on the role. The makeup testing had to be completed to his satisfaction before he'd officially sign on. The transformation was complete and he could have fooled just about anyone.

6 Johnny Depp becomes just about everything else

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When Johnny Depp commits to a movie, you usually know it’s going to involve some kind of transformation, both in the makeup department and as the character himself takes shape. What you don’t know is how it will all come together. Depp must not mind sitting in the makeup chair because he is so well known as an extreme character actor that it’s almost all he does these days. He even went to far as to wear special contact lenses that acted like sunglasses in the Pirate movies in order to protect his eyes so he wouldn’t squint in the bright sun. He has proven time and again that he’ll sit still for the makeup creators to do their work and make him into just what he needs to be.

5 Ryan Reynolds gets disfigured

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Ryan Reynolds is one of those people who is ruggedly handsome. In fact, he’s been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive in past. But when he played the disfigured man in Deadpool, no one got to see that gorgeous face. Instead, they got to see a man who had been severely burned. And it took seven hours to create the look. There is so much detail in prosthetics, which are designed so you can see blood vessels and muscles in the face. And the star who undergoes the process has to be super patient, even if they find it weird, like Reynolds did. Luckily, he spent parts of the movie completely covered up with a mask so he didn’t have to undergo this torture every time they were shooting.

4 Charlize Theron turns into a monster

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When you look at Charlize Theron, you see a Hollywood beauty. But she was willing to throw all that away for a role. For her role in Monster, she didn’t have to go as far as some, but she still completely transformed into someone that didn’t look anything like the original. With some makeup to freckle her clear complexion and crooked teeth to yellow up her white smile, she looked like a new woman. Plus, she got to eat whatever she wanted to bulk up her normally thin frame. Theron turned into Aileen Wuornos, a female serial killer who murdered six men and was executed in Florida in 2002. She was praised as putting forth one of the best pieces of acting for the year through the role, due to her makeup job in no small part.

3 Cate Blanchett becomes a rock legend

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In 2007, Cate Blanchett was one of six actors to play the role of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. It just shows you the ultimate power of makeup and prosthetics, as she looks nothing like him in real life. Though she looks shockingly like the singer after her transformation, showing just how powerful good makeup artists can be. In the past, Blanchett has shaved her head, become an elf queen, played a crazy American housewife, and an English queen. Creating believable characters who not only look different but also act different is her go-to thing. She seems to have no bounds once she gets beneath the makeup and becomes the character. No one can recognize her any longer, both in appearance and in attitude during filming.

2 Bill Skarsgård goes crazy for clowns

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When Bill Skarsgård agreed to play Pennywise in the reboot of the movie It, he probably had an inkling of what he was in for. After all, Pennywise is an insane cloud and makeup artistry is rather insane itself these days. In fact, it took four hours in the chair to get his makeup done and then a full hour to take it off. In order to get the transformation in place in time, he would get to the location at 3 a.m. to be ready for filming by 7 a.m. Then, he would work for 12 hours and then get everything taken off before he would go home to sleep only to return a few hours later and start over. The process was enough to terrify us.

1 Ralph Fiennes becomes a magical villain

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As one of the most iconic villains in recent literature, Lord Voldemort had to be just right. When he hit the big screen with his see-through white skin, vein-covered head, holes for a noise and pointed teeth, his look was memorable and horrifying at once. It took an Oscar-winning makeup artist to craft the look based on a head cast of Ralph Fiennes, who played the role. The director only wanted the process to take two hours instead of a more normal six because of filming restrictions The veins are temporary tattoos and the nose is digital. His teeth and fingernails are fake and his hands are painted. Turning a normal man into a feared creature in as little as two hours is impressive, even for an Oscar winner.

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