Update: The team behind Charlize Theron's convincing transformation in Bombshell just won an Oscar for Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. Read more about how they made the award-winning actress look more like Megyn Kelly than Megyn Kelly, below.
This story was originally published December 16, 2019.
When the first trailer for Bombshell dropped back in August, the highly-anticipated sneak peek had viewers on the edge of their seats for a number of reasons — the most obvious being the plot, which tells the story of the female Fox News employees who helped bring down CEO Roger Ailes for alleged sexual harassment. But even more captivating than the movie's controversial storyline are its three very blonde stars: Nicole Kidman as journalist and TV host Gretchen Carlson, Charlize Theron as news anchor Megyn Kelly, and Margot Robbie as a fictional young producer named Kayla Pospisil.
All three women have been praised for their remarkable transformations in prior acting roles, so it's no surprise that these makeovers were similarly uncanny — but Theron's metamorphosis into Kelly in particular was one nobody could have seen coming. Bombshell's lead makeup artist, Vivian Baker, worked in collaboration with Oscar-winning special-effects makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji to turn Theron into a dead ringer for the reporter, down to her eyelids.
To find out just how much work went into these makeovers, we spoke to Baker ahead of the film's release. Ahead, the Emmy Award-winning artist gives us a closer look at the challenges of working with facial prosthetics, the exact products used on set, and much more.
Creating Megyn Kelly
Considering that Kelly and Carlson's faces were regularly broadcast on TV screens all over America and beyond, there was a lot of pressure behind the scenes to get the transformations exactly right. "There was no room for any error," Baker tells Refinery29. "These are people that the world has seen on Fox News, so we needed to find out, What's it going to take to make them look like this person?"
For Theron, that meant a three-hour hair-and-makeup process using eight prosthetics pieces (including eyelids), extreme contouring, wigs, and contact lenses. "Each person was pretty much carved into what they needed to be" using prosthetics, says Baker — some of the actors even had to have fake teeth applied. One of the biggest challenges, she says, was to pile on heavy movie makeup while also making sure it all blended perfectly, since makeup applies differently on prosthetics vs. directly on the skin. "It's as if you're painting walls and you left a little piece of wallpaper there, and maybe you don't see it at first, but once you put paint over it, then you see it," Baker says
Baker came up with her own formula for a seamless foundation application that wouldn't break up once applied to the prosthetics: She would blend foundation, generally from Clé de Peau or By Terry, with a facial spray like Emma Hardie's Plump & Glow Hydrating Facial Mist and apply the mixture using an airbrush tool.
The one product that made all the difference for Baker was Lashify's false eyelash system: The customized lashes make it easy to manipulate the eye look. "I was able to force the shape of the eye a bit more," she explains, an essential detail for matching someone's facial features.
As for body makeup, Baker relied on Westmore Beauty products to alter the skin tones of the actresses. "It doesn't smudge, and it covers beautifully," she says of the brand's body foundation. Her other go-to was Shiseido's MicroLiner Ink, which she says worked well on both skin and prosthetics, while also requiring minimal touchups under intense lighting.
Skin care was also a crucial step, as the daily removal and reapplication of prosthetics on the face can be damaging to the skin. Baker trusted in Sonia Roselli products to prep the surface, Talika patches for under-eye soothing, and La Mer products to help calm the skin after removing all the glue solvent.
The Real Bombshell
As much work went into creating these transformations, Baker says that the glam team didn't anticipate the stunned reactions to the final looks. "We were just there doing our job as we would do on any other movie," she says.
As moviegoers are awestruck by the makeovers, Baker wants audiences to remember how makeup is always just one component to bringing a character to life. In her words: "As much as we like to think it's all about the makeup, if we do the right makeup, then it's the actresses who embody the character."
Bombshell is in select theaters now, with a wide release on December 20.
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