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Chameleons of Cinema

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Artistry in transformative make-up doesn’t just refer to the talent of the person applying it. Successful portrayal of a character and use of good make-up effects also relies on the film’s director of photography and in the actor. The actor, who must work underneath feature-altering prosthetics and pounds of goops and goo, has to be able to emote through the make-up. He or she must carry a performance that just drips with charisma.


It’s kind of like a specialty for some actors, to work completely made up and to be damned good at it. So, I thought I’d highlight a few of my personal favorites.

Ron Perlman


Let me give it up for this beast of a man! Literally, my first feelings of romance came from watching him opposite the beautiful Linda Hamilton in the television drama Beauty and the Beast. He was so good as Vincent, the gentle lion-man who lived in a hidden underground world, that he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for two Emmys. Perlman’s Vincent radiated a fierce protectiveness, wisdom, and endless love for Linda’s headstrong Katherine, and all done under hours of intense make up work. His role in this show launched him into prime time superstardom and allowed him to show off his talent at playing characters with a dark side.

And seriously, did you ever think that you would actually see a living, breathing, walking, talking, kitten-stroking, ass-kicking Hellboy? Did you? Well thanks to Ron Perlman (and Gillermo Del Toro), Hellboy came to gruff and lovably complicated life. And, damn it, if it isn’t fun to watch over and over. He steals every scene, without showing one patch of natural skin. Truly, he’s a great actor in make-up. I also just kind of like how he picks characters that are quirky yet brooding and powerful, like Johner in Alien Resurrection.

Gary Oldman


I would never describe Gary Oldman as a heart throb actor. He looks like a typical gentleman, but let’s face it, he’s no Brad Pitt. Yet, in Frances Ford Coppola’s Dracula, Oldman had my loins a-fluttering. The entire movie is drenched in gothic eroticism and Oldman doesn’t skip a beat. He lets loose a volcanic explosion of ferocity and passion that blows the mind and holds up to contemporary viewings. His portrayal of the ancient blood-sucker is terrifying and unfettered, despite being covered in tons of make-up and wigs for the entire movie. It’s rumored that Oldman depicted 12 completely different physical manifestations of the character. How he did not get an Oscar nod, I’ll never know. And let’s not overlook the glorious Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from Fifth Element, or his Mason Verger in Hannibal, or his Ludwig Van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. He is truly one of the greats, no matter how much make-up he’s wearing.

Robert Englund


The first Nightmare on Elm Street, was scary as all get out, and the sequels are campy poo. But I watched them all for Freddy Krueger because talent doesn’t always have to be drenched with gravitas. And in my opinion, Englund has got some talent and it shines through his sardonic Freddy. He’s just so FUN to watch! Englund plays the tar out of the psychopathic sandman with snarky abandon and I never get tired of it. Jackie Earle Haley is another bad-ass actor, but his Freddy didn’t have that sparkle. In fact, I felt like I kind of betrayed a precious childhood love after watching the 2010 remake. I swear I’ll never make that mistake again.

Robert Englund is now a predominant character actor with small cameo-like roles, a phenomenon typical to those whose career gets pigeon-holed as a wildly popular icon. Even in these smaller gigs, he’s great.

Johnny Depp


Yeah, yeah, he’s fun as Captain Jack Sparrow, I mean really great. But child’s play aside, this man loves self-transformation, and goes for throat with stellar performances. His work in The Libertine as John Wilmot, required that his face move from achingly handsome to grotesquely syphilitic, while balancing a complex and rich character. And, his most recent “undercover” role as Guy Lapointe in Kevin Smith’s controversial Tusk, is absolutely fabulous. His Sweeny Todd is marvelous, intense, and gothic! And it’s important that we never forget his fabulous role as one of my holy trinity of characters sporting blades on their hands, as Edward Scissorhands. (The other two are the aforementioned Freddy Krueger, and of course, Wolverine.) In Tim Burton’s fantastic bittersweet story, Johnny Depp defines whimsy and romance with the tragically put-together Edward. I dare you to watch this contemporary classic without tearing up and giving our boy Johnny some mad props.

Anjelica Houston


This fabulous dame with an outstanding career has played two of my favorite make-up laden characters, the most endearing being Morticia Addams. With the help of her naturally statuesque features, she simmers under layers and layers of white foundation, black eye-shadow, and a figure-hugging, leg-binding dress. The original Morticia had a cherubic and delicate face, but Anjelica’s version oozes with sensuality and an understated, perversity that seldom is seen in a family-oriented movie. She balances psychopathic, S&M nymphomania, with true family values and diligent parenting skills. She’s a Freudian nightmare worthy of a Home & Garden magazine cover. I ask you, how many actresses can pull that kind of shit off? FYI: she was nominated for Golden Globes for both Addams Family movies.

I just adore Anjelica in The Witches, as the Grand High Witch. Talk about evil personified. I was just chatting about this childhood gem of a film with my sister. We were nuts about her in this movie and with good reason. Her nuance and body language through this film is exceptional, regardless of how hideous her face becomes.

Don’t forget, Anjelica played the evil Supreme Leader in Disney’s 3D Captain Eo opposite Michael Jackson. Good stuff, yo!

I’d love to ask readers out there to list a few of their favorite make-up heavy actors in the comments! I’m always curious whose altered face has been seared into your memory!

Diva Del Mar

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