This year's Oscar nominees for Best Makeup and Hairstyling – “Foxcatcher,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” – are a typically varied assortment. This is a branch, after all, whose choices often reflect consideration of the work itself above Best Picture-contending frontrunners. Just last year we got nominations for films like “Bad Grandpa” and “The Lone Ranger.” This time around, the cream of the crop just happened to come in critically acclaimed films.
Beginning with “Foxcatcher,” Bill Corso and his co-nominee, Dennis Liddiard, had a gargantuan task ahead of them: transforming well-known comedic actors Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, as well as Mark Ruffalo, into something approaching blue blood John du Pont, wrestling wunderkind Mark Schultz and his ill-fated brother Dave. They split duties, with Liddiard handling Tatum's transformation, Corso working on Carell and the two of them coming to Ruffalo when needed.
For both Tatum and Ruffalo, given that they were playing wrestlers, silicon cauliflower ears were crafted to display the look of cartilage being broken and crushed over the years. But more than that – and as a reprieve from having to 100% recreate the real-life figures, which wasn't something director Bennett Miller was interested in – there was an overall look that Liddiard was interested in trying to emulate.
“I looked at these guys who had been in that world of wrestling their entire lives, and in my research, what I kept noticing was their profiles are incredibly flat,” Liddiard says. “Their noses, the cartilage, their chins get really strong and they just have an appearance of having a very flat face. So what we did on Channing was he wore a prosthetic nose across the bridge of his nose to widen the bridge and make it look like his nose had been broken, like a bump on one side. And then I took little plugs that we pushed up his nostrils on the lower part of his nose to flare it out and push the tip down, which kind of flattened his nose out. Then he wore lower dental plumpers that pushed his lip out and lowered his jaw forward.”
For Ruffalo, they went with upper dental plumpers as opposed to lower because they pushed his top lip out to get the flattened face look. “We also made these little vacuu-formed tabs that went on the back of his ears to push his ears out, to try and make the brothers look more alike, because Mark's ears lay flat,” he says. “And we painted a little bit of a broken nose, because he already had a little bump. So we enhanced it.”
The trickiest part was dealing with the actor's hairline, which doesn't recede at all to the point Dave Schultz's did. They shaved it back, but then they were left with the “five o'clock shadow” to deal with. Ultimately, though, the work would have been all for naut if it was simply ruined in the wrestling sequences. They had to come up with applications that could take a hit.
“Billy and I both talked about it a lot,” Liddiard says. “We changed the designs of the ears a little bit. We talked about a full nose on Channing that was from the bridge all the way to the tip, but we didn't think that would hold up, so that's why we just did a smaller piece across his bridge. And then we ended up doing the plumpers up the nostril to flare out the bottom part, because we just didn't think it would stand up. And the wrestling you see in the movie is not even 1/16th of what we shot.”
For Carell, trepidation set in for Corso from the get-go. “When I had the conversation with Bennett, I said, blatantly, like, 'Why did you cast Steve in a part that's so against type?' And he goes, 'Well, it can't look like Steve. 'Steve Carell' cannot be in this movie.'”