Sure, making a movie monster is tough, but it’s not like anyone can say you were inaccurate if the beast has too many teeth or its nose is too big. Not so when you are trying to turn a renown actor like Anthony Hopkins into renown director Alfred Hitchcock. That was the task set before FX makeup artists Howard Berger and Peter Montagna, and hair artist Martin Samuel when they signed on for Hitchcock, which tells the tale of the famed director and his most infamous film, Psycho. We spoke with the trio about what it takes to work so closely in the realm of reality.
How do you go about creating the makeups to turn Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock?
Howard: We started by getting a lot of photos. We also managed to get a life mask of Hitchcock. There was one made in the 1960s, so we could get a three-dimensional idea of what his face looked like. Based on that, we started doing some design work. Production was very generous in allowing us to do a lot of tests. I think we did six total. The first tests we did were rather extensive. we did a rather extensive makeup on Tony and realized we lost what Tony looked like - he didn’t look like Tony anymore! We decided the best course of action was not to hide Tony, so we scaled back on the makeup. We got it down to four appliances. It was more of a portrait makeup than trying to make him look exactly like Hitchcock.
How long did it take to create the prosthetics that you decided on?
Howard: We had a six week pre-production period and we did a multitude of different sculptures. We knocked out as many [looks] as we could to find the right look. Was this nose right, was this throat right... a lot of different things. Same with the hair. It is really a process of trial and error. Our director, Sacha Gervasi, wanted to get everything on film, which was amazingly helpful. We tried to do a new makeup every week and a half on Tony Hopkins. Sometimes you don’t get a chance to test your makeups on your main actor. You have to do it on doubles and it doesn’t tell you what you need to know.
How did Anthony Hopkins deal with the makeups? How long did it take to apply?
Peter: He was totally on board with it. He was very available and very respectful of the process. We got the process down to about an hour and a half. He really wanted to do the part. He was very gracious, very engaging, and great to work with.
Did making a very well-known actor into an equally well-known director add any extra pressure on you?
Howard: Yeah, I think it did. Ultimately, I think the success of [the film] working really hinged on the success of hair and makeup. Anthony can pull it off without it, but the audience needed to see a convincing portrait of Alfred Hitchcock on Anthony Hopkins. We labored quite a bit over it. There are a lot of levels. The studio wants it to work within a time frame and a budget, and you have to do your best to accommodate that. For me, what was really nerve-wracking was that first photo of what we were working on getting out, and hearing what our peers had to say. Ultimately, I think a large amount of our peers really liked the makeup - so much so that they voted for us to get an Oscar nomination this past year. That says quite a bit, I think.
Peter: The reality of it was that if the makeup and hair didn’t work, the movie wasn’t going to work. so yes, it was quite a bit of pressure.
Will there be a lot of blu-ray behind-the-scenes, showing how you came up with the makeup?
Peter: I think so. We did some time-lapse stuff of us applying the makeup and the hair and I have a feeling it will be on the special features. I hope so!
You are dealing with a cast of well-known actors who are playing other well-known actors. Did any of the other actors require any makeup to make them look a little more like who they were supposed to be?
Peter: No, but Martin and his team did a fantastic job with the wigs and the hair.
Martin: Julie Hewett was the makeup department head, and I was the hair department head, as well as doing Anthony Hopkins’s hair. So we dealt with styling everyone else in the cast with the team of artists we brought on to the production. For me it was a double-whammy: looking after Tony everyday, as well as running the show with Julie. As Howard and Peter said, the makeup and hair was a tremendous part of the movie - and a tremendous part in the success of the movie. That’s what it was about: the people looking like the people in the period.