Creating an Illusion: The Best Movie Makeup of 2013

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
December 22nd, 2013

Creating an Illusion: The Best Movie Makeup of 2013

2013 has been an interesting year for makeup in films. A number of historical dramas were released that required makeup artists to create looks pulled from the past. It was also a big year for fantasy and science fiction, which required extensive work to create fictional races and aliens from other planets. This is a list of some of the films with the best makeup of the year.



"Lee Daniels' The Butler"

"Lee Daniels' The Butler" follows the life of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a butler at the White House, as he works for eight consecutive presidents. One of the most impressive things about this movie is the transformation of well-known actors into the various presidents. Robin Williams is perhaps the best example of this in his role as Dwight D. Eisenhower. The makeup artists artificially aged him and made his hair appear thinner, creating an amazing resemblance to Eisenhower.

In addition, the length of time this movie covers presented an unusual challenge for the makeup artists. They had to create looks that accurately reflected the styles and trends of each era, which they did with great accuracy. Although that may not be the thing most viewers remember most about this film, it is an essential part of creating a realistic historical feel.


"Oz: The Great and the Powerful"

This new take on Frank Baum's "Oz" series stars James Franco as a struggling magician who finds himself in Oz, where he has to deal with three witches who are not sure he is who he claims to be. Glinda, Evanora, and Theodora, the three witches, all have distinctive looks that match their personalities and costumes. Theodora is pale and adventurous, Evanora is severe and strong, and Glinda is pure and good. The Wicked Witch is also a sight to behold. Her appearance was created with a combination of prosthetics, makeup, and green body paint. Although it was enhanced somewhat with CGI for the final version, the basic appearance was created by makeup artists.



"Star Trek: Into Darkness"

Zachary Quinto as Spock is probably the most noticeable bit of makeup artistry in the second installment of the rebooted "Star Trek" franchise, but he is not the only one. The artists did an excellent job transforming him into a Vulcan without making it appear fake or overdone. Benedict Cumberbatch as the villainous Khan also benefits from subtle shadowing and styling that make him appear sinister even at the best of times.

The makeup artists on this film were also responsible for creating haggard, battle-worn looks for the actors during the climactic battle scenes. They accomplished this by applying makeup that looked like dirt and wounds, which made it look like the stars had actually been out fighting a war.


"Thor: The Dark World"

In this sequel to "Thor," Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) team up against a grave threat from another world, and the film gave makeup artists a chance to shine. In addition to creating a subtle otherworldly appearance for Thor, Loki, and the other Asgardians, the makeup artists put their talents to use creating the Dark Elves using a combination of makeup, body paint, and prosthetics. Christopher Eccleston, who plays the Dark Elf leader Malekith, described spending hours every day getting into costume due to the heavy makeup requirements. However, the hard work paid off when he appeared onscreen looking like a true alien.



"12 Years a Slave"

"12 Years a Slave" is another period drama, this one telling the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man who was kidnapped into slavery during the 1850s. It shows the brutality of slavery and the pain and mistreatment that so many people were forced to endure. The makeup artists were essential to creating this vivid imagery by creating believable wounds. They also painted a striking portrait of people in the nineteenth century, contrasted the cleanliness and health of the slave owners with the illness and squalid conditions the slaves were forced to endure.


"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movies are famous for their attention to detail, and that includes makeup and hairstyling. Very little computer enhancement is applied to the actors' appearances in these films, which means that makeup artists are responsible for creating the notable differences between the various races. From the pale, ethereal beauty of the elves to the ruddy health of the hobbits, the makeup is impeccable. It is also used to show the difficulty of the journey that Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is on as he travels the world and narrowly escapes danger.