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HomeAwardsContender – Makeup Artist Bill Corso, Foxcatcher

Contender – Makeup Artist Bill Corso, Foxcatcher


FOXCATCHERThough most movie stars work on successive projects with their regular makeup artist, occasionally assignments get transferred around, leading to fortuitous results. In the case of comedy star Steve Carell, Dave Anderson, himself a multiple Oscar-winner, handles Carell’s duties on many projects. But when a producer called Bill Corso, Oscar winner for Lemony Snicket’s A Serious of Unfortunate Events, about a new Carell project, Foxcatcher, concerning John du Pont, a wealthy Pennsylvanian who undertakes the job of coaching the American wrestling team, Anderson gave his blessing to Corso to do the show. “I knew Steve from working on Burt Wonderstone and Bruce Almighty,” Corso said. “We got on pretty well. I read the script and couldn’t picture Steve at all. It doesn’t work with Steve Carell. Bennett Miller, [the director] said, ‘It can’t be Steve Carell. It hinges on the fact that the audience believes Steve is du Pont.’”

With that challenge under foot, Corso knew that the Carell makeup, in addition to several others on the project, had to break new ground. “No matter how good the makeup is, everybody is just going to see Steve Carell and ruin the movie,” Corso recalled, but Miller put his mind at relative ease. “I’ll direct it in a way that the audience will believe the character,” he told Corso. Henceforth, Corso went forward with a mantra which drives him on many projects: “to create a makeup that is completely believable in person; a makeup tight enough to fool somebody standing right in front of them.”

Steve Carell makup test
Steve Carell makup test

On many projects concerning real-world figures, the task of the makeup artist is to create a likeness makeup that approximates the actual characters depicted in the story. But Miller did not care if the Carell makeup looked exactly like du Pont. Instead, for Foxcatcher, du Pont needed to look like a New England blue-blooded wealthy man, “an older pale guy with the aura of entitlement. You look at Steve and he’s not that guy,” Corso reflected. “They set me up with Steve. I was leaving to do another movie, but I said, ‘I‘d love to do a quick test on Steve before I go. When I get back, we’ll have to jump right into it.’ I had four hours before I went to the airport. I threw a baldcap on him, a wig, nose putty and that first test was encouraging.”

After Corso sent Miller the pictures from the test, he created additional Photoshop renderings on top of the test makeup photos. “The whole point was to just do a rough test for me to do Photoshops on,” Corso noted. “I drew hair in and did different versions of him that the director and I discussed. When I came back from 42, I said we should pull the trigger on doing a real proper test. I think we can do it with appliances. They green lit a full makeup test.”

After Anderson gave Corso a lifecast of Carell from Get Smart, Corso set about doing a full makeup test. First, Corso shaved his hairline back and used Carell’s own hair. “I cut his own hair back and punched up the silver,” Corso stated. “I started with just a nose and brow piece and a full silicone baldcap. From that, we decided to use his own hair. I had teeth made for him, but we decided to change the teeth. We did a full lower lip piece as du Pont has very sharp lips. I did four tests. I refined and changed the nose piece every time. I would change the eyebrows. I kept altering it each time. We added upper and lower dental plumpers which totally changed his mouth shape. Chris Gallaher made the teeth and plumpers. Mark Nieman and Chris ran all of the appliances in silicone. Mark sculpted one of the lip pieces, which added detail.”

FOXCATCHERAs Corso worked through the four tests with Carell, Miller was integrally involved every step of the way. “He and I discussed it at length,” Corso recalled. “It was really involved, much more so than anything I had done. The final test was the camera test, the Wednesday before we started shooting. It was shot under very harsh unforgiving lighting. They used available, fluorescent light and light that was detrimental to a makeup. They were relying on me to be able to apply it.”

When the makeup went in front of the camera, it took Corso 30 minutes to put on the appliances and another hour to paint Carell. “Then tweaking, roughed up and aged his hands, and tweaking the hair,” Corso described. “He was in the makeup trailer for 2 ½ hours. Once I did him the first couple of times, I had reference photos blown up on the walls. Every day, I had the camera department bring LED lights into the trailer to see it under strong harsh lighting. You can see stuff in detail, which called for a lot of work balancing out the paint job. I used every type of paint. He has on illustrator colors, tattoo paints, alcohol paints, rubber mask grease paint – everything all layered up one on top of another to get a certain effect. I have a very specific way I paint. It’s quite different than most people. I paint all of this detail in my makeups.”

LR-JDP-Master color matchOver the course of four months, production shot 50 days with Carell as du Pont. Moreover, there were several other makeup challenges in the film. Channing Tatum, as featured wrestler Mark Schultz, is arguably the star of the movie and required a necessary wrestler’s makeup. Mark Ruffalo played David Schultz, Mark’s brother. “Channing was doing the White House Down movie and we didn’t get him until the Wednesday before we started shooting,” Corso stated. “He really wanted plumpers to make his mouth bigger. He had met the real guy. We made many sizes of plumpers. We weren’t sure about anything else at that point with Tatum’s final makeup. I made generic cauliflower ears — Mike Marino cast his ears. I sculpted a whole bunch of different types of cauliflower ears. I could have put them on anybody. Mark Ruffalo’s ears are so different, Channing’s ears wouldn’t fit on Mark at all. In the trailer, we took ear casts of Mark. I sculpted some nice ears for Mark, sent them off and had the guys run them in silicone. The first couple of days he shot, we used different ears.”

Since Tatum and Ruffalo engaged in full-contact wrestling with headlocks, the prosthetic ears would get destroyed, so Corso had another plan. “We made hard ears out of flexacryl,” he said. “If they held up nicely, we would powder them and use them again. Each one of them actually started to get real cauliflower ears. I sculpted up a bunch of swollen face pieces.”

To take care of Tatum on a daily basis, Corso recruited Dennis Liddiard who had worked with the actor before and had done Moneyball for Miller. “I needed somebody really talented to take care of Channing,” said Corso. “He did a great nose on Kurt Russell in Miracle. We tried different pieces. Dennis applied it and put it all together. We tried all of the different plumpers. Channing decided on big plumpers just on the lowers. We put plugs up his nose to make him look like a fighter. Channing’s upper nose pieces were sculpted to be bumps. It’s one piece that gives his nose a little bump. It’s almost like a band-aid turned sideways.”

FOXCATCHERFor Ruffalo’s look, the actor decided he wanted upper dental plumpers to flatten out his nose area. “Doing the camera test, I asked the director if he wanted to see a broken nose,” he said. “We painted a bump on Mark’s nose to make it look like it was broken. We shaved eyebrows. Dennis and I traded back and forth on Mark, depending on who would finish first. Dennis has a really strong eye. He was my third eye. He would check me on what I was doing. It was a nice back-and-forth.”

In the end, Corso felt as though he met his director’s mandate with Foxcatcher’s makeup: complete, utter realism. “The guys don’t look like themselves. It’s always great to be able to give an actor that ability,” Corso revealed. “It’s very rare that a director or actor will let you completely change their appearances. They all want to see the face they paid for. It’s a cool magic trick. It’s a real visual effect, done by makeup, paint and powder. You are completely creating a human being. If it works, it doesn’t take you out of the movie. It’s rare. You never get to do that. They always want to see the actor. In this, they didn’t want to see Steve.”

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