Among the films receiving attention for its makeup and effects is J. Edgar. The story of founding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the Clint Eastwood film posits the title character at four separate age stages: his early 20s, his mid-30s, his early-40s and his early-70s. Responsible for mastering these stages was Leo DiCaprio’s personal makeup artist, Sian Grigg, who has been with the star since Titanic.
Fangs Fx created dental appliances to change aspects of DiCaprio’s facial shape for his earlier stages in the film. From her makeup kit, Grigg added an inner nose augmenter to adjust the shape of DiCaprio’s nose. Then, working with prosthetics artist Duncan Jarman, Grigg chose to add eyelids and eyebags made of silicone for a key scene where DiCaprio is playing Hoover’s mid-40s for the immediate aftermath of the character’s mother’s death. Additionally, Grigg added non-prosthetic shading for these scenes. DiCaprio had lost a lot of weight to play young Hoover which Grigg was not expecting, so a neck piece had to be made the week before shooting to fill in under his jaw to give DiCaprio a double-chin which the actor wore for most of the film. “I used it on the first day,” said Grigg from the Australian set of The Great Gatsby where she is currently creating DiCaprio’s makeup. “I didn’t even get a camera test.”
For the oldest stage, DiCaprio was covered in silicone appliances to age him in a believable manner for these extensive scenes that predominantly took place in the 1960s. The four-and-a-half-hour makeup involved carefully adhering the silicone pieces to Dicaprio’s face, head, neck and hands. The appliances included prosthetics on his hands, a full silicone baldcap with punched in hair, and an interlinking neck, cheeks, forehead, eyebags, and thin pieces around the mouth. Grigg did not want to add prosthetic ears or a nose, even though the cheek pieces did blend into the nose.
Grigg explained why she chose to utilize the encapsulated silicone pieces in the makeup. “With each project, you approach it and you wonder what the best material will be,” she said. “The silicone pieces were really soft so that they felt like skin. When you pinched it, it held the pinch. It made them quite difficult to apply, but much more flexible and maneuverable, and they looked more real. Silicone is very durable and a great medium to work in. It requires a lot of attention, so I spent a lot of time throughout the day attending to it. In the past five years, the silicone appliances have become better than anything else to work with.”
DiCaprio shot for ten days in LA and one day in Washington in the oldest age stage. “I have to say that doing a makeup like that is very open for criticism,” Grigg said of the makeup. “Everyone is so used to how Leo looks, so it’s one of the toughest makeups you can ever do — plus it was a lookalike makeup. But with what we saw on set and in the dailies, I was really pleased.”
To replicate Hoover at all of the ages represented in the film. DiCaprio’s elaborate hairstyling was created by Kathryn Blondell. Other characters age accordingly in the film as played by Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts, with prosthetics created by Christien Tinsley and applied by other artists including makeup department head Tania McComas for Hammer’s makeup and aging on set and Alessandro Bertolazzi for Watts makeup and aging.