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HomeAwardsContender PortfoliosContender – Makeup Artists Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr, The 100-Year-Old...

Contender – Makeup Artists Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

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Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr
Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr
Based on a 2009 Swedish comic novel by Jonas Jonasson, the recent film from that same country, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, features a lavish array of extreme old-age makeups, the centerpiece being the titular 100-year-old man character of Allan Karlsson, played by noted Swedish comedic actor Robert Gustafsson. Not yet 50 at the time of filming, Gustafsson had to prominently portray several age stages of his character’s life, leading up to his centenarian set-piece, collaborating with great necessity as such with the Oscar-nominated talents of co-makeup designers Love Larson and Eva Von Bahr.

With the pre-eminent Karlsson mandating complex prosthetic makeups through virtually the entire film, at first Larson and Von Bahr were intimidated by the prospect. “When they called us, we thought, ‘Thank you so much for asking us, but no thank you,’” said Larson. “It’s such a hard thing to do with a character in daylight. It’s a suicide mission. If we failed, we would never get a job again.”

A 100-year-old bald cap prosthetic.
A 100-year-old bald cap prosthetic.
Reiterating their apprehension, Von Bahr noted the key makeup’s significance in the story and the inevitable repercussions if it did not fully succeed. “The whole story would collapse,” she said. “You would watch a character in makeup. Robert is a famous actor in Sweden. Everybody knows what he looks like.”

Eventually, Larson and Von Bahr acquiesced, sensing the enormous challenge of the film. “We were thrilled in a scary, exciting way,” Von Bahr recalled. “Should we try it? Are we going to pull this off?”

“It was terrifying,” Larson added. “We got a few gray hairs on the way. It was horrifying but really rewarding afterwards. Robert is such a good actor in the makeup. He knows makeup, and he doesn’t feel restrained by the makeup. He really uses it. He just played as he would normally. That was rewarding to see on the set watching him through the monitor.”

100-yr-old_hands_1200x800_Web_ctsyLoveLarsonTo initiate the critical version of the makeup, Larson and Von Bahr engaged in an early test with Gustafsson. “It all started that they wanted to do a test makeup of the 100-year-old stage to see if it would be possible and what it would look like,” Von Bahr related. “We fabricated the pieces really quickly to do a one-day test shoot with Robert. We worked our way backwards to create the other looks for him. He felt really comfortable with it – he could move.”

When Gustafsson confided in Larson, Von Bahr and the filmmakers, “I will use the makeup in the movie,” the key team went forward with plans for the actual film, resculpting their prosthetic appliances, starting from scratch. “We talked him into doing a new lifecast,” said Larson, noting that he and Von Bahr did so before the film was greenlit. On their own, they created digital sketches of the required makeups using computer software. “We made the test, and it was quiet for a very long time. We didn’t know if we were going to do the film or not. They called and had the money.”

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With Gustafsson re-lifecasted, Larson and Von Bahr endeavored to fabricate eight different age stages up to the 100-year-old stage. “We had a month to do the nine stages,” said Larson who noted that five other characters in the film also age, in addition to extras in the film who donned wigs. In their makeup laboratory, Larson and Von Bahr received assistance from Oskar Wallroth who made molds of the appliances and ran the silicone appliances with Larson. Two additional artists assisted in applying makeup on set. “We made everything and went to Budapest and started shooting,” Larson continued. “We shot all of the scenes in Budapest and had two months of prep to start the older stage.”

With more time at hand than in the first hasty test, Larson and Von Bahr envisioned overlapping thin appliances to create Gustafsson’s oldest stage. “We tried to set the character and age Robert as Robert would age,” Larson said. “You correct the sculpts and separate the pieces, all fashioned in silicone except the nose and ears which were gelatin. I like the way it reads in the film. The nose is such a central part of the face. It’s the piece that catches light first. When we shot the scenes in Thailand that were supposed to be Bali, we changed to silicone because of the heat and humidity.”

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To formulate the oldest stage of makeup in the film, Larson and Von Bahr studied actual life in favor of other cinematic age makeups. “We only looked at real people,” Larson explained. “If you reference old-age makeups, you are already one step away from reality. We had a book from Germany about 100-year-old people. It’s only portraits of people who are 100-years old. I had that as my main reference.”

In creating the 100-year-old Karlsson, Von Bahr detailed Larson and her 10-piece concept. “We started off with a back of his neck,” she explained, “a front piece, a neck piece, silicone baldcap, which covered his whole forehead and eyebrows. The edge included parts of his upper eyelids. We added cheek pieces, an upper lip, a chin, a nose piece and ear pieces, as well as lace eyebrows that were laid and lace sideburns. The whole baldcap was punched with strands of hair individually. We didn’t use any lace pieces on the baldcap. He had contact lenses made by the Reel Eye Company in the U.K. and vacuum-form pieces for his teeth that looked more gray and old-ish – really thin but pretty much like dentures with a 0.2mm thick plastic layer. It doesn’t affect his speech and you can tint and color them. His own teeth are crooked from the beginning. We did try to bleach his teeth for his younger stages with whitening toothpastes.”

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To actuate the 29 times that Gustafsson appeared in the extreme old-age stage, Larson and Von Bahr created 29 sets of aforementioned prosthetic appliances, not including re-shoots and an additional scene filmed a month after the principal shoot. Every weekend through the shoot, Von Bahr punched hair into the prosthetic pieces while Larson fashioned the appliances and pre-painted them for delivery on set that week.

On a daily basis, the oldest stage for the Karlsson character took four-and-a-half hours of makeup application and painting. “We started out at 4 a.m.,” Von Bahr revealed of her tag-team approach shared with Larson. On occasion in Thailand, they started at 2 a.m. “We couldn’t do it any faster. We applied the pieces together. He put on nose, cheeks and upper lip. I did the hair work. We painted everything together. The pieces were pre-painted. We had one-hour to paint.”

LR-100-yr-old_hair-app_1200x800_Web_ctsyLoveLarsonAs much of 100-Year-Old Man is filmed in daytime, Larson and Von Bahr did not have the advantages of many screen makeups which can hide aspects of prosthetic appliances in shadows and with various lighting techniques. “Since we were shooting in daylight, it was difficult to know what he was going to look like on set,” Von Bahr confessed. “We adjusted the paintwork on set in a half hour. We stayed with him all the time. In Sweden, we can’t afford to do much digital cleanup. We needed two people with him all the time.”

To perfect the paint scheme for the oldest makeup stage, a combination of noted laboratory pre-painting, work in the makeup trailer, and on-set painting made the makeup work most effectively. “All the pre-paint was mainly done with silicone paint mixed with oil paint and a Paasche brush utilizing spackling techniques, layers and layers,” Larson stated. “In the trailer, I added castor oil, airbrushed with a Paasche airbrush. If you add castor oil to the Illustrator colors, it becomes a bit more flexible. Then, we added all of the fine details and sealed it with silicone caulking. Everything was very thin, so that it didn’t affect the barrier. On set, we finished with Illustrator colors and guide brushes. We had the Illustrator palette in one hand and a guide brush in the other hand.”

Von Bahr illustrated the relief that she and Larson felt upon completion of the final product. “We are really happy now that it’s done,” she said. “It is fantastic that we got an Academy Award nomination. At the time, we thought we would die. At the end of every film, you think, ‘Now, I am ready to do it.’”

Seconding that sentiment, Larson noted his penchant for second guessing his work as his own worst critic. “In the cinema for the first time, you are constantly thinking about what you would change,” he said. “On every film, you look for mistakes.”

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