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HomeAwardsKasuhiro Tsuji Transforms Gary Oldman into Churchill for Darkest Hour

Kasuhiro Tsuji Transforms Gary Oldman into Churchill for Darkest Hour


Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright's DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release.


Though he had been in a self-imposed retirement from working on movies, artist of many media, Kazuhiro Tsuji, was called back into the world of cinema by actor Gary Oldman, who personally requested the artist for Darkest Hour.  When considering portraying British prime minister,Winston Churchill, Oldman told Tsuji, “I want you to do it, or I’m not going to make this film.” And since no two humans have the exact same proportions in their heads and faces, functional likeness makeups must include many modifications. Tsuji explained, “From the beginning, I knew it wouldn’t be an exact likeness of Winston. It had to be some type of translation.”

Director Joe Wright wanted to see different versions of the Churchill makeup from which he could choose his preferred design, so Tsuji created three test makeups, then another two to refine the first three. Each time, he sculpted different variations on Churchill’s likeness at age 65 atop a bust of Oldman’s lifecast. “I took two months to make the three test makeups, and another month to refine them,” Tsuji recalled. “The fifth one was the final makeup.”

Kazuhiro Tsuji, Gary Oldman - MAKEUP
Kazuhiro Tsuji working on Gary Oldman.

Tsuji’s final makeup was comprised of a neck piece—including a shoulder, nose piece, chin piece, a pair of cheeks, and a vacuum-form plastic piece to push the earlobes up. In Los Angeles, Vincent Van Dyke made the molds for each makeup appliance. Then, the silicone makeup pieces were fabricated by DDT in Barcelona, Spain, supervised by David Marti according to Tsuji’s specifications. “We went to London to do a film test,” said Tsuji who is California-based. “After the film test, I wanted to change the makeup. I went to DDT and sculpted a new set of cheeks and made a mold myself.”


With the new cheek pieces, another test was completed in London with British-based makeup artists and David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick. “I showed them how to apply it,” conveyed Tsuji. “They had the chance to practice; the final film test, they applied. I was looking at it and refining the new cheek piece. It was a film test, so we had to finalize everything at that time, because, after that, was shooting.”

Additionally, rather than spend 20 minutes more dealing with hair on a daily basis, Oldman agreed to shave his head clean every day, then a wig was added. Originally, Tsuji made the wig for the test, but there was a bit of controversy as Wright wanted the wig made in London where he was familiar with the wig maker. Alas, Oldman lobbied for the wig that Tsuji made, so after the second film test, Tsuji returned to Los Angeles and made a new wig he brought back to London. Back in L.A., he made three more wigs. “Diana Choi finished it. I dressed the wig and sent five wigs to London,” Tsuji explained. “They were using the test wig at the beginning of the shoot.”

Make up artists work on actor Gary Oldman's prosthetics on the set of director Joe Wright's DARKEST HOUR, a Focus Features release.
Make up artists David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick transform Gary Oldman. Focus Features.

Though Tsuji was present for the first days of principal photography, Malinowski and Sibbick completed the application for 48 days of the shoot. On a daily basis, it took three-hours-and-fifteen-minutes to three-hours-and-thirty-minutes for Malinowski and Sibbick to create the makeup. Another 13 days of application included tests and rehearsals, totaling 61 days of transformations. “They were an amazing team,” Tsuji noted. “I’d never seen a pair of makeup artists working so well—they respect each other without the ego.”

Kazuhiro Tsuji, Manny Lemus, Vincent Van Dyke - LIFECAST
Kazuhiro Tsuji, Manny Lemus, Vincent Van Dyke work on the Lifecast.

Now, Darkest Hour is being considered for six Oscars, including Tsuji, Malinowski and Sibbick for Best Makeup. “I’m happy how the makeup was a really important part of this movie, and that we are all recognized for our effort,” Tsuji related. “I see actors in heavy makeup—they’re never able to disappear. Gary is the only one who can really become someone else. It’s amazing.”
































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