By Scott Essman
It’s not your standard makeup job when you’re tasked with taking one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses and turning her into a de-glamorized serial killer. That was the situation that makeup artist Toni G faced when she got the call to transform Charlize Theron for the Patty Jenkins film Monster. Interestingly, Toni had started in feature films 10 years ago by dirtying up another upcoming star, Leonardo Di Caprio, for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Plus, Toni was no stranger to makeup challenges, having supervised the back-to-back makeup spectacles How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Planet of the Apes for Rick Baker’s Cinovation Studio. Monster was a new challenge, but Toni’s work on Baker projects going back to The Nutty Professor served as good background, where she learned from Baker, “to always try to make the makeup as realistic as possible.”
Toni was doing some pirate makeups for Pirates of the Caribbean and booked to department-head Haunted Mansion when a call to Baker’s shop by Theron led to a recommendation for Toni. “In talking to Patty and Charlize, I felt very inspired to work with an actress and a director that were on the same page creatively in how we saw Charlize portraying the real life Aileen Wuornos,” she recalled. “It’s magic when that happens. The biggest budget in the world can’t make that kind of magic.”
As on most low-budget films, no significant makeup budget or preparation time existed, so Toni decided to create the character “out of the kit, so to speak.” Using research on Wuornos, Toni determined the basic look of the character in the late months of 2002, at which time Theron went off to gain 30 pounds. “When I researched Aileen, to me, her face reflected anger and tragedy,” Toni said. “Her teeth hadn’t been cared for; she appeared turgid from the abuse of alcohol and an unhealthy diet; she was overexposed to nature’s elements and had smoked too many cigarettes. All of these aspects of Aileen were incorporated into the makeup design.”
With contact lenses by Dr. Stacey Sumner and false teeth made by Art Sakamoto, another Rick Baker veteran, Toni applied the makeup onto Theron’s face through every day of the six weeks of principal photography. “I realized that I needed to paint Charlize much the same way I would paint a foam latex piece,” she explained. “The key element to the coloration is the layering of the skin’s undertones and sun damage in translucent washes spattered and hand painted in various patterns to create dimension and texture. It needed to appear to be in her skin and not on top of her skin in order to complement her performance and not distract the audience.”
Realizing the Theron makeup —which took Toni an hour to apply and a half-hour to remove —has even borne new makeup ideas. “I want to take advantage of some down time and do a series of photo shoots to exercise some ideas from my mind that aren’t going to necessarily show up on the doorstep in a script,” she said.
Currently in release and receiving accolades for both Theron’s performance and appearance, Monster is another watershed in Toni G’s career.
“In the end, it’s not about makeup,” Toni said modestly, “because Charlize would get her makeup on, and she could just feel the character. She’d get in the chair and we’d apply makeup and get in her teeth and contacts, and she’d go off into her walk. It literally gave me goose bumps. She really connected with that character. It was an amazing experience.”
By Scott Essman