It Took 6 Tries to Get Charlize Theron’s Eyelid Prosthetics Right in Bombshell
The film's hair and makeup team break down how they transformed the cast into Fox News Anchors.
For Bombshell's lead actresses Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie, their transformations into Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and the fictional Kayla Pospisil, respectively, didn't just stop at getting into costume and putting on a bit of makeup. To play the famous real-life newscasters, both Theron and Kidman wore a number of facial prosthetics and wigs.
The result? Theron was completely unrecognizable in her new role.
Transforming famous, recognizable women such as Theron and Kidman into equally famous, recognizable woman like Kelly and Carlson is a considerable feat; which is why director Jay Roach, and Theron — who was a producer on the film — had to tap a Hollywood hair and makeup dream team to get the looks just right.
Oscar-winning special effects makeup artist Kazu Hiro, Emmy-winning makeup department head Vivian Baker, and Emmy-nominated hair department lead Anne Morgan were integral in helping the actresses physically embody their characters in the film — and the industry has taken notice.
With the 2020 awards season in full-swing, Bombshell has already earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Makeup and Hair, a Critics' Choice Award for Best Makeup, as well as Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards for Best Contemporary Make-Up, Best Make-Up Effects, and Best Contemporary Hair Styling.
To find out more about the magic behind-the-scenes, InStyle caught up with Hiro, Baker, and Morgan to get all of the details on each Bombshell stars' jaw-dropping transformations.
Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly
Theron's transformation into the famous Fox News anchor began when she started rehearsing for the film. "Charlize wanted to look like Megyn and not herself when she was practicing her voice and lines in front of the mirror," says Hiro. "Both Charlize and Megyn are really famous and everyone knows what they look like, so because of this, I knew creating the prosthetics was going to be challenging."
The first piece Hiro made for Theron was a nose plug, because she has much smaller nostrils than Kelly. To create it, he took a cast of the inside of her nose, made a 3D scan model, changed the shape as necessary on a computer, then printed it out.
In the end, Theron's final look included the plug, plus additional pieces on her eyelids, nose bridge, cheeks, jaw, and a nose tip. Along with the eight prosthetics, she also wore dark contact lenses.
But managing to look unrecognizable on-screen took a few times to get right, Hiro shares. "Charlize’s makeup was tricky because there were so many pieces," he explains. "When I applied all the pieces during the makeup test, she thought she looked like a young Glenn Close. It's embarrassing to hear her say that!"
That said, Hiro made modifications throughout the makeup and film tests and even during filming. "Drastically changing eyelids is something I've never done before," he adds. "I think I went through six different versions of eyelids — including after we started filming. I think I changed them twice then."
To make things more complicated, Theron's actual makeup had to jive with all of the prosthetics, too. "Putting makeup on top of prosthetics is a surefire way you’re going to see them," explains Baker. "I needed to devise a way to build a makeup over them, so I had to take into consideration how the makeup lands on the skin and how it does on the pieces."
When it came to the character's hair, Morgan used Kelly's various hairstyles as a means to help the audience feel empathy towards the famous news anchor. During the story timeline in the film, Kelly has various looks from long, blonde extensions to her layered pixie cut — a bold move for an anchor at Fox, where during the network's peak, lots of blonde hair was essentially a job requirement for female newscasters.
Along with wigs and extensions, Morgan made Theron's face look more heart-shaped like Kelly's by lowering her hairline. "I thought it was important to have those little onion layers in her hairstyles," says Morgan. "You have her long hair with a little bit of extensions and then she has a ton of extensions in during the first debate with Trump. Her short cut was so ballsy for her to do because nobody was doing that. I thought that was her trying to be taken seriously as a real journalist."
Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson
While Kidman's prosthetics were much more simple to create, the team only had a month and a half to finalize her look due to tight scheduling. "I designed her face with cheek pieces because Gretchen Carlson has a rounder face compared to Nicole," says Hiro. "After Nicole and Jay had a meeting about the look, we ended up just using a nose and chin piece." During the test makeup, Baker made some improvements to the original makeup look to improve Kidman's likeness to Carlson.
Because Kidman joined the film late and had so many other projects in the works, the actress brought on hairstylist Kim Santantonio, whom she often works with, and wore one wig styled by Santantonio. "Carlson's hair is an early Fox look," says Morgan. "It's very helmet-like hair; kind of like the old regime."
VIDEO: “Bombshell” Director Says Charlize Theron Insisted on Keeping the Movie as Creepy as Possible
Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil
Unlike her co-stars, Robbie's character, Kayla Pospisil, a newbie Fox staffer, is fictional. Her story arc is a representation of the younger women at the network, whose career goals are dependent on surrendering to the network's unequal power dynamics and becoming a victim of the cyclical sexual harassment and abuse that takes place.
In the film, Robbie's look is young, millennial, and inspired in part by beauty influencers on Instagram and YouTube. "There’s a big similarity between news anchors and Instagram makeup," says Baker. "Some aspects of news makeup is out of a genuine need, because anchors are in front of the cameras and there's lots of lights. There's a need for a lot more base makeup."
Baker changed Robbie's makeup throughout the film based on her character's development from a wide-eyed want-to-be Fox News anchor to finally getting in front of the camera once she paid the price to advance her career.
"In the first half of the movie Kayla still has fake lashes on — they’re little strips and they weren't perfectly placed so it came off like she was so cute, adorable, and wide-eyed," explains Baker. "After she gets what she wants by paying a heavy price, the mask comes on because she’s going to be on camera. It’s strong and heavy, but to me it’s symbolic because it hides the shame of what she did in order to get there."
Robbie's makeup is at its most natural (and relatable) when her character quits Fox at the end of the film, symbolizing the new woman she's become, unaware of her next career move.
As for Robbie's hair, her white-blonde color was styled in long waves. At the beginning of the film, it looks like Pospisil is styling her own hair, but when she moves to Bill O'Reilly's department, she starts getting blowouts with bouncy waves as part of her strategy to get noticed, and eventually, get in front of the camera.