In Ari Folman’s overlooked animation-hybrid film “The Congress,” Robin Wright plays a not-too-distant version of herself who quite literally relinquishes her body and soul to Hollywood. A studio offers to buy her identity. By scanning her body—and all its physical idiosyncrasies, nuances and imperfections—into a computer, they will be able to make any kind of film they want with her, erasing years of aging in the process.
Well, according to an eye-popping new report in Mashable this week, this imagined prophecy of Tinseltown’s future (dystopian? Utopian? You call it) has actually already been fulfilled. The top-secret digital cosmetic procedure, in Hollywood parlance, is called “beauty work,” and it’s already being used by skilled computer artists to “slim, de-age and enhance actors’ faces and bodies” in post-production.
Read this bit from Mashable’s report, and then watch the clip from “The Congress” below. It’s chilling.
Under strict non-disclosure agreements, Hollywood A-listers have been quietly slipping in and out of a few bland office buildings around town, many to sit in on days-long retouching sessions, directing the artists to make every frame suitable. At one such facility, young, fit up-and-comers disrobe for a handheld scanner that captures every pore and hair follicle, creating a template for future beauty work that, as a result, will appear all the more natural.
Funnily enough, while location-scouting in Los Angeles, Folman told us that he “had no clue that coming to LA I would see this unbelievable scanning machine at USC where we could shoot the scene. It was already there, everything was ready for us.” (THR also has an illuminating Q&A on the film.)
In 2008, Lola Visual Effects aged Brad Pitt not only forwards into old age, but backwards to alluring (yet slightly creepy uncanny valley-esque) perfection in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” But, it seems, beauty work has taken on a life of its own and according to Mashable has been fooling us for years. “Nobody looks like what you see on TV and in the movies. Everybody is altered,” says Method Studios’ Claus Hansen, one of of a number of beauty work pioneers who’s heretofore been hush-hush about the procedure.
Digital cosmetic work has been a costly perk for the top stars for years. But now it’s becoming more and more common.
According to the article, “A recent comedy hit featured a top actress in her 40s who required beauty work on every single shot she was in—some 600 total. With artists working around the clock, seven days a week, the beauty work alone took close to three months. The payoff? Nearly everything written about the film remarked at how fit and young the actress looked. No one suspected it was anything but good genes and clean livin’.”
The scary thing is that the report, a juicy read jam-packed with Hollywood dirt, shouldn’t come as a surprise. But its ugly revelations about the facts of onscreen beauty still manage to shock. Read it here.