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How They Transformed Surprise Oscar Nominee ‘The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’

How They Transformed Surprise Oscar Nominee 'The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared'

Clearly the underdogs, going up against both “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “The Revenant,” makeup designers Love Larson and Eva von Bahr nonetheless brilliantly transformed Swedish star Robert Gustafsson into a believable centenarian with little time and resources.

“We wanted the audience to buy that he’s 100-years-old without constantly thinking that it’s Robert in really heavy makeup,” von Bahr offered. “That was a major challenge for us. It’s the same thing if you would’ve done that in America with a really famous actor.”

In “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared,” Gustafsson runs away from his retirement home just before his birthday celebration, and continues a lifelong series of adventures with famous historical figures, from Joseph Stalin to Ronald Reagan.

Fortunately, all of the flashbacks were done first in Budapest, so the makeup was applied in stages and they shot full makeup in sequence. Also, the original plan of tracing the character from his 20s to 100 was significantly pared down.

“What we tried to do was look at real 100-year-old men and women around the world to see what those people look like, and what we realized is that it wasn’t as wrinkled and old-looking as we imagined,” explained Larson. “And we studied a German book about portraits of people who are 100 and how smooth they are in the skin that you would think they are in their late seventies. And we tried not to overdo it.”

There were a total of 10 pieces for the centenarian: a neck piece, ears, a big head piece that included eyelids, a chin, upper lip, nose and cheek appliances. Added to that were dentures, a Vac-U-Form shell that allowed him to speak without impediment, eyebrows, contact lenses, and some work on the hands.

“In between steps during transitional periods were tricky because we didn’t want to add too much makeup. We also mixed a lot of different materials,” such as Bondo transfers, silicone cheeks, transfer-piece eye bags, a transfer neck piece and stipple, Larson added.

Then there were the other historical figures (also including Gorbachev and Oppenheimer) most of whom were done without appliances. “We tried to do the other characters as simple as possible just to add small things so the audience would recognize them,” added von Bahr. “The only one that did have appliance was Reagan. And that was mainly because we couldn’t find a Reagan anywhere in the world.”

The final makeup puzzle piece was the fictional character, Herbert Einstein, Albert’s intellectually-challenged half-brother. “He was a fun character and we added a mustache and wig so the Russians wouldn’t mix him up with Albert,” von Bahr concluded.

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