Kazuhiro Tsuji is one of the movie’s most renowned special-effects makeup artists. His work has spanned “Men in Black,” “Hellboy,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and “Darkest Hour,” which has earned him his third Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, but it’s probably his time on Ron Howard’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” that he will never forget. Tsuji relived the nightmare that was The Grinch in a recent interview with Vulture (via The Playlist), and it turns out he checked into therapy soon after working with Jim Carrey.
“On set, [Carrey] was really mean to everybody and at the beginning of the production they couldn’t finish,” Tsuji said. “After two weeks we only could finish three days’ worth of shooting schedule, because suddenly he would just disappear and when he came back, everything was ripped apart. We couldn’t shoot anything.”
Carrey was forced to undergo hours of makeup work each day to transform into the Grinch. The transformation covered him head-to-toe in green fur and forced him to wear enlarged contact lenses that proved troublesome. The actor became annoyed at the lenses since they easily attracted the fake snow falling on set. According to Tsuji, Carrey was very demanding in the makeup trailer. During one particularly tough day for the actor, he lashed out at the artist.
“In the makeup trailer he just suddenly stands up and looks in the mirror, and pointing on his chin, he goes, ‘This color is different from what you did yesterday,’” Tsuji remembered. “I was using the same color I used yesterday. He says, ‘Fix it.’ And okay, you know, I ‘fixed’ it. Every day was like that.”
Tsuji became so exhausted by Carrey that head makeup artist Rick Baker and one of the film’s producers allowed him to step away from the project for a hiatus. The goal was to make Carrey realize how important Tsuji was to the creation of the character. The plan worked. Tsuji received a call from Carrey weeks into his break asking him to return to “The Grinch.” Director Ron Howard also called to bring him back, swearing Carrey had changed and was acting more positive behind the scenes.
“I went back under one condition,” Tsuji said. “I was talking with my friends, and they all told me, ‘You should ask for a raise before you go back.’ I didn’t want to do that — kind of nasty. Then I got the idea: How about I ask them to help me to get a green card?”
Tsuji said Carrey “kept his temper in check” for the remainder of filming, but he sees the movie as a “turning point” in his career. The artist checked into therapy following production on “How on the Grinch Stole Christmas” and realized just how much set life and working with actors like Carrey were combative to his personality. He told Vulture that he remembered thinking after “The Grinch” ended: “If I had a choice, I would not be in this mental state all the time.”
“I’m really an introvert,” he said. “I don’t like to be in many groups of people, or work under those conditions.”
Following his work with Carrey, Tsuji went on to work on films like “Benjamin Button,” “Norbit,” “Salt,” and more. His work on Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour” in his first makeup job since 2012’s “The Place Beyond the Pines.”