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Luca Guadagnino Took Advice from a Pathologist for Grisly ‘Bones and All’ Cannibal Scenes

"We wanted to know what it looks like to eat a person — and we discovered that it’s not so easy," the film's head of makeup said.

BONES AND ALL, from left: Taylor Russell, Timothee Chalamet, 2022. ph: Yannis Drakoulidis / © MGM / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Bones and All”

©MGM/Courtesy Everett Collection

Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell gorge on each other in more ways than one in Luca Guadagnino’s “Bones and All.” The cannibal romance follows the pair on a dreamy, grisly road trip across the 1980s Midwest, and while Guadagnino veers from turning the movie into outright horror, there are plenty of graphic scenes featuring blood, guts, and viscera crafted from maraschino cherries, Fruit Roll-Ups, and chocolate.

A recent GQ interview with the film’s head of makeup, Fernanda Perez, reveals that Guadagnino sought realism beyond the stuff of movie-magic practical effects. Specifically, the filmmakers consulted with a pathologist ahead of production to understand how cannibalism works in practical terms.

“Luca is very specific,” Perez said. “Since the beginning, he told us he didn’t want gore or fantasy. We contacted a pathologist because we wanted to know what it looks like to eat a person — and we discovered that it’s not so easy to eat a person.”

Guadagnino wanted the film to realistically portray what it’s like for two young adults, Maren (Russell) and Lee (Chalamet), to chow down on human flesh. Most challenging were the prosthetics used to create either full-body replicas of victims or silicone-made layers of artificial fat and tissue.

It was important for us to recreate all the different layers of the skin, the fatty layer, the muscle, the sinew. That was our challenge,” prosthetics lead Jason Hamer said. “It’s not just a big, flat silicone piece. It’s tearing and getting the grit between the teeth all that stuff Luca wanted.”

An early scene offers a jolt as Maren, during a high-school sleepover, bites off the finger of one of her classmates. “Luca wanted to see the flesh, the bone, the layers,” Hamer said, so the actress used a glove with prosthetic recreations of her pinky and ring fingers. “We created a eurothane bone that also was blood-tubed so that [Russell] could bite into it and deglove the skin,” he said.

As for the silicone that Chalamet and Russell were gnawing on for the film’s gnarliest scenes, “It’s stolen from the dental industry, so it’s safe for the mouth. You wouldn’t want to chew a bunch of it and swallow it. But you can get in there and sell the action and then spit take,” Hamer said. The actors also practiced on sponges soaked in fake blood to get the feel for human flesh.

Guadagnino previously told IndieWire that there’s a much gorier version of “Bones and All” out there, but he opted to leave the most gruesome bits on the cutting room floor. “We had way more,” he said. “I shot so much more, but in the editing process, my editor and I were always clear that we should never be selfish about our capacity to portray horror. A lot of pain was happening to the characters, a kind of sacred reverence. It was quite beautiful, humbling, reverential.”

“Bones and All” is now in theaters.

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