24 Hollywood Actors That Are Unrecognizable In Their Character

Have you ever wondered how much time of day an actor spends on set? One could think that it is always relaxing, but not so. Depending on the role they are preparing for, many actors spend a lot of time in the makeup chair while experts transform them into something out of this world. Here is a list of 24 actors and actresses that underwent striking transformations in order to play their movie characters. Don’t miss #10, #8 and #2!

#24. Charlize Theron As Aileen Wuornos

Charlize Theron went all out in her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, gaining 30 pounds and tolerating massive eyebrow plucking, greasy hair, and nasty prosthetic teeth. As Theron explained, “It was about getting to a place where I felt closer to how Aileen was living.” As a matter of fact, it worked, as Theron won the Academy Award For Best Actress for her portrayal of Wuornos in the film Monster in 2003.

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Monster, from first-time filmmaker Patty Jenkins, is told from Wuornos’s point of view, starting with her girlhood dreams of being swept off her feet by a Prince Charming who would see her inner and outer beauty. Before her death, After being interviewed by Jenkins several times, Wuornos eventually opened to the filmmaker. After 12 years on Death Row, the night before she was executed, Wuornos gave Jenkins hundreds of letters she had written, in which she detailed everything about her life and her thoughts.

#23. Ralph Fiennes As Lord Voldemort

One of the most iconic villains in literature and cinema, Lord Voldemort, with his almost transparent white skin, vein-covered head, with a snake-like nose, and sharp pointed teeth has a horrifying yet memorable look. The person to be thankful for this look is the famous makeup artist Mark Coulier, who designed the Dark Lord’s signature look.

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“On Harry Potter, the designs were done in an art department, then we took a head cast of Ralph Fiennes. We only had about two hours to do Ralph’s makeup, because of all the filming restrictions,” Coulier explains.

“They only wanted him in the chair for two hours instead of six hours, so we had to design it around that”.

#22. Heath Ledger as The Joker

Charged with interpreting The Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight directed by Christopher Nolan, Heath Ledger collaborated with make-up artist John Caglione Jr to create the look of the character in the film, which diverged greatly from that of the comic books. Caglione worked closely with Ledger to contort and move his face as he applied the makeup—an old trick borrowed from theater


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The makeup artist also drew inspiration from a lot of classic art and cinema to craft the look. At the start of the design process, director Christopher Nolan sent the makeup artist a book of abstract portraits by Francis Bacon for him to reference. During a memorable scene in the film, The Joker’s eye makeup is smudged above his eyebrows, a nod to Eric Campbell who played the villain in many Charlie Chaplin films.

#21. Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf

Makeup artists had to transform Nicole Kidman into the homely novelist Virginia Woolf for “The Hours“, a film by director Stephen Daldry which was released in 2002. The makeup was a three-hour task per day, and the key to it was a large prosthetic nose that made Kidman virtually unrecognizable.


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Although a rather depressing movie in terms of subject matter it was critically acclaimed chiefly because of the outstanding performances of its three leading ladies -Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman. The drama revolves around three women all uniquely affected by Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway”. The first is Woolf herself, in 1923, battling a writer’s block and depression and struggling to complete the writing of her novel.

#20. Akinnuoye Agbaje as Killer Croc

The film Suicide Squad sees the villain Killer Croc in the hands of actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, a veteran of incredible TV shows like Lost and Game of Thrones. Even though we cannot attest to the actual role of the character in the film’s narrative, we can assert the fact that the actor looks completely terrifying in his prosthetics and makeup, which took over five hours a day to apply.


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During a conversation with Collider, actor Akinnuoye-Agbaje discussed how he and David Ayer built out the backstory and motivations for Croc in order to give him a sense of humanity. He also talked about the intense rehearsal process for the film, why he secluded himself from the rest of the cast during filming, the extensive process of putting on the Killer Croc makeup and prosthetics, why Croc has a Bronx accent, and much more.

#19. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

As one of the younger members of an acting family that includes father Stellan and brother Alexander, Bill Skarsgård is used to breaking out from long shadows. In the case of Stephen King’s It, he’s following in the floppy footsteps of Tim Curry, who did unforgettable work as the monster in the 1990 TV movie. Of course, the fact that the effects were mostly practical means that Bill Skarsgard had to sit through tedious hours of makeup each day before filming could begin.


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While on Conan promoting the movie, Bill Skarsgard revealed that the “lip smile” was something original that he brought to the character himself. Apparently, it was something he used to do as a child to freak out his brothers. When he got cast as Pennywise, he thought it was time to share his brothers’ heebie-jeebies with the world!

#18. Christian Bale as Dick Cheney

In taking on the challenge of transforming Christian Bale into Vice President Dick Cheney for the film Vice, makeup artist Greg Cannom used every trick he had at his disposal. He went for a combination of makeup, prosthetics and wigs so that Bale, who was at the time 44 years old, could play Cheney from age 21 up to about 75. To resemble the vice president in his later years, Bale was required to wear a wrap-around prosthetic that covered his neck and his whole face.


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Bale also wore two small appliances on his nose, but the entire look involved extensive makeup application — highlights and shadows. Cannom explains that

“I used a special rubber-mask grease makeup that you could use on rubber and appliances. It holds up really well, and it gives a translucency to it that looks very real. I’d use different colors of bases, and the very last thing I’d do is I’d go in with reds to pop the reds in his face to look really natural.”

#17. Nicholas Hoult as Beast

Nicholas Hoult first found fame as the unfortunate young lad at the heart of comedy-drama About a Boy. He’s since made a name for himself in British TV show Skins and critically acclaimed drama A Single Man. In 2011 Hoult tackled his first superhero role as Hank McCoy – the brilliant doctor who becomes Beast in X-Men: First Class.


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According to the actor: “the costume is four hours. It’s a mask, which is stuck onto my face with a headpiece, and that takes the majority of the time, getting it to look right with the teeth and contact lenses. They’ve done a fantastic job creating this face that moves with my expressions. I have to make the performance bigger underneath it, but it moves a lot. They give me a muscle suit, obviously, and that’s pretty much the gist of it. Lots of fur, which I eat a lot of by accident”.

#16. Gary Oldman as Dracula

Even though there had been several vampire tales in folklore prior to 1897, the world was not ready when Bram Stoker changed the scene and published Dracula. The story takes place mostly in England and Transylvania and focuses on Jonathan Harker the castle of Count Dracula to give him legal assistance on a real estate transaction. Francis Ford Coppola added his own spin on the vampire genre while directing Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992


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Oldman’s forehead looks huge throughout the entire movie because his new hairline had been created much further up on his head. It almost looks unnatural, but the hairstyle seemed to fit the character of the Count. While shaving his hairline was probably part of Oldman becoming devoted to the role, it was mainly done to make the makeup application easier.

#15. Michelle Pfeiffer as Lamia

For a person who isn’t a big fairy tale fan, Michelle Pfeiffer had to go through a lot of drastic measures to become a frightening and aged witch for the fantasy “Stardust”. For much of the filming, the movie star’s ethereal face and blond hair were concealed beneath prosthetic wrinkles, painted liver spots and grizzled locks. Her ego also was under wraps during the transformation.

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At first, she had to go through six hours of makeup. Filmmakers then decided they wanted to give her character a more human look, so they had to reduce on the makeup. After Pfeiffer’s hair was put under a bald cap, makeup artists glued each part of the facial prosthetics to her skin. Each of the pieces had to be glued to the other and every seam smoothed. The artists then spray-painted her face and arms and individually painted on veins and liver spots. Finally, the gray wig went on.

#14. Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe

Although Eddie Redmayne has received rave reviews for his portrayal of Lili Elbe in the biographical movie The Danish Girl, the British actor has revealed it was a very tough part to play, and that he had trouble sleeping during filming. He portrays Danish painter named Einar Elbe who realizes he is a woman trapped in a man’s body and becomes one of the very first people in history to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

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Director Tom Hooper stated that seven months before cameras started rolling, they went through different looks, wigs, makeup, and at the end, the director was like, ‘Let’s just take everything off, I’m just going to photograph you as yourself‘. Tom Hooper also stated that “

“It was just his own hair, minimal makeup, he was just wearing a slip. And he looked the best of all the pictures — he looked beautiful, he looked feminine. Suddenly, there was a confidence there that I hadn’t seen all day … Suddenly, I saw Lili.”

#13. Cara Delevigne as Enchantress

Cara Delevingne’s acting career took off a few years ago. The retired model had a great role in Paper Towns and was ready to save the world in Suicide SquadBut long before the shooting star could completely get into character, she had to undergo a major transformation. Delevingne’s drastic new look includes tribal markings all over her body, tough bikini-style armor equipped with metal details, and bold gritty makeup and hair.

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In order to create the texture of reptile-like skin for Enchantress, the artists had to use several layers of foundation, four different clays, and even gold leaf over her body. To create Enchantress’ raggedy hair, mop strings were dyed, burned, and glued together. Four hours was the time that took for artists to prepare Cara to be made-up for the exciting new role, and she revealed that she had quite the way to get into character while her slap was put on.

#12. Eddie Murphy as Mr. Wong

With his brazen gifts for mimicry, Eddie Murphy may now be the Peter Sellers of blockbuster toilet comedy movies. His film, Norbit is a comedy for those who like pain: an often awful parade of absurd gags about big butts, sadistic relationships and sexual stupidity, which tries to be both sentimental and romantic.


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Murphy plays multiple characters in the film, including Mr. Wong, the Asian orphanage caretaker, which posed an additional set of challenges for Tsuji and Baker, part of the special effects team. Tsuji explains that “Eddie has narrow features, and Asian faces tend to be wide”. In order to get the right proportions, silicone pieces were used to create Mr. Wong’s face shape on Murphy.

#11. Ron Perlman as Hellboy

Despite not being a famous superhero like Spider-Man or Batman, Hellboy (who was played by Ron Perlman) attained new levels of fame after becoming a film directed by Guillermo del Toro in 2004. The project was a true labor of love for the auteur, who spent several years searching for finance. While his film inspired heavily from the comics, it was also a distinctly del Toro film, featuring his signature creepy characters, elaborate settings, and an undeniable sense of whimsy.


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After the costume was created, actor Ron Perlman selected Jake Garber as his personal makeup artist. Everyday Garber’s job was to transform Perlman into the red angry demon we all know. The makeup on the actor was all foam prosthetic pieces. The first piece that they had to apply was a back and chest piece that flipped over his head went along his jawline and rested on his pectorals. The next piece that went on was a skull cap. And then a foam piece on top of that blended in right over his eyebrows and down to the back of his head.

#10. Karen Gillan as Nebula

When you head out to see “Guardians of the Galaxy”, you’ll probably have to spend a few minutes trying to figure out who the different actors are under their makeup. In the film, the Scottish actress plays blue villain and assassin Nebula who is at odds with the Guardians throughout the movies. Makeup artist David White says it took approximately four hours and 15 minutes to apply her make-up and another 30 minutes to remove.


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Gillan was probably the only actress on the film that underwent such a heavy transformation for the film, as White stated that Gillan’s character also required 22-millimeter contact lenses. Last year, the redheaded actress, known for her long red hair, impressed fans when she shaved her head for the role. Gillan debuted the look at San Diego Comic-Con last year by pulling off a wig during the Marvel panel.

#9. Paul Bettany as Vision

In every “Iron Man” movie from the MCU, veteran actor Paul Bettany voiced J.A.R.V.I.S, Tony Stark’s A.I. Program. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, he finally stepped onto the big screen as The Vision, a new superhero. Bettany told Business Insider he had to undergo a nearly three-and-a-half hour daily process of makeup and prosthetics to become the Vision.


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While he had a great time as the superhero, Bettany stated that it took more than three hours each day to do the makeup for the film. Bettany said that “Mainly the most difficult part was that the prosthetics and stuff that you know is as uncomfortable as getting paid a lot of money to be uncomfortable is, which is not really that uncomfortable”.

#8. Mickey Rourke as Marv

Robert Rodriguez created one of the most faithful adaptations of all time with Sin City. Rodriguez lifted shots straight from the comic frames of the graphic novel and utilized digital effects to reproduce the stark black-and-white aesthetic of the comics. So when it came time to cast the iconic Marv, fans wondered how Rodriguez would pull it off. Marv has an incredibly distinct look in the comics, and Mickey Rourke’s rugged good looks, the actor barely resembled him.

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Rodriguez pulled through, creating an identical onscreen doppelganger of the famous antihero. Rourke underwent hours of makeup every day, resulting in Marv’s extremely angular forehead and chin. The final outcome is amazing. Rourke delivered an intense and nuanced performance and looked nothing like himself in the process.

#7. Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse

When the first images of Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse appeared on the internet, the film community was a little taken aback. Why would such a veteran director like Bryan Singer cast one of the fastest rising stars in Hollywood, and then completely obscure him behind thick blue makeup and prosthetics?

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The choice may have caused some surprise, but Isaac is certainly a talented enough actor that his charisma can shine through the thickest makeup job. The character of Apocalypse from the X-Men comics is so intimidating and larger-than-life, some extreme manipulation was always going to be required to bring him to the screen.

#6. Tom Hardy as Bane

Even though Bane’s mask might look badass, it completely silences his speech to the point that he’s barely audible. Actor Tom Hardy portrayed the villain in the last film in the Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, yet you can hardly understand a word the actor says. Bane is the kind of character who makes grand, sweeping remarks and might disappear into a monologue at any moment.

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There’s something animalistic about Bane, too, but in the light of pain rather than performance. His brick-like body feels excessive and the supporting villain, Daggett, knows that. Even a simple hand on his shoulder looks threatening. But exactly how Bane’s massive figure is essential to his character comes into focus only once it’s revealed that he wears the mask to deal with the terrible pain he is in.

#5. Zoe Saldana as Gamora

Zoe Saldana was the actress in charge of giving life to the green-skinned alien assassin Gamora, who became an immediate fan favorite in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Just as quick to put Peter Quill in his place as she is to mercilessly dispatch her foes, the adopted daughter of the Thanos quickly got a place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing a key role as her big bad old man traveled across the galaxy on his bloody quest to achieve ownership of all of the Infinity Stones.

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In contrast with her Avatar role, there are no CGI elements when creating Gamora, and the actress let the special effect team exercise a lot of attention to detail. According to Guardians 2 makeup designer David White, prosthetics made from silicone are sculpted for her cheeks and forehead, the latter of which gives her a new brow line. The pieces take two to three hours to apply, and about 30-45 minutes to remove.

#4. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool

Most superhero films are not intensive on the makeup field, but Deadpool may be the exception, where the lead character’s terminal cancer is held at bay by an accelerated healing factor that also leaves him looking as completely burnt. Oscar winner Bill Corso had the task of transforming Ryan Reynolds into the unsightly antihero Wade Wilson/Deadpool, who had the help of Andrew Clement’s Creative Character Engineering.


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For the final make-up, Ryan had a full back-of-the-head piece that goes behind his ears, two giant halves of his face, a separate forehead piece, an upper lip, a lower lip with a chin and two different necks. There was one neck when he was wearing the costume and took the mask off. The other neck was used when he wore a T-shirt or was naked, and that neck overlapped the chest piece, and then multiple arm and hand appliances.

#3. Hugo Weaving as Red Skull

Original Red Skull actor Hugo Weaving was asked to return for Avengers: Infinity War. In a movie full of surprises, none may have been as shocking to longtime MCU fans as the return of the Captain America villain and his connection to the Soul Stone. While he’s a familiar character to many, Weaving did not return in the role.


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According to Hugo, “I thought it would be a lot of fun to play a classic über-Nazi, someone who thought Hitler was a coward! It was fun to play; I enjoyed the outrageousness of the German accent that I employed and I enjoyed the extraordinary mask and costume, even though it was unbelievably hot inside it. I enjoy mask work; I enjoy trying to animate masks and reveal certain things that the mask itself might not reveal”.

#2. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is one of the central figures in the X-Men prequel movies directed by Bryan Singer. As the disciple of Charles Xavier, the shapeshifter spent a lot of her time oscillating between the master telepath’s team of righteous X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. If you’ve seen more than one of these films then you’ll know that Mystique’s look changes almost as frequently as her allegiances and it is thanks to the great performance of the actress.


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It was very important that the design of Lawrence’s blue makeup seemed like that worn by Romijn, right down to every detail on her head and body. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mystique’s skin markings have become more akin to small, reflective discs. The best way to describe them is that they look like very big pieces of glittery confetti that have been applied to Lawrence’s skin. The character’s head markings have also been similarly altered.

#1. Mark Ruffalo as Hulk

Before teaming up with Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers, Hulk smashed his way through not one, but two big-screen flops. Given the character’s heavy reliance on visual effects, The Avengers nomination in that category makes Hulk the perfect ambassador for the film’s technical achievements, and just the right element to focus on when looking at what earned the film its Oscar nomination.

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To portray Hulk in The Avengers film, actor Mark Ruffalo, who was chosen to play the part of Bruce Banner and his alter ego, played both the human character and the monster in front of the camera throughout filming, and relied on a motion-capture suit and four dedicated motion-capture cameras to bring Bruce and Hulk closer than they’ve ever been on the screen.

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    Luke H.

    Certified Translator recently graduated at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.
    Gamer. Bookworm.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity.

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