And the Oscar goes to ...Johnny Knoxville?!?
It just might happen this year thanks to Alterian, Inc.'s amazing old age makeup effects on actor Johnny Knoxville for the film "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa."
Led by makeup artist Tony Gardner, Alterian's team of artists was tasked with turning 42-year-old actor Johnny Knoxville into an 86-year-old character named Irving Zisman, for a 60-day shoot across the United States that would be dependent on hidden cameras, guerilla style film-making, and convincing unsuspecting people that Irving was a real person.
“We’ve done several different versions of Irving for "Jackass" over the last 12 years, but our earlier versions of Irving worked on each of those films only a few days at most,” Gardner said. (See Irving circa 2006 here: http://alterianinc.com/
“The foremost challenge this time was the fact that Irving had to exist in the real world literally nose-to-nose with his audience, for at least 60 shooting days," said Gardner. "He would be under close scrutiny in all sorts of close-up situations, and in everyday light. Nothing could be controlled or edited around. People had to buy off on this 86-year-old man as the real thing in real environments, and with us not even having access to him while working for sometimes hours at a time. All of these factors combined made the film a recipe for disaster, to be honest."
Add to the mix the fact that the actor sat for 3 hours of prosthetic makeup application every morning of filming, and add a kid for a co-star, and the limitations of the shooting day become complex before even starting to film. Add the hidden cameras, the need to get the people being pranked to respond to the set ups, and the actor's need to ad-lib per the plot outline as well as communicate with the director ....everything compounded the difficulty. "Knoxville is amazing," Gardner said, "super talented, super smart, and very committed to the quality of the work required. A classy guy and a great role model."
In an effort to make this incarnation of Irving as expressive as possible, Gardner and his team took the time to revise the character, starting first with a new lifecast of actor Johnny Knoxville. Irving's facial features were sculpted in clay over top of that lifecast, molds were made of the sculptures, and silicone prosthetics were cast from those molds. “We focused on the level of detail and texture to the skin, as well as on the thinness of the pieces, as we wanted to keep the prosthetics as thin and pliable as possible. We cast the prosthetics in silicone, as the material is translucent and moves and compresses like real skin.” The new molds needed to be manufactured to hold up to heavy use without wearing down, so every aspect of the makeup had to be re-created and re-molded in a manner that would allow for this.
“I also wanted to combine the wrap-around neck prosthetic with the cheek and chin prosthetics this time, turning all three individual pieces into one big giant prosthetic. It wasn’t an idea met with much enthusiasm from anyone who’d have to be on set gluing it down each day,” Gardner said, “ but I had my reasoning. Most important being that overlapping of prosthetics and their edges would be eliminated in areas that would be prone to breaking down due to sweat. It would also mean less glue in areas that needed to be as thin and flexible as possible around the mouth in order to move really well.”
“Artistically it meant that all of the anatomical forms would flow together accurately from the jowls and chin down into the neck. So if the character had to lay down or be seen from a low angle, he would appear as natural as could be, even in extremely close quarters. “
Gardner did a makeup test on a dummy head of Knoxville in advance of the makeup test on the actor, to prove “proof of concept” and allow for peace of mind. Irving would have only one makeup test, and time was limited. "Producers Spike Jonze and Derek Freda would be coming out too, along with Director Jeff Tremaine and a camera crew, so I wanted to make sure we were ready."
“For the “official”
“Each day of work on camera required a brand new set of prosthetics, as well as three makeup artists to glue the day's eleven prosthetics on, blend them in, and make them all up. All of this took place on location in hotel rooms, and secrecy was crucial to the film’s success,” said Gardner.
Back in Los Angeles, Gardner concurrently oversaw an army of artists and technicians responsible for manufacturing, packing and shipping the sixty-plus sets of silicone prosthetics that would be used for each shooting day.
"The oddest aspect of designing Irving's makeup was the fact that we were re-designing the character of Irving to look less like himself than we were designing Irving to disguise Knoxville. 'Jackass 3D' had come out a couple years prior, and clips of that version of Irving were all over the internet. Since we had built up Irving's facial features so much for 'Jackass 3D' (in order to make the character look different than how he was seen in 'Jackass Number Two'), our 'new" design for 'Bad Grandpa' was really a recreation of Irving from 2006's 'Jackass Number Two,' with some minor alterations to the nose and ears. And the wig we had used for all the films prior was replaced and made thinner and flatter this time around, and I added dental veneers to age down his teeth."
“It was great to have the opportunity to fine tune the character, and great to do it having the familiarity with the character as well as with the actor wearing the makeup,” Gardner stated. “There was very little pre-production time to achieve everything we needed to do, and the trust that Paramount, Johnny Knoxville, and the rest of the Jackass folks had in Alterian was key in making things come together so smoothly in such a short period of time."
“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” is one of three films nominated for an Oscar for Best Makeup & Hairstyling for this year's Academy Awards, going up alongside the films “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Lone Ranger.”
Page Updated Last on: Feb 01, 2014