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30 Actors Who Underwent Dramatic Transformations For A Role

It’s no secret that makeup can drastically change a person’s appearance, but Hollywood makeup artists take it to the next level. With the constant technological advancements in filmmaking, makeup artists have had to continuously innovate their techniques for effects to look as realistic as possible. These talented makeup artists can change everything about a person’s appearance—from the shape of their nose to their whole body. They can even turn people into magical creatures, making your favorite actors almost completely unrecognizable.

Aside from relying on prosthetics, makeup, and wigs, these actors may have to do some physical work, such as losing and gaining significant weight. No matter how much time it took in the makeup room, they tried their best to achieve the ideal role’s appearance and play unforgettable roles.

Here are some of the most fantastic makeup transformations actors have undergone for a movie role. You know the actors, but you may not recognize them here.

#1 Colin Farrell – “The Batman (2022)”

Source: Getty

Colin Farrell spent four to eight hours a day in the makeup chair to achieve his remarkable Penguin look in “The Batman”. He wore individual prosthetics, including a nose, of course, that were applied all over his face.

#2 Margot Robbie – “Mary Queen of Scots” (2018)

Source: Jason Merritt/Getty | UA/Universal

Robbie steps into the corset, wig, plucked eyebrows, and caked-on makeup of Queen Elizabeth I.

#3 Heath Ledger – “The Dark Knight” (2008)

Source: Dreamworks | Getty

Ledger not only lived alone for a month, but he also fine-tuned the Joker’s voice, mannerisms, and inner dialogue. Everything is measured, from the Glasgow smile to the constant lip-smacking (a side-effect of over-medicating schizophrenia). And that’s why Ledger’s Joker is the greatest comic book movie villain ever.

#4 Rebecca Romijn – “X-Men series” (2000 – 2011)

Source: Fox | Bauer Griffin

It took Romijin nine hours to apply hundreds of tiny silicone prosthetics and lots of body paint.

#5 Matt Damon – “Behind the Candelabra” (2013)

Source: HBO | Getty

Damon donned a prosthetic nose and chin to become Liberace’s lover, Scott Thorson, in “Behind the Candelabra”.

#6 Glenn Close – “Hook” (1991)

Source: Disney | Bauer Griffin

As Gutless the pirate, she’s punished by the title bad guy and locked away with scorpions to keep her company.

#8 Rooney Mara – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2011)

Source: Columbia | Getty

A mere two years after the Swedish version debuted, American director David Fincher and leading lady Rooney Mara brought their own version of Lisbeth to the big screen.

#9 Jennifer Lawrence – “X-Men series” (2011- )

Source: Fox | Getty

To portray the blue-skinned Mystique, Lawrence endured hours of makeup each day, as well as a painful removal process. Latex was glued to her skin and she wore yellow contacts.

#10 Olivia Wilde – “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (2021)

Source: Getty | Sony

For Olivia Wilde, she played an updated version of the Ghostbusters big bad, Gozer, in the ill-fated third installment of the franchise.

#11 Ray Park – “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999)

Source: Disney | Getty

Darth Maul stands as one of the few bright spots in the “Star Wars”. His snarling glare and aptitude with the double-bladed lightsaber were very impressive.

#12 Jared Leto – “House of Gucci” (2021) (1999)

Source: Jason Merritt/Getty | UA/Universal

Jared Leto is a master of transformation. In 2021, he disappeared behind prosthetics and a bald cap to portray Paolo Gucci in “House of Gucci”.

#13 Tom Cruise – “Tropic Thunder” (2008)

Source: Dreamworks | Getty

Cruise wore prosthetic fat hands, a skull cap, and a hairy chest mat to give Les that authentic Hollywood scumbag look.

#14 Rob Lowe – “Behind the Candelabra” (2013)

Source: HBO | Getty

Rob Lowe played plastic surgeon Dr. Jack Startz. Startz’s face is essentially frozen

#15 Karen Gillan – “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008 – )

Source: Disney | Getty

Gillan disappeared behind the black eyes and blue skin of Thanos’ daughter, Nebula, first appearing in “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

#16 Rami Malek – “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

Source: Fox

Rami Malek won the Best Actor Oscar for morphing into Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the 2018 musical biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody”. And the makeup (those teeth!) was a big part of the illusion.

#17 Gary Oldman – “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992)

Source: Columbia

Oldman wore plenty of aging makeup and prosthetics to pull off the most drastic transformation, as the elderly Count (in photo).

#18 Ryan Reynolds – “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) & “Deadpool franchise” (2012 – )

Source: Fox | Getty

Reynolds certainly hasn’t been accused of vanity in his scarred portrayals of Wade Wilson/Deadpool in the Marvel movies. He plays a concept version of the character in X-Men Origins.

#19 Noomi Rapace – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2009)Source: Nordisk | Getty

Rapace set the bar high with her spiky performance as literary heroine Lisbeth Salander.

#20 Viola Davis – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020)

Source: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty | Netflix

Viola Davis scored an Oscar nomination for her transformation into the title character in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. Davis wore a padded suit around her waistline and caked on the eyeliner.

#21 Robert De Niro – “Raging Bull” (1980)

Source: MGM

De Niro gained 60 pounds to play the elder La Motta, but he also got a little help. That punching bag of a nose was a prosthetic.

#22 Ralph Fiennes – “Harry Potter series” (2001-2011)

Source: Warner Bros. | Getty

Fiennes’ terrifying transformation into Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” films mixed great makeup work with CGI. He wore gelatin prosthetics over his eyebrows, giving his forehead an evil ridge and deep eye sockets. Fiennes also wore dentures, contacts, and fake fingernails.

#23 Joel Edgerton – “Bright” (2017)

Source: Netflix | Vera Anderson/Getty

Joel Edgerton underwent three hours in the makeup chair every day to play Nick Jakoby, the nation’s first orc police officer, in Netflix’s expensive flop, “Bright”.

#24 Joaquin Phoenix – “Joker” (2019)

Source: Warner Bros. | Getty

Joaquin Phoenix lost 52 pounds, shaved his beard, and fully transformed into the Joker in 2019.

#25 Tilda Swinton – “Trainwreck” (2015)

Source: Universal Pictures | Getty

#26 Robin Williams – “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)

Source: Fox | Bauer Griffin

It took him a lot of time in the makeup chair to be the sweet Irish housekeeper Euphegenia Doubtfire.

#27 John Rhys-Davies – “The Lord of the Rings trilogy” (2001-2003)

Source: New Line | Getty

Welsh actor Rhys-Davies disappeared behind heavy prosthetics to play Gimli the warrior dwarf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

#28 Bill Skarsgård – “It” (2017)

Source: Warner Bros. | Getty

Skarsgård morphed into the murderous, child-eating clown Pennywise in the 2017 Stephen King adaptation.

#29 Paul Bettany – “Marvel Cinematic Universe” (2008 – )

Source: Disney | Getty

Bettany, who voices J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man and Avengers movies, materializes as Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He also got plenty of time in the makeup chair.

#30 Charlize Theron – “Monster” (2003)

Source: Newmarket | Bauer Griffin

Theron went all-out for her role who was the famous serial killer Aileen Wuornos, she gained 30 pounds and tolerated massive eyebrow plucking, greasy hair, and nasty prosthetic teeth.