Charlize Theron didn’t play Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell.” She was her. The 2019 film recounting the multiple sexual assault allegations against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes even had Kelly’s own family members doing a double-take.
As prosthetist and artist Kazu Hiro told HuffPost, that was exactly Theron’s plan.
“She didn’t want to see herself in the mirror,” he told HuffPost. “It was really important to her to have the likeness of Megyn, to help herself and help others really get into the story.”
Hiro, who also transformed John Lithgow into Alies and Nicole Kidman into Gretchen Carlson for the film, worked diligently― and quickly ― to bring these characters to life.
“The whole pre-production time was about six weeks,” he said. “We did about four practice runs, and then I was finessing the look the entire time during filming.”
Hiro took a head cast and 3D scan of Theron, then studied images and film of both Kelly and Theron to learn their key features and differences, mapping out exactly which prosthetics he and his team would have to use and how they would have to use them.
“The difficult part is that everyone knows what they both look like,” he said. “So if the makeup was just halfway to Megyn, people would think, ‘OK, Charlize has something on her face, and that’s not good.’ We had to go all the way. I also wanted the makeup to be as [minimal] as possible, because the more I put on her, the harder it is to act through. So I cut it down to the most essential and important parts.”
The most “important parts” came down to a couple of key features: Giving Theron Kelly’s square, angular jaw, adding Kelly’s heavier eyelid to Theron’s big eyes and ― probably most visibly― getting the nose just right, slightly turned up and with much attention paid to nostrils.
“Megyn has much bigger nostrils, so I made nose plugs,” Hiro said. “Having something in your nose is of course uncomfortable, but I tried to make it as comfortable as possible. It was a challenge because I didn’t want to make it look like a comedy. It had to be subtle and realistic.”
Hiro took an impression of the inside of Theron’s nostrils and used a 3D scanner to design the plugs on the computer, printing them with a 3D printer.
“Using a 3D printer made it easier to modify in a short pre-production time,” he said. “I was able to make a new one in a few hours. I went through five modifications, and once the design was finalized, I printed about 40 sets of plugs for the length of filming.”
And the nose plugs weren’t the only things Hiro and the team continued to work on throughout the course of the shoot.
“Once filming started, I was still finessing the eyelids because it was one of the hardest parts,” he said. “The eyes are so delicate and have to move with her. I changed it three more times ― it’s a tiny difference but it made it more comfortable and also made the eyelid look better.”
The team also had to be constantly monitoring the placement of the silicone, in case of any wrong movement. “It’s very soft and stretchy, and we have to stretch it in a certain direction and concentrate on the movements,” he said. “If we don’t do that, it starts to wrinkle on the edges.”
Hiro and his team used prosthetics made from medical-grade silicone and adhered them to Theron’s face using medical glue ― first the jaw, the chin, the nose, and finally, the eyelid. Once the prosthetics were on, the team painted them to match Theron’s skin tone, after which the rest of the makeup and hair, led by Vivian Baker and Anne Morgan respectively, were applied. Theron also wore contact lenses to make her eyes darker.
The entire process, from start to finish, took about three hours each time.
“It’s a very difficult application, but Charlize is a dancer ― she has great body coordination to be in a certain position every morning, looking in the same place when I’m applying the eyelids.”
Hiro called working on “Bombshell” a “great honor,” pointing out the talented team that worked on it, as well as the film’s timeliness.
“I am glad people recognize what we did,” he said.” I believe it’s a really important film for what’s going on in the world right now and I feel really fortunate to work on this project with many amazing talents. One of the greatest experiences in my whole career.”