SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” currently playing in theaters.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was a colossal undertaking for head of makeup Alexei Dmitriew and head of the hair department Cassie Russek, who used more than 22,500 prosthetics, 500 wigs and 130 hairpieces to create the galactic creatures of the movie. That number broke the world record for most prosthetics used in a movie, previously held by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
From Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock to villain The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) to new hybrid humanimals, the duo were tasked with creating original looks as the Guardians embarked on their new mission.
It took a village of 75 makeup artists on set to complete the looks — sometimes there were 90. “We had two people per prosthesis so we could keep the times down,” says Dmitriew. “Of that, we used 22,542 prostheses, 117 pairs of contact lenses and 500 wigs.”
Iwuji describes The High Evolutionary as a “mad scientist” who is responsible for transforming Bradley Cooper’s Rocket from an everyday raccoon into a crude genius harboring a life of heartache and trauma. Via flashback, the film details Rocket’s origins as part of The High Evolutionary’s experiment to create an advanced species. Rocket sees the villain kill his close friends and retaliates by causing damage to his creator’s face when he scratches him. This was later revealed to be the reason The High Evolutionary wears a mask.
“James Gunn really wanted to make sure we kept the integrity of Chuck himself and his game,” Dmitriew said. “James wanted to make sure we could see all the nuances of his performance.”
Regarding the application process, Iwudji needed two prosthetic pieces and a helmet which was then “melted into my skin. They brought the prosthesis back into the helmet, it looked like it was my skin that had been pulled,” says Iwudji.
How long did it take to transform into Marvel’s newest villain? Said Iwudji, “It started in less than two hours. But in a few sessions they were down to 70-75 minutes.
For humanimals, the hybrid of humanoid and animal that ranges from kangaroo and turtle to vampire bat and rabbit, Dmitriew says, “day in and day out we had about 30 people in makeup, all with masks with a unique make-up.”
Each actor would wear a prosthesis with “intricate 3D-sculpted skull caps,” says Dmitriew. For the Batmom, “We had bat nails and fins, nine-piece prosthetic makeup, a custom wig, contact lenses and teeth. All characters were made up to this level.
There was no room for error, so Dmitriew and Russek held classes before the actors got into character. “Because it was so unique and complex, it had to be perfect and we wanted everyone to know exactly what it was getting into,” Dmitriew says.
The complexity of the make-up extended to the nails. Russek remembers walking into a trailer and seeing special effects artist Adam Walls creating nail art. “When I was a kid, I used to watch ‘Waterworld’, and there was dirt in the fingernails. That level of detail is something I’ll never forget,” Russek says. “So when I walked in and that I saw Adam do all those nails, I had that full circle moment.”
Adam B. Vary contributed to this report.
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