The Weird Role Lube and Latex Played in Transforming Christian Bale For Vice
Nasal plugs, K-Y Jelly, yellowing dental veneers — the key items scattered on set of the Academy Award-nominated film Vice sound more like what you'd find in a nursing home medicine cabinet than beauty products. And yet, these are just a few of many things the movie's makeup team used to transform a star-studded cast into rising politicians.
More specifically, Christian Bale looked nearly unrecognizable as former VP Dick Cheney, as did Amy Adams as his public image-minded wife Lynne, Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, and Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld. "We needed to create over 75 'likeness' makeups of iconic characters across five decades within a 50-day shooting schedule — these products were indispensable," hair and makeup department lead Kate Biscoe told POPSUGAR.
"Throughout each decade, it was evident that Washington DC was dominated by very clean-cut men. No one stood out and you certainly didn't get ahead in DC by looking like an individual."
Creating that semblance of real people became a balancing act of fact versus fiction. "Throughout each decade, it was evident that Washington DC was dominated by very clean-cut men," she said. "No one stood out and you certainly didn't get ahead in DC by looking like an individual. I really wanted to juxtapose that 'cookie-cutter-ness' and the results of war in other parts of the world. So as clean and safe the DC look was, we went equally as dirty, sweaty, and bloody for all of the war scenes." Greg Cannom, the award-winning makeup designer behind Bale's transformation, added: "You can't get it exactly right, so at some point you just have to stop looking at the pictures and use your imagination to pull it off."
And pull it off, they did: the team's work in Vice was just nominated for an Oscar in the Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling category. Ahead, they're spilling all the behind-the-scenes beauty secrets, which — like most things kept behind closed doors in politics — are pretty damn juicy.
How the Hair and Makeup Team Researched the Looks for Vice
The film spanned a course of five decades — from the 1950s to early 2000s — which means there was a lot of research to be done on the characters when prepping the hair and makeup. The majority of this consisted of sifting through thousands of images on Getty and Reuter's, watching documentaries, and reading, but Biscoe also took an unconventional — and not to mention, surprising — approach to her research: "I went on Quora and asked what the shaving regulations for all the government agencies such as the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the Secret Service were. I was fortunate enough to have people within these agencies reply."
The Surprising Means It Took to Transform Christian Bale Into Dick Cheney
Christian Bale has been in head-to-toe latex before (and Batman won't let you forget it) but its role in his latest transformation into the former VP was completely different: it was used liberally to mold an aging Cheney. "He gained some weight for the film, and also wore a fat suit a lot, but we still had to use appliances on him to make his face look wider," Cannom said. "It's a lot of big things and little things. We had neck, cheek, chin, nose, and teeth pieces, and then when he was older, [Bale] wanted those nose plugs — those little latex bulbous valve that you stick up your nose — to widen or push up the sides of his nose, so [the team] custom-made those."
Obviously, none of this process was quick: "It would take about three and a half to four hours. As you get down [in age], you use less and smaller pieces, which would take two to three hours," he said.
K-Y Jelly Water Based Lubricant
Apparently, K-Y Jelly Water Based Lubricant ($7) isn't just for the bedroom — you can also use it to create movie magic. "We used some K-Y Jelly over the makeup at the very end to bring up the shine in the face," Cannom said. "That's an old trick I've used for all the old-age makeups I've done. It works great and is easy to touch up on set. If you want someone to look really sweaty, you can use that a lot heavier on a person's skin [because] it's just water-based and you can take it off easily if you want."
That Time Amy Adams Had to Shave Her Eyebrows
"My theory is that Lynne was trying to appear as young as possible to constituents, since her husband kept having heart attacks. She worked hard to maintain that perfect image."
"Adam [McKay, the director], Greg [Cannom], and I agreed that since most Americans couldn't tell you what Lynne Cheney looked like, it was more important to successfully age Amy Adams over the span of 50 years than it was to create an exact likeness," Biscoe said. "I wanted to get across that Lynne Cheney was always very aware of her public persona as well as her family's. My theory is that Lynne was trying to appear as young as possible to constituents, since her husband kept having heart attacks. She worked hard to maintain that perfect image."
To create that youthful effect, she worked with the film's hair department lead Patricia Dehaney to hide elastic bands and surgical tape under her wig. "I used these to pull Amy's eyebrows into the same place that Lynne Cheney's were at that age," Biscoe said. "In the early 1960s, fuller darker brows and pink lips were in style. As Lynne got older, her eyebrows became lighter, thinner and wider apart so I would bleach and shave Amy's. She was such a good sport."
The 1 Product the Makeup Team Used the Most On Set
Hands down, according to Biscoe: the Stretch & Stipple Latex ($6), which was used around the characters' eyes and nasolabial folds to create a wrinkled effect. "While the material is still wet, you blow dry it, stretching the skin in the opposite direction of where you want wrinkles to be," she said. "When it's dry, you let go and you have wrinkles or saggy, crepy skin."
To portray Lynne Cheney's later years, Biscoe added, Adams also wore yellowed dental veneers ("much like Invisalign," she said) to dull her teeth.
How She Kept Amy Adams's Skin in Tip-Top Shape
"I used mostly La Mer skin care on Amy to keep her skin in top condition," Biscoe said. "After cleaning her up from her old-age makeup, she would look in the mirror and say, 'I look fantastic.'" A few of her favorites? La Mer's The Moisturizing Soft Lotion ($270) and Eye Balm Intense ($215), and the Rodin Luxury Jasmine & Neroli Face Oil ($170).
Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner
"By the time [her character] was 58, Lynne's brows were even thinner and lighter and all her eye makeup was applied under the lower lash line. Amy would use the Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil Waterproof Eyeliner ($21) on the inside of her lower rim water line to make her eyes look like they were starting to droop."
MAC Lipstick in Russian Red
In the film, Lynne Cheney's lipstick color also changed throughout each decade. In the 1950s, she swiped on the bright red MAC Lipstick ($18) before transitioning to the brand's pinkish shade, Speak Louder, in the 1960s. From there, the lip color kept getting lighter and lighter, until finally ending with MAC Lipstick in Taupe.
The Number of Wigs Used on Set Was Aplenty
"The team did our best to make all 150 cast members portray the characters they were playing," Dehaney said. "Many hair pieces were worn to portray the different decades."
How much is "many," you wonder? Anywhere from one to five, depending on the actor. "We used Christian's natural hair for [the character's younger years] and Dick Cheney had five wigs," she said. "Lynne also had five wigs to carry her through the decades. I used a wig wrap called a Fracture wrap instead of a wig cap, which gives a nice, even, tight wrap. It also allows you to pin it so that you can pull the skin up, or back a bit. Rumsfeld wore two different wigs. George Bush wore one wig that we altered the color and style to reflect the change of decades."
Living Proof No Frizz Weightless Styling Spray
"The usual challenges on set are watching for flyaways and keeping the continuity," Dehaney said. "That's why starting with a good product that creates memory and hold is essential. We used Living Proof quite a bit, and they held throughout the shooting day. I liked the Living Proof No Frizz Weightless Styling Spray ($38), and for men, I love the Hans de Fuko line."
How the Hair Department Made Christian Bale Look Bald
Obviously, Christian Bale has a full head of hair, so Cannom and the team had to pull out all the stops to cover it up. "On his bald head we'd use PAX Paint from MEL FX — it's an opaque white acrylic adhesive that's mixed with very safe acrylic paints, and it covers really well," he said. "We used that to cover his head and any of the blue or black of his hair coming through. Then, at the very end, we would spray a Valdese plastic material they use for the skin of appliances and plastic baldcaps to build it up. That way, as his hair grew during the day, it wouldn't start showing through the makeup and gave a nice shine to the head."
Rubber Mask Grease - 20 Color Palette Box
The one product Cannom swears by for all his films? The Rubber Mask Grease - 20 Color Palette Box ($265) from William Tuttle. "It's very safe, and I used it in A Beautiful Mind on Russell Crowe when he was starting to get sick," he said. "It's beautiful makeup. For [Vice], we used different colors. There's one called 'Autumn Leaves,' which is kind of a purplish-brown color, and I've used it on every age makeup I've ever done because it really looks real. You don't have this kind of a highlight right under the eye, which bugs me in eye bags. This is more realistic, and gives a little shine to the skin."