In most cases, an actor or actress can put on a bald cap to cover their hair if they need to play a more follically challenged character. These are usually adequate and have worked on everything from a simple bald character to Dan Aykroyd's famous turn as a Conehead. Occasionally, it's necessary for actors to shave their heads, as it's easier, cheaper, and more realistic. But it doesn't happen often, especially where women are concerned. Hair takes a while to grow back and, vanity aside, actors make a living off their looks.
That said, quite a few women and men have taken up the clippers when the role called for it, and were usually asked in interviews how they felt after the big shave. The actors below had plenty to say about the experience.
- Photo: Guardians of the Galaxy / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Karen Gillan was hurled to superstardom when she played one of the Doctor's companions on Doctor Who, but her time in the spotlight got a hefty boost when she was cast as Nebula in The Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, there was a bit of a catch, as the best way to represent the character on the silver screen was with a bald head. Gillan was happy to shave for the role, though she did run into some problems being misidentified: "The only downside is that being bald and this tall led to a lot of people mistaking me for a man."
Fortunately, Gillan was able to alter the deal a bit for her subsequent appearances as Nebula. Changes in the CGI used to put her character on the screen meant she could retain some of her hair. She said, "I negotiated more hair, which was a relief, although it’s actually very liberating being bald."
- Photo: V For Vendetta / Warner Bros.
In V for Vendetta, Natalie Portman's character Evey begins with hair, but through the course of the film, she has her head shaved. The actual shaving was filmed as a scene in the movie, and when it was finished, she was left completely bald. Portman has spoken about the scene and what it's like to be seen walking around town without her signature locks.
In an interview for Movieweb, she was first asked if the experience was agonizing, to which she replied, "I was so trying to focus, be in character because we had one shot to do it. I don't really have any personal memories of the experience." This was followed by a question about people recognizing her, and Portman's answer was a bit surprising:
No, it actually made me more recognizable. With hair, I can camouflage with people, as a female with a shaved head, people tend to stare just naturally. But the only place I'm recognized every day is Los Angeles. Otherwise, it's like once a day. I feel pretty anonymous.
- Photo: G.I. Jane / Buena Vista Pictures
In the film G.I. Jane, Demi Moore played the fictional first woman to enter Navy SEAL training. In 2019, real-life Captain Tamara Lawrence completed the grueling training course, but when the movie was released in 1997, that reality was a long way off. Not only did Moore shave her head for the movie, but she did so onscreen in one of the most important scenes in the film.
To fit in with her fellow trainees, Moore's character walks into the base barbershop, grabs some clippers, and gets rid of her hair. Asked how she felt about cutting off all of her hair, Moore said it was her kids' reaction that truly stuck with her: "I had more people want to touch me. The funniest responses came from my children, who would say to friends, 'Hey, do you want to come look at my mom's head?' as if I were a show-and-tell item."
Interestingly, 20 years after Moore cut off her hair for a role, her daughter, Tallulah Willis, did the same thing. She spoke about her mother's influence on that decision in an interview with Nylon, saying, "I actually watched G.I. Jane two days before I shaved my head. I don't think I was 100% inspired by it, but I think it may have manifested the idea in my mind."
- Photo: Heaven / Lionsgate
When it comes to actresses who will do whatever the role calls for, in terms of hair, Cate Blanchett has no qualms about lopping it all off. She's shaved it bald, shaved into her hairline, and let the roots grow in for months for various roles. For the movie Heaven, she took it all off:
I shaved my entire head and was completely bald. Bruce Willis was being honored for something that night - it was around the time they made G.I. Jane. I didn't want people to think I was spoofing on Demi, so right before I ran out, my hairstylist gave me a wig. I look like Elizabeth Taylor in her later years.