Sometimes the true unsung heroes behind our favorite blockbuster movies and animated series go virtually unseen. A number of famous, yet unknown, actors deliver beloved performances while hidden behind masks or prosthetics. But just because their true faces are practically invisible doesn't mean their talents should go unacknowledged. Below are some actors you may be particularly fond of already - even if you have no idea what some of them actually look like.
Doug Jones is Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro’s go-to movie monster. American voiceover artist Mel Blanc is widely known as "The Man of a Thousand Voices," personally responsible for coming up with the voices of beloved Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Ever wonder what the man behind the voice of Yoda looks like? Or how they got the apes from the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy to appear so realistic? Or what Freddy Krueger looks like when he's not haunting your dreams? Vote up the actors you think should finally be given their fair share of creative credit.
With more than 160 credits on his filmography, Doug Jones may just be the most prolific working Hollywood actor that most people would not recognize. Jones is known for his work with horror master Guillermo del Toro. One of Jones's most impressive performances came as Abe Sapien in the Mexican auteur's 2004 hit Hellboy and its follow-up, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The slim, tall actor may have even topped that performance when he put on the disturbing monster costume in 2005 for del Toro's magnum opus Pan's Labyrinth. Jones played both the Faun and the horrifying child-snacking Pale Man in del Toro's Oscar-winning fantasy.
Jones works regularly in the creature department under prosthetics and thick makeup that are so convincing, spectators may just assume he's a special effects creation. His other impressive creature credits include Mimic, Crimson Peak, and the Best Picture-winning The Shape of Water. More recently, Jones has taken his incredible hidden talents to the small screen as Commander Saru in the CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery.
Del Toro, who has worked with Jones on six feature films, talked about what makes the actor so special:
A creature performer needs to be a very odd combination of marathon runner and a mime, who can express himself through layers and layers of latex and acrylic and silicon. It's a very, very rare discipline... There are very, very few that are actual actors, in my opinion, that go beyond being able to work in a suit or under makeup. Doug is a proper actor. When you need that level of finesse, Doug is the only one I've met that I trust with that level of commitment and craftsmanship and artistry.
Great hidden actor?
- Age: 61
- Birthplace: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Andy Serkis is no doubt the most famous motion-capture actor in the history of Tinseltown. The English artist has made computer-generated acting an elite art form. His most memorable performances have come in massive blockbusters. He is the essence of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the subsequent Hobbit series.
Serkis has also impressed beyond Middle-earth, indelibly capturing the spirit of Caesar, the protagonist of the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy, bringing striking emotional depth to King Kong in the 2005 remake of the same name, and bringing his skill set to the Star Wars franchise as Supreme Leader Snoke.
What has made Serkis such a pioneer in his specific field of acting? It's all about his attention to detail. In order to prepare for his role in King Kong, Serkis traveled to Rwanda to study gorillas and apes in the wild. He then compared how the animals acted in the wild versus how they behaved in captivity in the zoo.
Serkis doesn't see the difference between a motion-capture actor and a regular actor. He explained:
It's crucial that people do understand that when you're approaching a role, there is no difference between performance-capture technology and conventional acting. You're not inhibited by layers of prosthetic make-up. You can actually play something much more truthfully. The technology has arrived at a point where the fidelity to the original performance is much greater.
Great hidden actor?
- Age: 57
- Birthplace: Ruislip, London, England, UK
At just 11 years old, Warwick Davis appeared as Wicket, the head Ewok, in Return of the Jedi. The young actor, who has dwarfism, also played an Ewok in two additional Star Wars movies. He based the movements of the characters on his dog, who was always tilting his head to the side. The actor was so impressive that George Lucas wrote the part of Willow Ufgood specifically for him in Ron Howard's 1988 fantasy cult classic Willow.
From there, Davis continued to get work in big movies, including Labyrinth, in which he played a goblin. In that film, his costume and makeup kept his face hidden.
Davis's filmography is filled with impressive roles in blockbuster movies. He played Professor Filius and Griphook in the Harry Potter movies under heavy prosthetics and makeup. Back in the '80s he took to the small screen to star as the talking mouse Reepicheep in the BBC's C.S. Lewis adaptation Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He also played the villain in 1993's horror movie Leprechaun and its five campy sequels. All of those roles kept Davis's face hidden under a costume or prosthetics.
Still, the actor has gotten opportunities for more traditional on-screen roles. In 2011, he starred alongside writer/creator Ricky Gervais in the mockumentary series Life's Too Short. The meta-series casts Davis as a fictionalized, deeply neurotic version of himself navigating the cutthroat entertainment industry.
The English actor can credit a lot of his success to his overall attitude and sense of humor. "He's probably the most grounded, stable person I've ever met. His kids are just amazing; he's made them bulletproof by giving them a sense of humor, as opposed to hiding them away from this big, bad world," Gervais said. "Warwick is so drenched in this humanity and so likable, we had to make him into a little Hitler [type of character] so people knew what they were laughing at."
Great hidden actor?
- Age: 51
- Birthplace: Epsom, United Kingdom
Tim Curry is about as prolific as any working actor, with over 200 credits on his filmography. Of course, he hasn't hidden his face in all of those movies and TVshows, but he is nearly unrecognizable in a number of his most renowned performances, including several villainous turns.
One of his most memorable masked roles featured full clown makeup, as the English actor starred as Pennywise in the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's It. Curry is perhaps most known for his role as the cross-dressing mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In the cult musical classic, Curry's face is caked with a pile of makeup, yet his features - and voice - are always distinct.
In order to play the devil, AKA the Lord of Darkness, in Ridley Scott's 1985 dark fantasy adventure Legend, Curry had to sit through several hours of makeup every day. His face was unrecognizable under the large fiberglass horns and intricate red makeup. However, Curry had so much character and originality in his swagger and delivery that he acted his way through the mask.
Great hidden actor?
- Age: 75
- Birthplace: Grappenhall, Cheshire, England, UK