The best old age makeup in film usually falls to one decision, hiring an actor who can either play the hell out of the role with minimum makeup or is close to the age of the character. But sometimes, a story calls for the actor to play many ages throughout a film. That’s when makeup gets tricky.
Brad Pitt had the help of more than 50 makeup and visual effects pros to become Benjamin Button at all this various de-aging stages, and it’s some of the best old age effects to date. However, 30 years before that film was made, makeup legend Dick Smith pulled off some of the best movie makeup ever in the ‘70s, using only practical tools.
Achieving the best movie makeup by aging young actors is damn near impossible. Director James Cameron opted for an older actress to play Rose at the end of Titanic for just that reason. Steven Spielberg did the same in Saving Private Ryan with Matt Damon’s character. Frank Darabont followed suit in The Green Mile with Tom Hanks’s 108-year-old character.
Most of the time, best old age makeup in movies comes down to a minimalist approach. Jo Van Fleet got some gray hair and a few liver spots to play Ella Garth in Wild River and audiences believed the 45-year-old was in her early 80s. She was just that good.
Let’s look at some examples of some of the best old age makeup and affects, from the believable to ancient monster drag. And if you care, there are some SPOILERS.
Eddie Murphy - Coming to America (1988)
Eddie Murphy and Rick Baker have put together some hilarious characters in their day, none more jaw-dropping than Saul. For Coming to America, Baker transformed Murphy into an old Jewish man, and audiences couldn’t believe it.Is this impressive?
Yeah, okay. It’s more like ancient vampire drag, but it works. We totally believe Gary Oldman is an ancient blood sucker who has a thing for ridiculously long silk robes and high, tight murder buns in Bram Stoker's Dracula. It’s more believable than Keanu Reeve's English accent, anyway.Is this impressive?
Character: Father Merrin
Max von Sydow was only 41 when he played aged priest Father Merrin in the scariest film of our childhood. Dick Smith’s subtle approach to aging the actor for The Exorcist goes unnoticed, which was the point. It’s hard to notice when Linda Blair is spitting pea soup all over your co-star. The power of Christ compels you, indeed.Is this impressive?
- Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Character: Ella Garth
Jo Van Fleet was 45 years old in Wild River, 16 year younger than the actor playing her son. She was a mighty talent, and the legendary Ben Nye took the less-is-more approach to aging her, letting Van Fleet pull off the character with her acting skill, not pounds of makeup. Did she ever.Is this impressive?