In the next X-Men film, X-Men: Apocalypse , Hollywood's newest sensation, Oscar Isaac, is portraying the movie's titular villain — but you'd never know it. The handsome actor who charmed a whole new generation of fans in Star Wars: The Force Awakens has his face buried under loads of purple (or blue) makeup in order to transform him into the world's first mutant, and it's quite the achievement. But how did they do Oscar Isaac's Apocalypse makeup in order to make him look so, well, villain-y?
When I (and many other fans) first heard that the X-Men movies were finally centering a movie around what is perhaps their most formidable villain, I had assumed that the film would create a wholly CGI character for the role. After all, Apocalypse in the comics is huge, and his main power is molecular manipulation, which allows him to adjust not only his size but his shape as well. So if less-involved comic book characters like the Hulk and Thanos were fully rendered by computer graphics in their respective movies, then shouldn't Apocalypse also be created using motion capture? But director Bryan Singer had a different idea, and decided to go with a mostly old school approach for the character. And there's no arguing with the results — Apocalypse looks awesome, other worldly, and like no one else in the world he inhabits. In other words, he's perfect. So how did they do it?
Apparently, Apocalypse isn't all makeup. The character is going to have some CGI overlays, which may not be evident yet in the material fans have seen, but the computer effects and practical effects will be working together to craft the character's look. Here's what Singer told Collider about that decision:
"Whenever I can go physical I try to. It gives the actors something to play with. What did Nicholson say when he played The Joker? Let the costume do the acting? There’s a lot more that goes into it than that but nonetheless it makes it real. It makes it real for the actor and it makes it real for the people who are playing against the actor than when they’re wearing a green suit with dots on it. Once the people at Legacy could prove it to me that they could pull it off, it was very complicated how to do that. It was just complicated. Once I saw a few key designs, surfaces, shieldings, panels, artistry, I was like ‘Okay that’s the guy, lets build it’. Let’s make it real. If the character is a strange size or something then maybe you have to do CG, although we do get into a little of that."
Now, the "Legacy" that Singer mentions here is a special effects company that handles all types of effects, with a focus on character design. They handled the makeup for fellow X-Men characters Beast and Mystique, crafted Iron Man's suit, and designed the Na'vi in Avatar, plus countless other projects. They're the ones who designed the look of Apocalypse, and figured out how it would be implemented on Isaac.
So once Legacy designed the look, it was up to the production to put everything together — a process that involved two hours of daily makeup for Isaac, digital effects in post-production, and a few tweaks along the way to get the look right. Isaac spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the process:
"We had to do some adjustments here and there and be like, alright, maybe this is too alien. [Apocalypse] also is someone who people would want to follow and not just be terrified of. So the balance, and then making sure that there’s some great elements from the comic but also making our own thing as well. In the comic, he generally is like 12 feet, 600 pounds."
So, for future reference, if you want to turn a Hollywood star into an all-powerful 10,000-year-old mutant, all it takes is an expert design from a world class special effects team, several hours of makeup, and a digital overly of computer graphics. Seems easy enough.
Images: 20th Century Fox