The subtle use of 3D printing in new ‘Bombshell’ movie

In addition to the shivers that went down my spine when I first watched the trailer for Bombshell—a new film based on the sexual harassment allegations against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes—I couldn’t help but second guess if that was actually Charlize Theron I was looking at. The South African actress is known for her chameleon-like embodiments of her characters (think of the 2003 film Monster) but I couldn’t quite put my finger on how she looked so much like Fox news anchor Megyn Kelly.

Now, thanks to a fascinating piece in The Huffington Post, the secrets of her transformation have been revealed. And, as you’ve probably guessed, 3D printing had an important role to play in turning Theron into the screen version of Kelly.

Bombshell 3D prosthetics
Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell” (Photo: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle | Lionsgate)

According to the article, Theron was more interested in becoming Kelly than in playing her, which entailed a total facial transformation. The painstaking process, which involved all kinds of makeup and prosthetic tricks, was carried out by Kazu Hiro, a special make-up effects artist who won an Academy Award for his work on the Darkest Hour (remember when Gary Oldman became Winston Churchill?).

Working with Theron on Bombshell, Hiro captured a 3D scan of the actresses head and took a head cast. After studying these and comparing them to photos of Kelly, the artist was able to decide what prosthetics were needed to create a likeness.

“The difficult part is that everyone knows what they both look like,” Hiro told the Huffington Post. “So if the makeup was just halfway to Megyn, people would think, ‘OK, Charlize has something on her face, and that’s not good.’ We had to go all the way. I also wanted the makeup to be as [minimal] as possible, because the more I put on her, the harder it is to act through. So I cut it down to the most essential and important parts.”

One key difference between Theron and Kelly’s face is their noses. As Hiro pointed out, Kelly’s nose is more turned up than Theron’s and has bigger nostrils. To recreate Kelly’s nose on Theron’s face, Hiro created custom nose plugs using 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies.

An impression of Theron’s nostrils was made, which was then 3D scanned. The scan enabled Hiro and his team to model the nose plugs to fit Theron perfectly. They were then 3D printed. Using this technology allowed Hiro and his team to speed up the production times for the hidden prosthetics. It also enabled Hiro to adjust and fix the design until it was perfect. In the end, he says about 40 sets of the nose plugs were 3D printed for the duration of filming Bombshell.

Other facial prosthetics, to change Theron’s face structure subtly, were made from medical-grade silicone and expertly painted to match her skin. Apparently, it took about three hours to transform Theron into Kelly before every shoot.

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