Actors Who Basically Disappeared Under Bizarre Makeup

Ashley Hunte
Tom Hanks in Elvis (2022).
IMDb | Warner Bros. via IMDb

The coolest part about acting is getting to see someone step into someone else's shoes. Sometimes, actors do so simply by adopting different mannerisms. But other times, they take it to the next level.

With makeup and practical effects, of course. Movie magic can literally transform a familiar face into someone almost unrecognizable. Here are some of the times when movie makeup made the actors in them basically disappear.

Gary Oldman in 'Darkest Hour' (2017).

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in 2017's Darkest Hour.
other | Focus Features via IMDb

In addition to literally becoming Churchill, Oldman spent around a year studying his mannerisms. Considering his many awards and accolades for the role, it's pretty clear that all that hard work — and hours in the makeup chair — paid off for him.

John Travolta in 'Battlefield Earth' (2000).

John Travolta as Terl in Battlefield Earth.
IMDb | Warner Bros. via IMDb

Battlefield Earth may have been a terrible movie, but you still kind of have to give credit where credit's due. Sure, it didn't really help the story, but Travolta's transformation into the character Terl is still pretty impressive.

Charlize Theron in 'Monster' (2003).

Charlize Theron as Aileen in Monster.
IMDb | Newmarket Films via IMDb

There are a lot of movie transformations where you can still kind of see the actor's regular face underneath all that makeup. But with Theron's Oscar-winning transformation into Aileen Wuornos, it's like she isn't there at all (in the best way possible).

Tom Cruise in 'Tropic Thunder' (2008).

Tom Cruise as Les Grossman in 'Tropic Thunder'
IMDb | Dreamworks Pictures

It's amazing how much a bald cap and bodysuit can completely change a person. Add some prosthetics to the mix, and you have Tom Cruise looking like the sleaziest movie producer around.

Al Pacino in Dick Tracy (1990).

Al Pacino as Big Boy Caprice in 1990s Dick Tracy.
IMDb | Touchstone Pictures via IMDb

Pacino himself designed his character, and makeup artist John Caglione, Jr. brought it to life the way Pacino wanted. All in all, he really enjoyed the filming experience (even if getting into those prosthetics was time-consuming).

Vincent D'Onofrio in 'Men in Black' (1997).

Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar in Men in Black.
IMDb | Columbia Pictures via IMDb

In a movie full of grotesque alien beings, D'Onofrio looks right at home, what with his zombie-like appearance. Of course, the fact that he looks nothing like that in real life is a relief.

Kristen Wiig in 'Zoolander 2' (2016).

Kristen Wiig as Alexanya Atoz in Zoolander 2.
IMDb | Paramount Pictures via IMDb

For a movie as over the top as Zoolander, this kind of transformation should kind of be expected. And yet, it's still a bit of a shock to think that Kristen Wiig is under all that makeup (and that strange headpiece).

Danny DeVito in 'Batman Returns' (1992).

Danny DeVito as The Penguin in 'Batman Returns' saying "It's human nature to fear...the unusual."

This transformation took a good three hours to complete each day of filming, which was long enough for DeVito to watch his favorite movies as the crew set him up in his makeup and prosthetics.

Nick Stahl in 'Sin City' (2005).

Nick Stahl as Roark Jr. In 2005's Sin City.
IMDb | Dimension Films via IMDb

This is another one of those movies that does a lot with practical effects on various characters. But looking at Stahl's creepy, bright yellow character kind of hits different, compared to the others in the cast.

Ice-T in 'Tank Girl' (1995).

Ice-T as T-Saint in Tank Girl.
IMDb | United Artists via IMDb

The hours-long transformation to make Ice-T look like, well, like this, definitely paid off from a visual standpoint. Even if you think you've seen him enough times on SVU, you still might be searching for Ice-T's face under there.

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'J. Edgar' (2011).

Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover.
IMDb | Warner Bros. via IMDb

It's always kind of jarring watching an actor transform into a real person, and seeing DiCaprio as the former FBI director is absolutely no exception. It almost feels like watching archived footage.

Johnny Depp in 'Tusk' (2014).

Johnny Depp as Guy Lapointe in Tusk.
IMDb | SMoodcast Pictures via IMDb

Johnny Depp has enough roles in his repertoire where he's undergone a pretty jarring transformation. Though, you usually still get a "Depp" vibe from his characters. The same can't entirely be said for his portrayal of Guy Lapointe, though.

Tom Hardy in 'Capone' (2020).

Tom Hardy as Fonse in the 2020 film Capone.
IMDb | BRON Studios via IMDb

Tom Hardy's transformation into the notorious crime boss during his final years meant that he had to don the sickly appearance of a man suffering from syphilis. This is definitely a far cry from how we're used to seeing Hardy on screen.

Christian Bale in 'Vice' (2018)

Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in Vice.
IMDb | Annapurna Pictures via IMDb

To be completely honest, I still have a hard time believing that it was Christian Bale, of all people, underneath that incredibly uncanny makeup and prosthesis. It feels more like looking at Dick Cheney, for better and for worse.

Colin Farrell in 'The Batman' (2022).

Colin Farrell as The Penguin in 'The Batman'
IMDb | Warner Bros.

If you can believe it, underneath all that makeup and prosthetics is Colin Farrell. It's hard to believe how much of a transformation the Irish actor underwent in order to portray Batman's foe.

Jared Leto in 'House of Gucci' (2021).

Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in House of Gucci.
IMDb | BRON Studios via IMDb

Leto is the kind of actor who embodies whatever character he's portraying at the time. His outing as Paolo Gucci in the 2021 crime drama is no exception. Whether you like him or not, you have to admit that the transformation is pretty wild.

Jessica Chastain in 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' (2021).

Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
IMDb | Fox Searchlight Pictures via IMDb

Chastain's transformation was on point (and to be honest, a little scary). But it only helped make her portrayal that much better, especially considering the fact that she won the Best Actress Oscar for it.

Tom Hanks in 'Elvis' (2022).

Tom Hanks as Tom Parker in 2022's Elvis.
IMDb | Warner Bros. via IMDb

It's Tom Hanks, and yet it isn't Tom Hanks. This may not be the first time Hanks has changed his appearance for a role, but it feels like one of those things people will be talking about for years to come.

Dan Aykroyd in 'Nothing But Trouble' (1991).

Dan Aykroyd as Judge Alvin Valkenheiser in Nothing But Trouble.
IMDb | Warner Bros. via IMDb

I feel bad for actors like Aykroyd, who have to spend hours in a makeup chair getting prosthetics applied to their faces. But at the same time, it always makes for really cool visual performances.

Tilda Swinton in 'Suspiria' (2018).

Tilda Swinton as Dr. Josef Klemperer in Suspiria.
IMDb | Frenesy Film Company via IMDb

In order to hide the fact that it was actually Swinton portraying the 80-year-old Dr. Klemperer, she and director Luca Guadagnino invented a fake persona: German actor Lutz Ebersdorf. Talk about a dedication to the transformation.