Nicole Kidman by a nose. That was the too oft-repeated late night gag when the former Mrs. Cruise won for her turn as Virginia Woolf in 2002’s “The Hours.” Oscar likes a little bag here, a crows foot there. But too much make up? Sorry Andy Serkis, there seems to be a facial limit to how much of a make over an actor or actress can undergo.
Is Gary Oldman’s old man Churchill in “Darkest Hour” too much of a blotchy, English good thing? Not according to one anonymous Oscar voter. “I don’t care how much make up he has on,” they said, “it’s the acting underneath all that that counts. Would Ashton Kutcher give the same performance under all that?” they added. Hmmm. We’ll have to think about that.
In the meantime, here’s a brief history of pancake and paunch that have led to at least a nomination. Hey it’s just an honor to be recognized. Make that not recognized.
Robert De Niro, “Raging Bull”
Everyone remembers the 50 pounds he put on to play boxer Jake LaMotta in the Martin Scorsese biopic. But they forget he also donned a heavyweight schnoz. Result? A knock out. Best Actor Oscar, Golden Globe and a slew of independent film critics awards in 1981.
Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight”
It wasn’t just the Max Factor. The method man—who stayed in character on and off set—also wore three pieces of augmented silicone to create the scarred cheeks and killer smile. It worked. He won the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Critics Choice and almost every other film groups’ award in 2009.
Charlize Theron, “Monster”
De-glamming this atomic blonde was no small feat. 30 pound weight gain, check. Eye brow plucking, check. It also looks like she didn’t wash her hair for the entire shoot. But the prosthetics? Smile, Charlize, it’s the gnarly choppers. Her portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos wooed critics. Best Actress Oscar, Golden Globe, SAG, Berlin International Film Festival, Critics Choice, Independent Spirit, Gold Derby and almost every other honor handed out in 2003.
Al Pacino, “Dick Tracy”
We threw this one in because he was Oscar nominated and “hoo-ha!” he looks great. We’ve already seen him wearing a lot of make-up for his Jimmy Hoffa turn in next years’ “The Irishman,” but here he’s got a prosthetic nose, chin and a lot of color to play the bad Big Boy Caprice in 1990.
Meryl Streep, “The Iron Lady”
Being Margaret Thatcher was no walk in Hyde Park. False teeth and a mask that helped create the right cheekbones and pasty English skin helped. She also altered her hairline. All in, it was two hours a day. And time well spent. Streep took home another Oscar, a Golden Globe and perhaps most importantly considering this was about an Englishwoman, a BAFTA in 2012.
Marion Cotillard, “La Vie en Rose”
This is an easy one to overlook because she doesn’t look that different. But voila! To play Edith Piaf, Cotillard went through hours of daily prosthetics including—sacre bleu—a body suit for girth and latex facial applications mixed with acrylic paint. She reportedly hated it. But what’s not to like about the Best Actress Oscar in 2007? Or a Golden Globe? Lots of others also included a french honor—the Cesar. Bon.
Steve Carrell, “Foxcatcher”
The usually comic actor took John du Pont very seriously with a three hour daily make over that gave him a new nose, lips and eyebrow augmentation along with make up. It was good enough for a Best Actor Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG nomination in 2015. He won an AARP Movies For Grownups Best Actor award.
Anthony Hopkins, “Nixon”
He’s not a crook. But he had the nose and make up to play one in 1995. He got Best Actor nominations from the Oscars, Golden Globes, BAFTA, SAG and a number of critics groups
Mark Wahlberg, “Boogie Nights”
Oh, right. That was a prosthetic too. Was there a happy ending? Not so much. The 1997 film drew raves but Wahlberg had to settle for a few regional critic’s awards and a dubious honor: something called ‘The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards’ named he and the 13 inch appendage “Worst On Screen Couple.”
Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in this and the other top races. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date odds before you make make your Oscar nomination predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on January 23.