Because it spans over 50 years, “The Irishman” required “a huge range” of looks for Robert De Niro, makeup artist Carla White reveals. White spoke extensively about her work on Martin Scorsese‘s gangland epic, for which she personally supervised De Niro’s different makeup appliances, in a new behind-the-scenes featurette. Watch the exclusive video above.
The Netflix release “takes place from 1949 to 2000,” Scorsese states, “and it goes back-and-forth in time continuously” in telling the story of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a truck driver who becomes a hitman after becoming involved with Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and mob boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci). Throughout the film, we get glimpses of Sheeran in various stages of his life, from early middle age to the end of his life.
“We had to age him in a couple of stages,” White explains, starting with “what we call ‘the younger old age'” where “we covered up the bags under his eyes with two prosthetic pieces. Then the older of the two ages had a very thin wig” to go along with “paintings, body and texture increasing and highlighting and shadowing what he already had.”
For his much younger years, De Niro wanted to know “how far can you go down with practical makeup in terms of de-aging,” which White thought would be “about 20 years.” Since that would only get him to his mid-50s, visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman had to step in for the rest. “There was a transition from what he did purely digitally to what we were doing creating the older Frank Sheeran practically,” she adds.
The period hairdos were equally challenging. “We basically oversaw the whole entire cast,” divulges hair department head Sean Flanigan. This meant that “over 200 characters” would each “need wigs or multiple wigs.”
Makeup department head Nicki Ledermann knew that the time-spanning epic would require her “to do all the aging subtly, but not via CGI. So all the characters went through a little bit of aging throughout the movie.”
White, Flanigan and Ledermann are all previous Emmy winners: White for “The Normal Heart,” Flanigan for “Mad Men” and Ledermann for the Scorsese-directed pilot of “Boardwalk Empire.” All three could soon find themselves in the Oscar race for the very first time thank to “The Irishman.”
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