Kazuhiro Tsuji Interview: ‘Darkest Hour’ makeup artist
When makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji was first asked by Gary Oldman to work on “Darkest Hour” he was initially hesitant. “I was kind of retired from [the] film industry,” he reveals, and he knew that transforming the actor into former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill “would be difficult to pull off.” But it looks like he made the right decision. Tsuji snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, one of six total bids the film received, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Oldman). Watch our exclusive video interview with Tsuji above.
Tsuji began by gathering photos of Churchill and Oldman to note the differences between the two. He also watched documentary footage of Churchill “to try to understand his mentality and what kind of person he was.” In studying their two faces, he found that “Gary is almost like a greyhound, and Churchill is like a bulldog. They’re quite different. So it didn’t work if I just simply put Churchill’s face on top of Gary’s face because it would become kind of grotesque.” Instead, he tried to “put Churchill’s features on Gary’s face in a good balance so he won’t look odd.”
He also had to apply the makeup without getting in the way of Oldman’s performance. “If he was 30-years-old, it would be easy to put a piece on him” because “the skin can dry the appliances.” But applying that same prosthetic to a 59-year-old face is more difficult because “as people get older, the skin becomes a lot more flexible.” Tsuji solved this dilemma by eliminating “any pieces around his eyes and forehead so he can express his emotions much easier through the makeup.” Tsuji instead focused on “the lower part of his face” to give Oldman “the body-weight and body-shape of Churchill.”
Tsuji previously competed at the Academy Awards for his work on “Click” (2006) and “Norbit” (2007). His laurels for “Darkest Hour” also include a victory at the BAFTAs and a nomination for Best Special Makeup Effects from the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild. He shares his Oscar bid with David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, and should he prevail Tsuji would become the first Asian victor in the Makeup and Hairstyling category. Will he make history come Oscars night?