Voldemort's Makeup Was A Miserable Experience For Ralph Fiennes

The movie images that haunt my mind are rarely from places you would expect. For instance, there is a scene in Park Chan-wook's incredible film "The Handmaiden" where Kim Tae-ri's character shares a powerful intimate moment with Kim Min-hee's character by filing her tooth. The intention is clear. One character literally has the other's fingers in her mouth. Their urges coming to the forefront without anything explicitly sexual happening. However, I was horrified by this, as the thought of someone filing my tooth makes me break out into a cold sweat. Park Chan-wook has created plenty of cinematic moments where he wants to unnerve me, but this was not one of them. Yet unnerved I am.

Another one that always pops into my head comes from the Sofia Coppola film "Somewhere." Stephen Dorff plays an actor, and in one scene, his head is covered in plaster so the makeup department can make a mold of his head for prosthetics. There is one shot that plays out for a long time where the camera just pushes in on Dorff's plaster-covered head in an empty room, waiting for it to dry. While this is a fairly common process for an actor to go through (prior to digital scanning), I can feel my palms clamming up as I just imagine the pure helplessness of sitting there.

Going through the regular film makeup process, let alone a process like that, is why I do not think I could ever become an actor. Having your personal space violated and being completely in the hands of others sounds like a terribly unpleasant time. There are actors who are with me on this. One of them is Ralph Fiennes, who had to put up with an excruciating make-up job for several years.

'It's a nightmare'

Ralph Fiennes joined the Wizarding World in "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" to play Lord Voldemort. It seemed to be a requirement for every member of the UK's acting royalty to play a character in the Potter films, and Fiennes got the most snarling, scenery-chomping one available. Unfortunately for him, he could not be the ultimate force of evil in the universe and look like the dashing man he is. No, he needed to become a glistening snake man, which means a lot of time in the makeup chair. 

Speaking with Vanity Fair, Fiennes spoke about his disdain for the process:

"I hate makeup. I hate being in the makeup chair. I almost would not do a film to avoid being in the makeup chair. Oh god, I hate it. I don't know why I've developed a pathology about the makeup chair ... [T]he people so close to your face with a brush or a sponge or a pair of scissors or something, it's a nightmare."

Even with them doing a significant amount of visual effects on his face (like removing his nose), every day, for years, that dreaded chair would be calling out to him. Outside of Harry Potter, you rarely see Fiennes do any kind of extreme makeup work. His hair and facial hair get styled in one way or another, but that doesn't take too much time. After donning the Voldemort makeup time and again, I would want as long a break as I could once I no longer have to do it anymore. And Fiennes deserves a break from makeup forever. 

There is one decent perk to the process when shooting wraps every day:

"It's nice getting a hot towel at the end of the day, that's a nice bit."

I agree. Hot towels are nice!