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The Nutty Professor

Camera Obscura

10 Actors Who Disappeared Into Their Roles

Catch Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor movies this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection/Paramount Pictures

Aside from some foundation and a couple Method acting classes, few actors know what it’s like to completely disappear into a role. Sure, a stellar performance can transform a thespian into the character they’re portraying, but it doesn’t take a closeup for us to recognize who’s on camera. However, there are some notable roles in which a performer is entirely obscured — either by makeup, prosthetics, or a motion capture suit — leaving the audience’s suspension of disbelief wholly impenetrable.

Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, take a look at some actors who rendered themselves completely unrecognizable for the sake of cinema.

1. Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, The Nutty Professor, Norbit, et al.

At this point, any time a trailer touts that a movie stars “Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy,” you know at least one fat suit’s going to be involved. But the SNL alum’s willingness to don Rick Baker-created latex for our entertainment goes back to 1988’s Coming to America where Murphy played four different characters — one of whom, an old white Jewish man who has a penchant for velvet, obscured Murphy’s likeness completely.


2. Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder

No one will ever accuse Tom Cruise of not being committed to his craft, but no one expected his show-stopping performance in Tropic Thunder to be so balls-to-the-wall bonkers that it masked the megastar better than any facial prosthetic. According to director Ben Stiller, Cruise’s portrayal of Hollywood mogul Les Grossman — from the look to his vulgarity — was based purely on the actor’s choices, which must’ve been a cathartic release from a lifetime in showbiz.


3. Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man

Before The Exorcist, The Godfather, and Amadeus, the late makeup effects auteur Dick Smith inspired generations of makeup artists (including The Nutty Professor‘s Rick Baker) with his work on actor Dustin Hoffman in the 1970s satire Little Big Man. Told in flashback form, the film required Hoffman to look 121 years old which Smith achieved with revolutionary old age makeup. Of Smith’s work, the actor professed, “I defy you to put on that makeup and not feel old.”


4. Charlize Theron in Monster

Typically, a Hollywood film renders a beautiful actress “unattractive” with a pair of glasses and a disheveled ponytail — believing the inevitable makeover before the big dance to be far more transformative than it is. Not so with Patty Jenkins’ 2003 crime drama Monster, which casts the stunning Charlize Theron as a rough and weathered killer. And while the 30 extra pounds and prosthetic teeth certainly helped, it’s Theron’s keen acting skills that achieved the complete, Oscar-winning transformation.


5. Doug Jones in Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, et al.

Rarely do we see the gangly 6′ 3″ character actor without heavy makeup that you probably wouldn’t recognize him otherwise. But Doug Jones is widely recognized as being the go-to performer to play some of the most iconic other-worldly characters in film. From the shimmering Silver Surfer, to aquatic Hellboy sidekick Abe Sapien, to the two most visually arresting creatures in Pan’s Labyrinth, Jones proves you can make a comfortable living by being completely obscured.


6. Andy Serkis in Lord of the Rings, the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, King Kong and more

Unlike the rest of us, Andy Serkis can arrive to work wearing a skintight leotard covered with ping pong balls and still keep his job. Granted, that’s due to his lauded motion-captured performances as CGI characters Gollum, King Kong, and rebellious chimp Caesar. Serkis plays each part with such heartfelt, feral intensity that he has pushed Academy Award voters to champion his roles as Oscar-worthy. Unfortunately, that nomination hasn’t come yet.


7. Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There

Esteemed British actress Cate Blanchett becomes a waifish midwestern folk singer in Todd Haynes’ unusual Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There. Blanchett is one of six different actors to portray different facets of the musician, but as the only woman, her performance stands out from the rest. Foul-mouthed with plenty of swagger, she showcases a side of the gentle, soft-spoken Dylan we’re not accustomed to.


8. Johnny Knoxville in Bad Grandpa

Not to be confused with this year’s Dirty Grandpa — which renders star Robert De Niro completely unrecognizable in a different way — Bad Grandpa is a hidden camera comedy that showcases the Jackass star in his trademark “old man” makeup, giving him license to act brazenly offensive under the forgivable guise of senility. Despite middling reviews, the film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling and has developed a cult following.


9. Halle Berry in Cloud Atlas

Reincarnation and the wheel of time play important roles in author David Mitchell’s multi-story novel Cloud Atlas, which was ambitiously adapted into a three-hour epic film by the Wachowskis. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugo Weaving play thematically recurring characters, with vastly different looks, over the course of millennia. But it was Berry’s portrayal of an old Asian male doctor that had viewers wondering where she went and advocacy groups decrying the race-eschewing casting choice.


10. Eric Stoltz in Mask

The heartbreaking tale of Rocky Dennis, a boy with an extremely rare degenerative bone disease, is the central story in 1985’s Mask starring a completely unrecognizable Eric Stoltz. Under heavy makeup to depict Dennis’ craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, Stoltz plays Rocky with the gentleness and sincerity of a teen just trying to fit in and be treated like everyone else.

Happy 20th anniversary to The Nutty Professor from IFC!

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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