SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” now playing in theaters.
Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” was a huge undertaking for makeup head Alexei Dmitriew and hair department head Cassie Russek, who used over 22,500 prosthetics, 500 wigs and 130 facial hairpieces to create the movie’s galactic creatures. That number broke the world record for most prosthetics used in a film, previously held by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
From Will Poulter’s Adam Warlock to villain The High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) to the new hybrid humanimals, the duo were tasked with creating original looks as the Guardians set out on their newest mission.
It took a village of 75 makeup artists on set to complete the looks — sometimes there would be 90. “We had two people per prosthetic so we could just keep the times down,” Dmitriew says. “On this, we used 22,542 prosthetics, 117 pairs of contact lenses, and 500 wigs.”
Iwuji describes The High Evolutionary as a “mad scientist” who is responsible for turning Bradley Cooper’s Rocket from an everyday raccoon into a foul-mouthed genius harboring a lifetime of heartache and trauma. Via flashback, the film details Rocket’s origins: he’s part of The High Evolutionary’s experiment to create an advanced species. Rocket witnesses the villain kill his close friends, and gets revenge by causing damage to his creator’s face when he claws at it. That’s later revealed to be the reason why The High Evolutionary wears a mask.
“James Gunn really wanted to make sure we kept the integrity of Chuck himself and his acting,” Dmitriew says. “James wanted to make sure that we got to see all the nuances of his performance.”
As far as the application process, Iwudji needed two prosthetic pieces and a headpiece that was then “blended into my skin. They pulled the prosthetic back into the helmet so it looked like it was my skin being pulled,” Iwudji says.
How long did it take to transform into Marvel’s newest baddie? Says Iwudji,” It started off at under two hours. But within a couple of sessions, they were down to 70-75 minutes.”
For the humanimals, the hybrid of humanoid and animal that range from a kangaroo and turtle to vampire bat and rabbit, Dmitriew says, “day in day out, we had about 30 people in makeup, all with masks on with unique makeup.”
Each actor would wear a prosthetic with “intricate 3D-sculpted skull caps,” Dmitriew says. For the Batmom, “We had nails and bat fins, a nine-piece prosthetic makeup, a custom wig, contact lenses and teeth. All the characters had makeup at that level.”
There was no room for error, so Dmitriew and Russek held classes before the actors would get into character. “Because it was so unique and intricate, it has to be perfect and we wanted everyone to know just what they were getting into,” Dmitriew says.
The intricacy of makeup went right down to the nails. Russek recalls walking into a trailer and seeing special effects artist Adam Walls creating nail art. “As a kid, I watched ‘Waterworld,’ and there was dirt in the nails. That level of detail is something I’ll never forget,” Russek says. “So when I walked in and saw Adam making all those nails, I had this full circle moment.”
Adam B. Vary contributed to this report.
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