Spaceships and giant robots are old news. Now, Hollywood special effects can shave years off an actor’s life, reshape a performance, or even recast a role after a movie’s been shot.
Today, digital face replacement is just one technique at Hollywood’s disposal. Braga regularly uses CG to retouch actors, “whether it’s a pimple, or an actress who has bags under her eyes on that particular day, or painting out a nipple in a sex scene.” When an actress got a nose ring without telling him, his postproduction team removed it at a cost of “tens of thousands of dollars.” Such work can get expensive, but it’s industry standard.
Until recently, vain actors were limited to makeup, flattering lighting, corsets, plastic surgery, Botox, crash diets, personal trainers, steroids, muscle suits, color grading, lenses and filters, body doubles, and spray-on abs. Now they also have software: Zits vanish with a click. Wrinkles disappear. Abs harden. Jawlines sharpen. Cellulite vanishes. “In postproduction, if they want your nose to be a little smaller or a little bigger, that’s up to them, man,” says actor Michael Shannon. “Some attractive person gets out of a swimming pool dripping wet? Nobody wants to see how they really look: It’s fantasy.”
De-aging, once a groundbreaking special effect in Benjamin Button, is not so special anymore. In Netflix’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, 63-year-old Paul Reubens picks up right where he left off in 1990, thanks to Vitality Visual FX, a firm started by two Lola founders. Reubens told the New York Times, “I could have had a face-lift and we would have saved $2 million.”