May 31, 2023

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” is 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 more than 22,500 prosthetics, 500 wigs, and 130 facial hairpieces to create the film’s galactic creatures. That number broke the world record for most prosthetics used in a movie, previously held by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

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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 embarked on their latest mission.

It took a village of 75 makeup artists on set to complete the looks—sometimes it was 90. “We had two people per prosthetic, so we could just keep times down,” says Dmitriew. “On this we used 22,542 prosthetics, 117 pairs of contact lenses and 500 wigs.”

Iwuji describes The High Evolutionary as a “mad scientist” responsible for turning Bradley Cooper’s Rocket from a run-of-the-mill raccoon into a foul-mouthed genius who harbors a lifetime of heartbreak and trauma. Through flashback, the film details Rocket’s origin: he is part of The High Evolutionary’s experiment to create an advanced species. Rocket witnesses the villain kill his close friends and retaliates by damaging his creator’s face when he claws at it. That is 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,” says Dmitriew. “James wanted to make sure we got to see all the nuances of his performance.”

As for the application process, Iwudji required two prosthetic pieces and a headpiece that was then “blended into my skin.” They pulled the prosthesis back into the helmet, so it looked like my skin was being pulled,” says Iwudji.

How long did it take to transform into Marvel’s newest villain? Says Iwudji, ‘It started in less than two hours. But within a few sessions they were down to 70-75 minutes.

For the humanimals, the human-animal hybrids that range from a kangaroo and turtle to vampire bat and rabbit, Dmitriew says, “Day in and day out, we had about 30 people in makeup, all wearing masks with unique makeup. “

(L-R): Dave Bautista as Drax and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Marvel Studios' Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.  3. Photo by Jessica Miglio.  © 2023 MARVEL.

(L-R): Dave Bautista as Drax and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Photo by Jessica Miglio. © 2023 MARVEL.

Each actor would wear a prosthetic with “intricate 3D sculpted skull caps,” says Dmitriew. 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 on 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 had to be perfect, and we wanted everyone to know exactly what they were getting into,” says Dmitriew.

The complexity of makeup went down to the nails. Russek recalls walking into a trailer and seeing special effects artist Adam Walls doing nail art. “As a child I watched ‘Waterworld’ and there was dirt in the nails. I’ll never forget that level of detail,” says Russek. “So when I came in and saw Adam make all those nails, I had a moment of full circle.”

Adam B. Vary contributed to this report.

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