After Sir John Hurt’s first day in prosthetics for his role as John Merrick in The Elephant Man, the actor reportedly called his wife to tell her, “I think they finally managed to make me hate acting.” Hollywood loves to see how much they can transform actors for roles in TV and film — and this fall, our screens have been filled with prosthetics that take on a life of their own. From Vera Farmiga’s prosthetic nose in The Many Saints of Newark to Jessica Chastain’s everything in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, prosthetics are taking center stage, sometimes overpowering the stars that wear them. We rounded up this fall’s most prestigious prosthetics and awarded superlatives to the bald caps and cheek fillers that had us captivated.
Least Necessary: Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano, ‘The Many Saints of Newark’
Would Farmiga’s performance as Tony’s mother be any different without prosthetics? Probably not, but it didn’t stop the dedicated actress from putting her best nose forward when playing Livia: She asked director David Chase if she could alter her schnoz to look more like Nancy Lou Marchand, who played the character in the original series. There have been comparisons between Farmiga as Livia and Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano that would have gotten Freud excited.
Least Deliberate Identification With a Role: Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci, ‘House of Gucci’
For better or for worse, Leto is known for taking transformative roles. The actor and musician sported a bald cap for his turn as Paolo Gucci, despite his original desire to authentically join the bald community and shave his head. When Leto’s plan was rerouted, he unintentionally connected to his character, who also has his artistic choices limited by outside forces.
Most Anticlimactic Reveal: Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball, ‘Being the Ricardos’
From her incredibly smooth forehead to her rounded cheeks, the reveal of Kidman as our favorite redhead was more disappointing than exciting. The addition of paralyzing prosthetics can’t make it any easier to portray Lucille Ball, a woman who is, after all, known for her facial expressions.
Least Recognizable: Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye Bakker, ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’
Chastain went through multiple transformations to become Tammy Faye. As her character got older, the movie’s team kept adding on more prosthetics, including, eventually, a full neck wrap — and Chastain’s makeup became another character altogether.
Hardest Working Brows: Clive Owen as Bill Clinton, ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’
Not because of size, but because of lack thereof. Owen’s prosthetic brows had to be individually placed every day on account of their fragility, and we thank them for their endurance.
Most Realistic Given the Circumstances: Agathe Rousselle as Alexia, ‘Titane’
Hear us out: For someone who gave birth to a car-baby, Rousselle’s prosthetic chest, nose, and stomach were the LAST things we noticed in a movie where her character’s nipples leak motor oil.
Most Likely to Regret Their Choices: Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, ‘Impeachment: American Crime Story’
“It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses,” Paulson told the Los Angeles Times in an interview about her role as Tripp, referring to her choice to don a fat suit. Nonetheless, the deed is done. Paulson is one of Ryan Murphy’s favorite actresses, so the part probably wouldn’t have gone to anyone else, but her casting still brings up important discussions about fatphobia and whether productions would rather hire a skinny actor and put them in a fat suit than give a plus-size one a chance.
Best Cheek Implants: Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, ‘Dune’
No, we’re not talking BBLs. As the villain Harkonnen, Skarsgård achieved a body transformation with prosthetics only and no CGI enhancement. Even in scenes where his character appeared naked, Skarsgård insisted on showing his altered body in all its glory.