The Montreal makeup artist who helped transform Brendan Fraser into a morbidly obese man for “The Whale” says he’s grateful for Oscar recognition of a project that stands as one of the most demanding of his career.
Adrien Morot says he was sleeping when a text message from his “good friend Brendan Fraser” alerted him to a nomination for best makeup and hairstyling, which he shares with Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley.
The Los Angeles-based Morot says the work involved gluing several thick pieces of silicone onto Fraser’s face and body, and then applying makeup to seamlessly blend everything together.
Fraser earned a best actor nomination for his turn as a reclusive English teacher, Charlie, who attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
Morot says it was an especially challenging film because so much of the plot revolves around Charlie's imposing size and the way Fraser moves while wearing heavy prosthetics.
The team faces Oscar competition from the hair and makeup teams of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “The Batman,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and “Elvis.” The awards will be handed out March 12.
“Most of the time, the success of the movie doesn't rest on your shoulders,” Morot said Tuesday from Los Angeles.
“In this case, the movie was not a comedy where the character is the butt of a joke. It wasn't science fiction, like an ‘X-Men’ thing…. The character of Charlie is a real character in real life situations. It's a tragic movie and it needs to be treated with empathy and respect. So if your makeup doesn't work, the movie doesn't work.
"If the makeup is a distraction because the makeup is bad, or is overly show-offy in the execution and becomes (something) where the audience focuses on it, you're missing the mark.”
The Darren Aronofsky film has been dogged by criticism of the decision to put Fraser in a fat suit, as well as its depiction of Charlie and his weight, which some have called fatphobic.
Morot acknowledged the complaints but said he was focused on making the suit look as authentic as possible.
“I'm just given a task by a director. So when the director calls me, or the producer calls me and tells me, ‘This is what we need from you,’ I don't look at it with any sort of agenda,” he said.
"You see how good Brendan is and what he brings to the table by playing this part.... I can't imagine anybody else playing the part."
Morot called Aronofsky "the most detail-driven and demanding director" he's ever worked with.
"The Whale" is his fifth collaboration with the notoriously uncompromising filmmaker, following "Mother!", "Noah," and "The Fountain," as well as "White Boy Rick," which Aronofsky produced.
"He's amazing that way. And that's not for everybody," said Morot, previously nominated for an Oscar for his work on the Canadian book-to-screen adaptation "Barney's Version."
"By the middle of the shoot, half the crew can't take it anymore. (They're like,) 'This guy is never satisfied with anything.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, that's the way he is. That's why he's Darren Aronofsky because he will not settle for anything less than perfection.'"
Morot said the team had 12 weeks to build the suit but when it came time to shoot, Aronofsky was not happy with its limited movement.
Morot explained that prosthetics are typically sculpted to an actor's position and that multiple versions are required if an actor is seated, lying down or standing.
Creative camera work and editing then hide the reality of multiple shoots required to create a single scene.
When Morot showed Aronofsky the initial pieces he had made, the director insisted Fraser be able to move freely.
"He was like, 'No, I want to see it in one shot.' And he could not let go of that," he recalled.
"(We) had to rebuild that suit until it moved like a real body, which was the first time that's ever been done for that kind of makeup on screen."
It's those very challenges that made the job special, Morot added.
He said he can't think of better circumstances than working with a director he loves and respects and an actor who can bring his prosthetics to life.
“You can't dream of anything better. It's all downhill from now."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press