How Special Effects Make-up Transformed Angelina Jolie Into ‘Maleficent’

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) Ph: Film Still ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

By now it should come as no surprise that the appearance of the titular character in Maleficent takes her cues from the villain in the Disney animated classic, Sleeping Beauty. Yet for all the similarities the ‘two’ characters share, there were challenges and decisions made when bringing her to life that affected her appearance.

Arguably the most glaring difference would be Maleficent’s skin tone. Whereas Disney Legend Marc Davis imagined her flesh to be decidedly green, the character portrayed by Angelina Jolie takes on a far more pale complexion. Rick Baker, the legendary special effects makeup artist, was responsible for Maleficent’s appearance and explains that the skin color decision was made to keep Maleficent to appear more ‘relatable’ and not ‘too creature-like,’ emphasizing the intent to keep Maleficent ‘pretty and attractive.’

While Baker didn’t initially plan making extensive use of prosthetics, he says it was Angelina Jolie who pushed for it. ‘Angelina wanted to wear appliances for Maleficent’s look,’ he says, ‘so I did a number of designs with appliances that were subtle. She also wanted a nose, which I actually thought could give her more of a Maleficent look. We ended up with numerous sets of cheeks and ears and horns in the beginning stages. First we made sketches and then later we actually sculpted on a cast of her head and made pieces for her to review.’ Despite Maleficent’s prominent cheek bones, Baker marvels, ‘It’s amazing because the appliances are less than a quarter of an inch at their thickest points and only about a half inch wide. They sit right at the crest of her cheekbones.’ Application of the prosthetics as well as required hair weaves required Jolie to be in the make-up chair for about four hours each morning.

Maleficent Horns Concept © DisneyOne of Baker’s larger challenges, however, would be Maleficent’s iconic horns. ‘The horns were one of the big issues because no one would want to walk around all day with big horns on his or her head,’ he observes. ‘So, I wanted to make them as lightweight as possible and removable because when you have something that sticks out a foot beyond your head and you’re not used to it, you’re apt to run into things.’

Baker and his team sculpted at least four different designs of horns: ‘I did some drawings and modeled some of the designs for the horns on the computer, then we actually ended up sculpting them. We chose the one that we liked the best and did all the work using that one design.’ The end result was not only a very lightweight and thin, made of urethane casting resin, but held some secrets of its own — magnets. Baker explains, ‘After much experimentation, we ended up basically with a maxi-form skullcap that had on it the base of the horns and the first inch or so of the horns. The rest of the horns stuck on with a magnet. They were very strong magnets that held them in place but we could then pop them off in between shots.’

The magnetic horns also provided an element of safety during stuntwork, able to detach automatically in situations where it became necessary, but also added an element of fragility. Despite a special stunt version of the horns being constructed completely of rubber, the team created dozens of sets of horns of different types and replacements.

Materials used for Maleficent's Horns © DisneyOnce the horns were crafted, milliner Justin Smith was charged with covering them. ‘Angelina wanted something that was going to cover the head and completely lose all the hair,’ Smith recalls, ‘but also not be a turban or fabric just wrapped around the head.’ The result is a concoction of various materials such as python skin, very fine leather and some fish skin. ‘It’s all based on being quite clean and simple silhouettes with a wrapping technique that looks like it’s just twisted and wrapped around the head in an easy way,’ Smith adds.

Using the story as a guide, with its numerous references to animals and the creatures of the forest kingdom, Smith worked to bring some animalistic influences to Maleficent’s look. ‘It was the idea that the headpieces weren’t structured at all, that they didn’t have any stitching on them,’ he explains. ‘They look very manmade, with more taken from skins and fabrics that would come from the forest. It’s as though Maleficent wrapped them around her head.’ A total of six different headpieces that corresponded with the seasons and specific scenes were designed. Describing some of the different looks, Smith points out, ‘There’s the summer look, which is a python skin head wrap. We’ve got the christening, which is the leather turban with leather-covered thorns. We’ve got a spring look, which is a narrow strip of leather sewn together so it creates a ribbed effect and then heavily lacquered and painted. Then there’s the stingray head wrap. So it’s stingray on the top and leather on the side.’

Rounding out Maleficent’s look, Baker commissioned a contact lens designer to paint custom contact lenses as designed by Jolie and her personal make-up artist, Toni G. According to G, the contact lenses were inspired by labradorite which Inuit folklore ties to the Aurora Borealis due to its shift in colors as light hits it. The lenses were intricately painted using a combination of greens, blues and yellows. For Maleficent’s nails, they were painted underneath with black and on top with a pearlescent-­like polish, but for the christening scene, the nails underneath were painted blood red.

Images and information courtesy Walt Disney Studios.

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