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The 25 Most Dramatic Transformations In Movie History And How They Happened

Ian Smith - Wikimedia / Universal Pictures

It's no secret that most of the time and effort behind the movies we love doesn't appear on screen.

And I don't just mean all the impressive special effects that are added in with computers for big blockbusters.

Every film relies on a makeup and wardrobe department, who are responsible for everything from regular clothes to impressive, full-body costumes.

The actors on this list spent hours in the makeup chair every day to transform themselves for a role, and in some cases it's actually hard to tell it was them.

1. John Travolta - Hairspray

Along with a huge dollop of makeup, it took a 30-pound body suit and five pounds of facial prosthetics to transform Travolta into Mrs. Edna Turnblad.

2. Eric Stoltz - Mask

Mask Eric Stoltz
Maggslafay - Wikimedia

Mask was inspired by a teenager named Rocky Dennis, and filmed in his actual neighborhood. According to Cher, an old man near the set actually mistook Stoltz in his facial prosthetics for the real Rocky.

So it's no surprise the movie won an Oscar for Best Makeup.

3. John Leguizamo - Spawn

For this horror-themed comic book film, the skinny Leguizamo strapped himself into an enormous body suit to play the demonic clown.

It took more than an hour to pull the costume on or off, and Leguizamo revealed he once went to the bathroom in the suit when he couldn't take it off in time.

4. Eddie Murphy - Coming to America

Murphy is known for disguising himself in makeup for his movies, but playing Saul from Coming to America was his most ambitious transformation of all.

Murphy claimed he would walk in the makeup around telling people, "Hi, I'm Eddie Murphy" in his regular voice, but says no one believed him.

5. Ron Perlman - Hellboy

It takes four hours for Perlman to transform into this devilish superhero, but the kindhearted actor has put the horns on multiple times for charity visits with Make-A-Wish kids.

6. Brad Pitt - Benjamin Button

For this supernatural drama about a man who ages backwards, Pitt spent five hours a day in the makeup chair.  

7. Ralph Fiennes - Harry Potter series

Despite what you may expect, this actor's transformation into an evil wizard was entirely practical. Only removing his nose and changing the color of his eyes were accomplished with computers.

8. Jim Carrey - How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It's safe to say Carrey's experience on this film made him very grinchy.

The actor spent two hours having his makeup put on each day, and it was so uncomfortable that it made him feel claustrophobic.

Carrey said he became a "Zen master" during the process, but rumors say a CIA agent had to be brought in to teach the star torture-resisting techniques to finish the shoot.

9. Johnny Depp - Alice in Wonderland

Depp is no stranger to makeup and quirky costumes, but his unrecognizable turn as the Mad Hatter in this Disney film was his strangest transformation of all.

10. Bill Skarsgard - It

Skarsgard is the second actor to play Pennywise, the evil clown, but his costume was much more intricate than Tim Curry's original outfit.

At first, it took five hours to apply the clown makeup. But by the end of the shoot, the makeup artist could do it in just two.

11. John Matuszak - The Goonies

John Matuszak Sloth
United Artists / Warner Bros.

Not only did the former football player spend five hours a day in the makeup chair to play Sloth, he also had to learn to blink in time with his mask's mechanical left eye.

12. Gwyneth Paltrow - Shallow Hal

To play 300-pound Rosemary, Paltrow strapped on a 25-pound body suit after spending four hours in the makeup chair.

She said that strangers no longer recognized her on the street with the suit on, and their reactions to her body helped to inspire her performance.

13. Naomi Grossman - American Horror Story

While she appeared on the small screen, we couldn't leave Grossman's performance as Pepper off this list.

It takes three hours in the makeup chair to completely transform Grossman, and she has to act with one eye, because her contact lens is not transparent.

14. Tim Roth - Planet of The Apes

While the entire cast suited up for this sci-fi adventure, the makeup that transformed Roth into the evil Thade is so good many fans didn't realize it was him underneath the fur.

Spending four hours a day in the makeup chair was no trouble for Roth, but the restrictive costume left him with painful trapped nerves and herniated vertebrae.

15. Doug Jones

You may not recognize his name, but Jones is a character actor known for his performing in prosthetics and enormous costumes.

While all of his roles as monsters, aliens, and supernatural creatures are impressive, his work as the Faun in Pan's Labyrinth may be his best.

Jones had to memorize lines in Spanish (a language he does not speak) to move his lips in time with his prosthetic body parts. And because the servos whirling around his head were too loud to hear the actress beside him, Jones had to actually count the seconds until it was his line.

16. Michael Chiklis - Fantastic Four

It was Chiklis' idea to use a full-body suit for The Thing, Marvel's rock-like superhero, instead of CGI. But the actor lived to regret his suggestion.

It took three hours to put on the 60-pound latex suit, and Chiklis later revealed he needed therapy to cope with the experience of wearing it all day long.

17. Jeff Goldblum - The Fly

Throughout this sci-fi horror film, Goldblum slowly transforms into a half-human, half-fly creature. For the last stages of the effect, the actor spent five hours in the makeup chair.

18. Rebecca Romjin - X-Men series

To play the bad and blue supervillain Mystique, Romjin had more than 100 prosthetic parts applied to her body, over nine hours in the makeup chair, with more than 60% of her body covered in some type of makeup effect.

19. Michael Keaton - Beetlejuice

Keaton was almost unrecognizable as the "ghost with the most," and actually suggested most of the characters signature features himself.

20. Tom Cruise - Tropic Thunder

For his part as the fiery movie producer Les Grossman, Cruise had just two demands: "I want fat hands, and I'm going to dance."

21. Anjelica Huston - The Witches

What kind of magic does it take to transform an actress like Huston into the revolting High Witch? Nine hours in the makeup chair and presto-changeo, you have a movie moment that still terrifies young viewers.

22. Dave Bautista - Guardians of the Galaxy

Applying the 18 prosthetic pieces for Bautista's costume took four hours, and he spent most of them standing up. But co-star Chris Pratt says the former professional wrestler passed the hours with no complaints.

23. John Hurt - The Elephant Man

Hurt wore prosphetics made from body molds of the real life "elephant man," Joseph Merrick. They took seven-to-eight hours to apply each day, and wearing them was so exhausting that Hurt only filmed on alternate days.

24. Zoe Saldana - Guardians of the Galaxy

Like her co-star, Saldana learned it's not easy being green. She also sat through hours of makeup to play the interstellar bounty hunter Gamora.

25. Johnny Knoxville - Bad Grandpa

Transforming Knoxville into the elderly Irving Zisman took three hours each day, and performing all of the movie's painful stunts in prosthetics probably took a toll on his body.

Which transformation impressed you the most?

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com