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Oscar winner Kazuhiro Tsuji on turning Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill

Bervin Cheong

The Star/Asia News Network

 /  Mon, March 5, 2018  /  04:09 pm
Oscar winner Kazuhiro Tsuji on turning Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill

Make-Up and Hairstyling artists (from L) Kazuhiro Tsuji, Lucy Sibbick and David Malinowski poses in the press room with the Oscar for Make-Up and Hairstyling during the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018, in Hollywood, California. (AFP/Frederic J. Brown)

In Darkest Hour, actor Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill asks in one of the scenes: “Which self should I be today?”

The answer (if the film’s context is taken out) is that he plays Kazuhiro Tsuji’s Churchill.

Tsuji, who is the film’s makeup artist focusing on special effects prostheses, spent about four months developing and perfecting the amazing transformation of Oldman into Churchill, Britain’s wartime prime minister.

So yes, you can indeed say that the 48-year-old Japanese has a claim on the character. After all, he helped in bringing the on-screen Churchill to life as much as Oldman and film director Joe Wright did.

But Tsuji was initially not keen on taking the job.

The reason being, he had left the filmmaking world – which he found emotionally unhealthy – to focus on creating sculptures.

Some of the films he has worked on before calling it a day include Hellboy, Planet Of The Apes, Looper, Tropic Thunder, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

He also did not think he could make Oldman look like Churchill.

“Gary does not look like Winston Churchill at all,” says Tsuji in a phone interview.

“The challenge was to get him to look believable in the part. From the body shape to the hairstyle and the face, it was all a big challenge,” he added.

The two men had met when Oldman was considering signing on to Tim Burton’s Planet Of The Apes (2001) remake. He would have needed Tsuji to turn him into a monkey.

Read also: Gary Oldman's Oscar his finest hour

A still from 'Darkest Hour.'A still from 'Darkest Hour.' (Focus Features LLC. /Jack English)

While Oldman did not take on the role in that film, the actor was convinced only Tsuji could transform him for Darkest Hour.

How exactly did Oldman lure him out of retirement?

Tsuji shares: “When he reached out to me in 2016 and told me about this project, he said that if I could do the makeup for this show, he’d take the job.

“We had a meeting. I told him at that time that I’d think about it for a week. Because it would be a very big decision and commitment for me to make a return to the film industry,” Tsuji states.

A compromise was reached – Tsuji never had to be present on Darkest Hour set on a daily basis.

Instead, the silicone prostheses he designed would be applied each day by artists David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, who share the Oscar nomination in the Best Makeup And Hairstyling category with Tsuji.

If Tsuji wins, he will be the first Asian to do so in the category.

Tsuji already clinched an award for Best Makeup/Hair for the film at the recent British Academy Film Awards (Bafta). He also won a Bafta in 2001 for How The Grinch Stole Christmas and has two prior Oscar nominations for his work in Norbit and Click.

“Gary is amazing. He’s a perfectionist and respects everybody. An amazing actor too. He’s a really talented and great artiste,” Tsuji praises Oldman.

According to Tsuji, what he achieved for Darkest Hour is now his favorite work so far.

He says it is something he had always wanted to do career-wise for a very long time.

“It’s one of the most challenging things I have done. It took a lot of time to prepare for it, as well to finalise the design. I wanted to make sure that what I created for the film was believable.”

He adds: “It was quite difficult to figure out the one ‘answer’ to make everyone happy.

“These days, the quality of the camera is so great that it captures everything – any kind of flaw or detail.”

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This article appeared on The Star newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post