Costumes help bring movie characters to life. But wearing bulky superhero suits or elaborate creature makeup for hours a day can take a heavy toll on actors.
We’re willing to bet these actors would rather play “background character in comfortable sweatpants and bathrobe” than ever wear any of these nightmarish costumes again. You’d be surprised at how complicated (and uncomfortable) some of your favorite movie costumes really are.
Rory McCann – The Hound, Game of Thrones
The Hound is without a doubt one of the most memorable characters in Game of Thrones. The gruff, hard-edged fan favorite, played by Rory McCann, has a face covered in horrible burn scars. And McCann was not a fan of having to put them on every day.
In an interview, the actor said, “I was always the first in just with this prosthetic on my face… Every day. I will not miss that.” He also had to keep half of his beard shaved during filming. “And then you go back home and people go… ‘Well, it looks ridiculous big man.’”
Christian Bale, Val Kilmer, and Ben Affleck – Batman
Pretty much every single actor who has played the Caped Crusader has described wearing the Batsuit as a uniquely miserable experience. Christian Bale had to have help to get out of his Batman costume in order to use the bathroom.
Val Kilmer, who played the Dark Knight in Batman Forever, said “The suit takes an hour to get into… and then you can’t hear because there are really no earholes in it… Plus, you fall over quite easily.”
And Ben Affleck wore what he called “visual effects pajamas” for many of his Batman v. Superman scenes, which he described as “the most humiliating, ridiculous thing in the world.”
Tim Curry – The Lord of Darkness, Legend
To play the villainous Lord of Darkness, Tim Curry had to wear gigantic horns on his head that were painfully heavy. The three-foot fiberglass props were supported by a harness, but they still hurt his neck terribly, so they were eventually adjusted to be lighter.
Normally, Curry’s makeup took five and a half hours to apply, as his entire body was covered in a cast. At the end of each day, he had to soak in a bath for an hour to dissolve the spirit gum glue that held his prosthetics in place. Curry got impatient one day and just ripped it all off, tearing his own skin so badly that he had to spend a week recovering.
Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies – Legolas and Gimli
The Lord of the Rings is one of the most celebrated fantasy epics of all time, but making it wasn’t always magical for the actors. In order to play the sharpshooting elf Legolas, Orlando Bloom had to wear blue-colored contact lenses over his natural brown eyes.
The contacts damaged Bloom’s eyes so badly that he could only wear them for short periods of time. If you watch closely, you’ll notice that Legolas’ eyes frequently change color. Similarly, the face mask worn by Gimli actor John Rhys-Davies irritated his skin so badly that he threw it into a fire at the end of filming.
Anthony Daniels – C-3PO
Anthony Daniels has played the beloved, nervous android C-3PO in every installment of the Star Wars franchise. But on the first day of filming in that shiny gold costume for 1977’s A New Hope, a piece of the suit broke off and stabbed him in the foot.
His woes didn’t end there. Daniels couldn’t sit down in the costume, so he had to stay propped up in-between takes. Plus, it was over 100 degrees in the Tunisian desert, where they were filming. And because he was completely covered up, people eventually forgot he was a real person, treating him like a prop.
Doug Jones – Amphibian Man, The Shape of Water
Doug Jones is a veteran creature performer, so he’s used to wearing uncomfortable monster suits. When he played a captive fish man in Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, Jones had to sit in a makeup chair for 3 hours every day, before filming for 10 to 12 hours.
The Amphibian Man costume had motorized gills on the neck, so Jones had to block out loud whirring directly in his ears while filming scenes. And he only had a flap on the front of his costume to use the bathroom, which meant holding in half of nature’s calls for 18 hour work days.
Peter Mayhew – Chewbacca
Chewbacca might be one of the most huggable characters in science fiction. But you wouldn’t want to get within hugging distance of actor Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca costume, which was made from real yak and mohair. It stank when it got wet, which was all the time.
Mayhew avoided the water in the trash compactor scene, because he knew his costume would soak it up and smell like death. Also, the costume got so hot that his mask would regularly detach from his face, until a cooling unit was eventually installed.
Scarlett Johansson – Black Widow
You might think Scarlett Johansson has the easiest costume of any of the Avengers to wear, since it’s just a black jumpsuit. But the suit was so unbearably hot and restrictive that the actress started hallucinating after filming a particularly long fight scene.
Chris Hemsworth got to wear a small air conditioner under his bulky Thor breastplate, but Johansson’s suit was so tight she couldn’t even wear underwear. She would sweat so much that she had to wring out her socks at the end of each day, and went through several of the easily-damaged costumes.
The Turtles – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
The Jim Henson Studio was responsible for bringing Turtle Power to life in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And the turtle costumes they designed were like robotic torture devices. Each costume weighed 60 pounds, with complicated machinery stored in the shell to control the Turtles’ facial expressions.
That wouldn’t have been so bad, except the actors weren’t able to remove their costume heads for a breather, because it delayed filming. The suits would soak up their sweat and get progressively heavier. Each actor lost significant weight during filming, as they were essentially wearing weighted sweat suits. Cowabunga?
Robert John Burke – RoboCop
Robert John Burke took over the title role in RoboCop 3, after original actor Peter Weller turned it down. Unfortunately, the RoboCop costume was allegedly built specifically for Weller, who was significantly smaller than Burke. Wearing it, according to Burke, was constant agony.
The costume was 150 pounds of fiberglass and steel. Burke described it as a “torture chamber,” and said it was like “acting with somebody on your shoulders.” He frequently had to drop weight by jumping rope and sitting in a sauna so he could fit into the suit for the day’s filming.
Bill the Pony – Lord of the Rings
Sam’s trusty pony Bill gets sent away pretty early on in the Fellowship’s adventure. It’s a bittersweet moment for fans, but likely a huge relief for the two actors who played Bill. That’s right – for much of the movie, Bill isn’t a real pony at all, but two men in a costume.
The real-life pony had trouble walking in difficult terrain, so it was swapped out for the “pony costume” for certain sequences. When Sam leads Bill through the marsh? That’s a pony suit, with two actors who could barely see where they’re going, and frequently got stuck or fell over into the swamp.
Jabba the Hutt – Return of the Jedi
The notorious space slug gangster Jabba the Hutt casts an intimidating shadow on Return of the Jedi, thanks to the work of several very uncomfortable people. Jabba is actually a giant costume inhabited by a total of four cramped puppeteers.
Two men sat in Jabba’s torso, controlling his arms and mouth, while a little person sat in the tail to swing it back and forth as needed. A fourth person lay in Jabba’s throne with a remote to control Jabba’s facial expressions, while a fifth crouched beneath the puppet to blow cigar smoke through Jabba’s hooka.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Mr. Freeze
Arnold Schwarzenegger might have the distinction of playing the corniest Batman villain, but he worked hard for it. That gigantic suit of armor he wears as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin took a team of 11 people about 6 hours to put on his body.
And that weird blue glow in Mr. Freeze’s mouth? LED lights were fitted around Schwarzenegger’s teeth to achieve the effect. Problem was, the lights began to leak battery acid into his mouth, so balloons were crammed in there to protect the star from further burns.
Michelle Pfieffer – Catwoman
There’s no denying that Michelle Pfieffer absolutely killed it as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns. However, the role wasn’t the only thing that was nearly killed. Pfieffer says her Catwoman mask was constantly “smashing my face and choking me,” making it very hard to breathe.
Pfieffer had to be covered in powder just to fit into the vinyl costume, which was then vacuum-sealed around her. She ate nothing but tomato soup during the whole shoot, to make sure she wouldn’t gain any weight and ruin the fit.
Tom Holland – Spider-Man
Tom Holland is arguably the most delightful Spider-Man yet, but the role isn’t always fun. One version of Holland’s Spider-Man suit was a single piece without a removable mask, which meant he wasn’t able to drink any water. This became a problem filming for long hours in a costume that traps body heat.
Because the costume was skin tight, it required Holland to wear “special” underwear. And because it was one piece, when Holland had to use the bathroom, the only solution was for him to remove the entire suit, quickly throw on a robe, and run to the toilet.
Jennifer Lawrence – Mystique
Jennifer Lawrence playing the blue-skinned shapeshifter in four X-Men films. But it wasn’t as simply as putting on a cape or cowl – the process to cover her body in paint and prosthetics took 6 hours. And the costume was pretty restrictive.
Lawrence discovered that using the bathroom while in the Mystique costume was a huge chore, because she couldn’t sit down. She had to answer nature’s call while standing up, using a small funnel. Because a funnel is an imperfect system, the costume eventually cultivated “a distinct smell.”
Anne Hathaway – Catwoman
Anne Hathaway helped close out Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy with a bang as Catwoman. But her Catwoman costume sounds like a Batman villain unto itself, with Hathaway describing it as a “psychological terrorist.” She was so worried about fitting into it that it dominated her life for an entire year.
Referring to how she was expected to be both skinny and muscular, she said, “I didn’t understand how you could be thin and strong. I went into the gym for 10 months and didn’t come out.” We’d totally understand if she never starred in another superhero movie.
Robert Downey, Jr. – Iron Man
“I am Iron Man.” It’s hard to picture those words spoken by anyone other than Robert Downey, Jr. But he’d probably rather be saying, “Somebody get me out of this thing,” since he described wearing the Iron Man costume as being “tarred and feathered and covered in machine parts.”
As uncomfortable as the suit is, Downey claims to have a leg up on his costume-clad costars, saying “[I’m] the first person who’s been able to relieve themselves while wearing their suit.” Because it’s so big and bulky, and doesn’t hold noticeable water stains, this is entirely possible.
Ralph Fiennes – Voldemort
Ralph Fiennes brought the evil Voldemort to bone-chilling life in the Harry Potter films with an unforgettable performance. Some of his onscreen contempt for the Boy Who Lived may have come from how much he hated wearing his Voldemort makeup.
Fiennes wore white makeup, latex coverings over his eyebrows, and fake teeth. His nose was removed with digital effects. It doesn’t sound like a terrible process, but Fiennes grew so tired of it that he said he’d consider turning a movie down in the future if it required him to wear special makeup.
Oscar Isaac – Apocalypse
Oscar Isaac took on the role of X-Men uber villain Apocalypse specifically because he was excited to work with series actors Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender. But his 40-pound Apocalypse costume was so cumbersome and difficult he barely got to even see his co-stars.
The suit was so bulky that he had to have a special saddle built for him to sit on, and would be wheeled in and out of a tent in between takes. Also, the rubber and latex glued to his face squeaked loudly every time he moved, which meant virtually all of his dialogue had to be re-recorded later.
Gary Oldman – Dracula
Gary Oldman wore a number of costumes to portray the famous vampire in 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. He spent three weeks with the makeup crew before filming started, coming up with different looks for his character that he eventually came to hate.
In addition to shaving his hairline in order to apply his “Old Dracula” makeup, Oldman had to wear a batsuit for a transformation scene that he felt looked ridiculous. Director Francis Ford Coppola had Oldman whisper something creepy to each member of the cast before shooting, to make the bat seem scarier.
Kevin Peter Hall – The Predator
The costume worn by the only alien to beat up Arnold Schwarzenegger was actually several different suits and heads, worn by actor Kevin Peter Hall (who replaced a then-unknown Jean Claude Van Damme). Hall also donned a motorized face piece, with jaws operated by puppeteers.
For three months, Hall had to trudge through lakes and the humid Mexican jungle while wearing a giant rubber suit that soaked up water and sweat.The suits then had to be blasted with a dehumidifier each night to get rid of the dampness and the smell, which must have been out of this world.
Jim Carrey – The Grinch
Jim Carrey’s unforgettable performance as the Grinch came at the cost of making the actor just as miserable as the title character. It took 8 hours to apply Carrey’s full-body makeup, prosthetics, and costume, a process he described as “being buried alive each day.”
The producers had to bring in a CIA operative and train Carrey to cope with torture, in order to prevent him from having a complete meltdown during the process. It was eventually brought down to 2 hours of application and 1 hour of removal, a process Carrey endured 92 times during filming.
John Matuszak – Sloth, The Goonies
The gentle giant Sloth was played by John Matuszak, a former defensive end for the Raiders. Matuszak had 15 layers of prosthetics applied to his face each day, which took 5 hours. In addition, there were motorized components in his face to move his ears and one of his eyes.
He was primarily acting with kids, who would horse around with him, tearing his makeup or splashing it with water. Every time that happened, he’d have to go back to makeup to get it reapplied for another four or five hours. Despite his violent reputation in the NFL, Matuszak never lost his temper with his young co-stars.
Robin Williams – Popeye
Not even Robin Williams could save Popeye from becoming yet another forgettable live-action adaptation of a beloved cartoon. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t try his best. The giant fake forearms Williams wore to portray Popeye took over an hour to apply, and cut off the circulation in his arms.
The actor joked, “They tied me off almost as if I were a junkie.” Jokes aside, the pain was so bad that Willaims could only film for short periods of time, sometimes as short as a half-hour. Then, he’d have to stop and get his blood circulating again.
Gwyneth Paltrow – Rosemary, Shallow Hal
Gwyneth Paltrow donned a 25 pound fat suit for the comedy Shallow Hal, about looking beyond people’s physical appearance to see their inner beauty. Paltrow thought it would be funny, until she noticed that “no one would even look at me… it was incredibly isolating and really lonely and sad.”
It doesn’t sound funny to us, either. Her facial prosthetics and wig took 2 additional hours to apply, and each piece was destroyed upon removal. The makeup team had to carry several extra pieces, especially because they were filming in the summer heat. “It was very claustrophobic,” she says.
Buddy Ebsen – The Tin Man, The Wizard of Oz
For a movie about making friends in an enchanted land, The Wizard of Oz was a shockingly gruesome film set that left many actors injured. The original Tin Man, Buddy Ebsen, wore makeup that contained toxic aluminum dust. Ebsen inhaled too much of the dust and was hospitalized (and replaced).
The Wicked Witch’s makeup was also toxic. It was copper-based and had to be removed with acetone after filming. When actress Margaret Hamilton was accidentally burned during a scene, her makeup had to be removed with alcohol, because acetone is flammable. Ouch.
Michael Jai White – Spawn
Best known for his role as Gambol in The Dark Knight, Michael Jai White actually donned a (CGI) cape himself for 1997’s Spawn. And it was not an experience he cares to repeat.
White said, “There is no footage of me ever saying that I liked Spawn. I have never said that I thought it was a good movie.”
Why the hate? For starters, White’s Spawn costume had to be glued to his body, a process that took 2-4 hours. He also had to wear painful yellow contact lenses that hurt his eyes, and a full face mask that restricted his breathing.
Ron Perlman – Hellboy
To play the supernatural superhero Hellboy, Ron Perlman wore a back and chest covering, plus full prosthetics on his face and head. On top of all of that, he had to be painted red. The process took four hours each day, and he endured it 86 times while filming the first Hellboy.
Perlman doesn’t deny the unpleasantness of the costume. But he says he was incredibly grateful and proud to play the character. He underwent the grueling process one last time to visit a six year old leukemia patient, who had asked the Make-a-Wish Foundation to meet Hellboy.
Malin Akerman – Silk Spectre, Watchmen
Who watches the Watchmen’s tailor? To play Silk Spectre in the gritty superhero adaptation Watchmen, Malin Akerman had to wear a skin-tight latex costume that left her entire body feeling completely numb. “And the smell? When you take it off, it smells like a human condom.”
In addition to the numbness that left her feeling like “an 80-year-old woman,” Akerman’s hair was constantly getting snagged on the costume’s zippers and yanked painfully. She was in such agony trying to do fight scenes in the way-too-tight outfit that she called her husband in tears every night after filming.
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