Adrien Morot, a Montreal-born makeup artist, woke up to an email Tuesday morning from his “good friend: Brendan Fraser.”
The Hollywood actor was writing to congratulate Morot on his Oscar nomination for his work on The Whale.
“I was still very groggy. I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’,” Morot said.
Before replying to Fraser, however, Morot had some things he needed to do.
“I went to look at the news to see if he was nominated so that I could reply quickly and he was,” Morot said, adding the pair exchanged a few jokes.
Fraser snagged a nomination in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category, for his portrayal of Charlie — a 600 lb man, who tries to build a relationship with his estranged daughter Ellie, played by Sadie Sink.
Morot was nominated in the Makeup and Hairstyling category and is responsible for Fraser’s radical physical transformation.
Morot said when he was first approached by The Whale director Darren Aronofsky, with whom he’s collaborated in the past, he was told he had a five-week window in which to develop the character.
After reading the script, Morot started building an image bank of what people with Charlie’s condition would look like. He also researched what other makeup artists before him had done.
“It’s always a starting point,” he explained, adding that’s how you learn what can be done and how far you can push things.
But what quickly struck him was that movies in which obese characters were depicted were generally comedies or science-fiction movies.
“Every time those kinds of makeup have been done in the past, it was always like the character was the butt of the joke,” he said.
That’s when Morot realized he would need more than five weeks to be able to do the character and the storyline justice.
“It’s a heavy drama,” he said of the film. “It can’t be a joke. It cannot be. It cannot be any of these other movies that I’ve seen.”
It was important to Morot to approach the the topic from a place of empathy.
Brendan Fraser as Charlie in “The Whale”. Photo Courtesy of Adrien Morot. Courtesy Adrien Morot
So he did what he needed to done and got down on his knees and begged for more time.
“And so we ended up with 12 weeks to build all of the body prosthetics and facial prosthetics for the character,” Morot said.
Building the prosthetics is only one part of the challenge. The next one is putting them on.
The first makeup test, where Fraser was transformed into Charlie, took seven hours.
Morot recalls how Aronofsky then suggested that maybe it wasn’t necessary to use all the prosthetics and that maybe padding could work.
Morot, however, argued against and won his case.
The team eventually managed to get makeup down to less than three and a half hours, not including the time it takes at the end of the day to remove it all — a process that takes about an hour.
Brendan Fraser in the makeup chair for ‘The Whale.’ Photo Courtesy of Adrien Morot. Courtesy Adrien Morot
Moreover, the prosthetics can only be worn once and have to be constantly remade, which can be a painstaking process.
At the beginning of the movie, Charlie sports what Morot described as a “scruffy beard.”
“To do that in the prosthetics, all those hairs need to be punched in one at a time.”
Morot dispelled any myth about the job being glamourous.
“It’s very hard work,” he said, joking that the interview requests he received Tuesday morning are about as glamourous as it gets.
But he’s OK with that. Morot said he’s happiest when he’s busy running around with things to do and stuff to fix.
In fact, while winning an Oscar might be nice, Morot is a little apprehensive.
“I am hoping that I am not going to have to walk on stage and make a fool of myself,” he said.
While Morot is based out of Los Angeles for work, he divides his time between L.A. and Montreal, where his wife and two sons live.
He credits his hometown for jumpstarting his career and says because Montreal’s film community is small, it can do the same for others.
“I think that you have a lot more chances of impressing big name producers and directors that might be coming … from out of town. And if you can impress them and or impress them enough that they remember you, well, that can be a great launching pad for a an international career.”
This is Morot’s second Oscar nomination. He was nominated in 2011 for the film Barney’s Version.