The special effects master who helped Gary Oldman win an Oscar
UPDATE: "Darkest Hour" has won the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling. Gary Oldman has won best actor for his role as Winston Churchill.
Gary Oldman's Oscar-winning performance for the film "Darkest Hour" is inextricably linked to his jaw-dropping transformation into Winston Churchill, which required almost three hours in the makeup chair. It is the work of artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, who, along with colleagues David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick, also took home an Academy Award for his work in the film.
Tsuji lives and works in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, and his hyper-realistic sculptures have taken over the space. Big heads of historical figures (most prominently, an enormous bust of Andy Warhol perched on a silver plinth) are a testament to his decades-long career as an artist and master of special effects.
"I needed not only a makeup artist, but I needed an artist for this," said Oldman, who coaxed the Tokyo-born sculptor out of retirement from the film industry. "There's only one man -- Kazuhiro Tsuji -- and my playing Winston was contingent on Kazu."
Tsuji has been working as a special effects makeup artist for 25 years, on blockbuster after blockbuster. He received two other Oscar nominations before winning the award for "Darkest Hour." But in 2012 he quit the film industry and became fully dedicated to his three-dimensional portraits.
When Oldman emailed Tsuji in 2016 about returning for a final stint, the artist's love for high-profile effigies spoke louder. He had never had the opportunity to create a historical figure for a film.
The mutation from Oldman, a slender 59-year-old, to Winston Churchill, a heavily built 66 year-old, required a number of skillful maneuvers. "Gary looks like a greyhound but Churchill is like a bulldog," Tsuji said.
"We had a number of makeup tests," Oldman said in an interview with Vanity Fair, "and I think I wore the makeup in total 61 times -- over 200 hours in the makeup chair. There's something very special when you're in the makeup chair, and about two hours and 45 minutes in, you start to look in the mirror and you see the spirit of the man. It's remarkable."
Tsuji's greatest achievement was creating not a rubber mask, but a nearly invisible layer of makeup and prosthetics -- the most present, yet inconspicuous element on screen -- that helped Oldman win a BAFTA award and an Oscar.
"The great thing about Gary is he just disappears," said Tsuji. "After 10 minutes, I start to forget about the makeup and start to forget about Gary because he becomes Churchill, and that's really rare."
Watch the film above to discover more about Gary Oldman's transformation for "Darkest Hour."