Beauty In The Eye Of The Digital Artist

Josh Dickey lifts the curtain on “beauty work” in the movie industry, which he describes as “a digital procedure of sorts, in which a handful of skilled artists use highly specialized software in the final stages of post-production to slim, de-age and enhance actors’ faces and bodies”:

As Photoshop is to magazine photography, digital beauty has become to celebrities in motion: a potent blend of makeup, plastic surgery, muscle-sculpting, hair restoration, dental work and dermatology. Even the most flawless-in-real-life human specimens are going under the digital knife. Because they can. Because in this age of ultra-high definition, they have to. …

The technique made its “out” debut when Lola [Visual Effects] aged Brad Pitt backwards for Benjamin Button in 2008. As it turned out, the most striking visual in David Fincher’s epic wasn’t Button the shriveled, elderly man-child. It came toward the end of the film, when Pitt emerged into the golden light of a dance studio as a naturally radiant, strapping 20-something — this, at a time when Pitt, in his mid-40s, was just beginning to age into his real-life role as the sexiest man alive.

Dickey writes that, though few performers cop to it, beauty work is de riguer in Hollywood:

A recent comedy hit featured a top actress in her 40s who required beauty work on every single shot she was in — some 600 total. With artists working around the clock, seven days a week, the beauty work alone took close to three months.

The payoff? Nearly everything written about the film remarked at how fit and young the actress looked. No one suspected it was anything but good genes and clean livin’.