Considering how well 42-year old Matt Damon carried off the role of 17-year old Scott Thorson in Behind the Candelabra, I'm curious to know if it is easier, in terms of make-up, to make an older person look (25 years, in this case) younger than the other way around. While I can't think of a good example of a younger actor looking convincing (or not) as an older person, you'd think that it'd be easier.

Or does it vary from actor to actor? If so, which physical quality determines the effectiveness of any make-up required for the part?

  • 2
    Didn't they do some weird stuff to age/de-age Brad Pitt for Benjamin Button? Your question deals in which is most convincing? I can't say, let's hope someone who saw Button weighs in.
    – wbogacz
    Oct 10 '13 at 19:25
  • 2
    @wbogacz They event got an Oscar for it I think, yet it was really quite elaborate using a combination of make-up and CGI, but I remember it to be pretty convincing. For de-aging you don't have much to do apart from "photoshopping" away the wrinkles. I also remember X-Men 3 being praised for the de-aging of Stewart and McKellen in a flashback, yet they looked a bit like wax-figures right from the solarium.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Oct 10 '13 at 21:33
  • I would say it changes depending on the actor, and how old or young they look before any makeup is applied. As a general rule-of-thumb though, I would venture to say it's easier to make them look older. Most of the studies/documentaries I've seen on aging point to wrinkles being the main thing that makes you look older, and I would imagine it's easier to add wrinkles than it is to get rid of them. This question would be best answered by a makeup artist though, and I'm very far from being one. Oct 11 '13 at 13:22
  • @druciferre But won't it be easier to mask wrinkles than to add them? +1 for make-up artists :) Oct 11 '13 at 13:28
  • You could smear the face with clear rubber cement, pinch the skin together and create what I would say should be very realistic wrinkles. I have seen magicians use this for various tricks (at least I think it was rubber cement they were using). But anyways, I haven't a clue how you would mask wrinkles (maybe some of the older ladies can help us with that). Oct 11 '13 at 16:34

Speaking from a theatrical background, stage-work, I will honestly say it's a combination.

The actor/actress being made up affects this. Do they have smooth skin or wrinkled, do they have a tendency to look younger/older than they are to start with? I find it's easier to make a younger person look older because it's a case of addition over reduction. To make someone look older, you can create laugh-lines, create drooping jowls or extra chin flab. You can add the wrinkles, play with the hair (roughing it and then whitening it works...or if you have liberties, even thinning it throughout the head, or balding them). When you're working in reverse, to de-age a person, you have to handle the reduction of lines and extras...

Another factor to account for is the difference of ages. It's very easy to age or reduce a person 5 to even 10 years, but a 20 year difference going either way, you're going to need serious expertise.

It's similar to drawing. In actuality, it's easier to draw or paint an adult than an infant, simply because of the features that age bring to our faces over the smoothness of infancy.

I had one fun experience when doing makeup on the "Noah" character for the show "Two By Two." Before the show, I needed to age the 40 something year old man to look like he was 900 years old. In a VERY short time, I had to de-age him to look 90 (well. 90 their time, more like 50 our time. So about a 10 years difference). Later in the show, I had to re-age him to about 900.

Effectively, I had to age him in all cases, but it was an interesting challenge...and as I'm not a professional, I found it to be a fun one...but it wasn't too difficult.

I have, however, encountered difficult situations. A production of "Drood" where Jasper was played by a 19 year old and Drood by a 32 year old. Jasper is supposed to be 6 or so years older than Drood. We opted to age the 19 year old and did nothing to Drood.

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