In movies there is sometimes a head shaving seen, often signifying a drastic change in a person. For example when Lex Luthor gets his head shaven in Superman Vs. Batman or this scene in 50/50.

I was wondering, if something goes wrong in a scene like this, say an actor sneezes or laughs or the shot is just missed, what do they do then? Does shooting just stop for weeks/months for the hair to grow back? Do they substitute in fake hair? I suppose sometimes the hair is fake to begin with but I imagine lots of times it is real.

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    Call in the stunt cranium Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 16:47
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    THANKS for asking this, you beat me to it. I wonder if they use first a bald cap, then a wig, and shave the wig?
    – Mikey
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 20:20
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    They usually require the actor to undergo immediate head replacement. Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 20:25
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    The title led me to expect a rather bloodier question...
    – Oliphaunt
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 21:23

3 Answers 3


It takes a couple of minutes to shave a head, so assuming nothing gets messed up when the initial cut with the shaver is made, any mistakes can just be edited around.

If there is a significant mistake when the initial cut is made I assume filming could be stopped, hair could be patched and start the shave again - probably from a different spot.

Where some performance is required, like Natalie Portman crying in V for Vendetta (

) they will have some dry runs to get the performance to the director's liking. Then, it's amazing how only having one chance focuses everyone's mind and even if there is a mistake or if something unexpected happens everyone will know they just have to keep going - such mistakes can give a scene an unexpected dynamic, or make it seem more natural, if Portman sneezed would it ruin the scene? No, the actor doing the shave would simply act like and uncaring guard and impatiently move her head back into position and continue.

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    I note that in the video, we see the actor's hair being cut about a third of the way through and then not quite at the end. That leaves plenty of time to do retakes if you need to. For all we know, she might have laughed at the halfway point or a cell phone went off at the very end. But there was definitely enough usable footage for the scene. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 21:59
  • @Thunderforge Indeed, who knows what happened in the missing footage (DVD extras anyone) but to suggest a laugh or some other mistake is the most likely reason for the edit point is silly.
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 22:33
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    Sorry, I didn't mean to say that it was the most likely reason for an edit point, just that they only need a few seconds of footage and cutting hair takes more than a few seconds, so there is plenty of margin for error. Later in the video, they show some alternate angles of a different point of hair cutting where things are still going well. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 22:44

Although some actors actually shave their heads, the look can also be achieved with a bald cap.

By extension, if a head shaving scene has to be re-shot, they can use a prosthesis. (i.e. a special wig designed to be shaved bald.)

Here is a discussion of actors and bald heads for roles.


My speculation is that they rarely, if ever, actually cut an actor's hair live on set.

Instead, they probably use a wig and prosthetics to make it LOOK like they're cutting their hair, and then have the hair professionally cut off-screen (or use a bald cap prosthetic in some cases) and show the actor with the finished hair cut.

A studio/director/actor/etc might choose this method instead of actually cutting their hair for a myriad of reasons. A simple one could be that the scene is in a flash-back and they only have the short hair for a short amount of screen time. It would be a lot smarter and easier to just film it with a prosthetic, rather than let that particular scene dictate the order of filming (remember, a lot of scenes tend to get filmed out of order).

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    Maybe on a sitcom or something where many episodes with different timelines are shot close together they would use makeup - but for a film, to say it would rarely or never happen is wrong (except in the pedantic sense that a scene requiring a head shave is rare therefore shaving a head for real is rare).
    – Mr_Thyroid
    Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 16:44
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    Sure, as long as the actor doesn't have method-hair. Commented Dec 16, 2016 at 16:48

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