For a movie that is all about spreading joy and optimism, there was quite a bit of tension and frustration behind the scenes on How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Starring Jim Carrey as the eponymous character, the adaption of Dr. Seuss’ children’s story tells the tale of an isolated creature, The Grinch and his disdain towards the festive holiday season. With a plan to destroy and cancel the Christmas spirit, The Grinch poses as a fake Santa Clause to steal presents and ruining Christmas decorations. In his tyrannical plan, he stumbles upon a girl Cindy Lou Who played by a pre-Gossip Girl Taylor Momsen who teaches him the true meaning of Christmas.
A true Christmas classic and a spectacle treat, the movie features incredible production value from its Christmas candy land scenery to makeup (of course). The makeup was so impressive, it won an Oscar during the 73rd Academy Awards in 2000. Set in the fantasy town of Whoville, makeup artists Rick Baker and Gail Rowell-Ryan had the tough job of making the original 1957 illustrations come to life.
Many characters in the Dr. Seuss books have an iconic art style, oddly shaped heads with snouty button noses and The Grinch is no different. Replicating this aesthetic into live action, was one of the challenges Baker and Rowell-Ryan had to face while working on the movie. They wanted to capture the fantastical nature of the characters but still keep them human-like and cute. Another challenge with the Whoville residents were the amount of people they had to transform; from the main characters to extras, the make up team spent hours transforming over 100 people into “Whos” with makeup and prosthetics.
The main challenge for the movie however was The Grinch himself. Filmed from September 1999 to January 2000, Carrey spent almost every single one of those days in full application and costume. Carrey compared the makeup application as “being buried alive” and had to hire a CIA operative to help with relaxation and zen techniques to go through the torturous transformation. With about 2 and a half hours spent in the makeup chair, the process took a toll on everyone involved to a point where the influential Kazuhiro Tsuji, Carrey’s makeup artist for the film, sought therapy after shooting wrapped.
To perfect The Grinch look, countless of tests were done and the process of figuring the right look took about four months. Prior to filming Baker actually, initially Ron Howard and Brian Grazer chose a more simple look for the character due to not wanting to lose Jim Carrey’s likeness. It wasn’t until near the start of the filming where they decided that painting Carrey green wouldn’t do and chose the heavy prosthetic route. They found that despite the prosthetics, Carrey’s mannerisms and performance still showed through.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas demonstrates the hard work and dedication that goes into making movie magic! Despite the high pressure and tense environment, everyone who worked on the film managed to bring their A-game and create a classic that will be remembered in history.