Many films require the characters to age during the story, or tell the story in flashback from an older perspective. Less often an actor or actress undertakes the role of a character considerably older than themselves. Particularly for women there has been a tendency for the ageing to be handled, shall we say,‘delicately’: the studio didn’t want to portray a star with wrinkles or the star herself objected. But an increasing number of makeups have gone much further than the gray wig. Sometimes TV mini-series such as Roots have done better than many contemporary films.
There are so many of these makeups that I have had to sub-divide the section by the date of the movie. I’ve shown black and asian ageing separately because of the different facial characteristics. I also given separate sub-sections to science-fiction and fantasy (premature ageing seems to be an occupational hazard for a series regular in TV shows), and to soaps and comedies (often using a stylised, if not caricatured, look).
Although the section is entitled old-age makeup this does not mean that the character has to be ‘old’, just significantly older than the actress playing the part – two of the most effective recent old-age makeups (on Kate Beckinsale in Click and on Rosamund Pike in Barney’s Version) took characters into their fifties rather than their eighties. In other cases it is the age range depicted – in El secreto de sus ojos Soledad Villamil plays a character in 1999 who is also seen in flashbacks set in 1975.
The flip-side of old-age makeup is age reversal. Sometimes this occurs in fantasy movies but perhaps its most common use is in the biopic, where an actress in her thirties might play a character from teenage through to old-age.
You will also find many examples of ageing makeup in the look-alike makeups section taken from various biopics.