6 Famous Movie Costumes That Put Actors Through Total Hell
We give digital special effects a lot of grief for how incredibly silly actors look flailing around in front of a green screen. Regardless, CGI has saved those actors from a whole lot of obnoxious and unnecessary suffering on set. As it turns out, some of the most iconic costumes in the history of cinema were a (sometimes literal) pain in the ass. This includes ...
Chewbacca's Costume Was A Wet, Stinking Nightmare
As every dog owner quickly finds out, walking your dog in the rain or letting them run around in puddles may look adorable, but unless you throw some shampoo on that little sucker fast, that dog is going to smell like a dumpster. For Han Solo's best buddy, that was a daily on-set reality. During the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, actor Peter Mayhew was constantly on his toes trying to prevent the Chewbacca costume (which was made out of yak hair and mohair) from getting all kinds of nasty.
Whenever Chewie was out in the frigid wastelands of Hoth, snow kept sticking to the costume. It didn't help that at one point, George Lucas told Mayhew and Harrison Ford to "please roll in the snow" for added authenticity, and neither of them was a big enough actor yet to say "Please eat a dick, George." The unfortunate side effect was that when Mayhew went inside a heated tent, the snow melted and made him look (and smell) like a wet dog.
Thus making the Wookies' love of Christmas even more baffling.
Mayhew also had to keep this in mind during the famous trash compactor scene in A New Hope. While the actors weren't standing in an actual pool of garbage and Stormtrooper poop, they did have to waddle through a mixture of water, oil, and diesel. Imagine having to take that shit to the dry cleaner. Mayhew's solution was to find a ledge to stand on so that he could minimize the amount of gross on his costume -- which is why when you watch the scene, you may notice that Chewie looks like he went off to mark his territory on the corner at one point.
Alas, none of that could protect the most important part of Chewbacca: his beautiful face, which sometimes fell off. Mayhew's body heat would repeatedly cause the Chewie mask to separate from the costume's eyes, as if he'd peeked inside the Ark of the Covenant or something.
The Avengers' Costumes Are All Hot And Miserable
If there's one thing uniting superheroes and supervillains, it's their fashion sense. Both crimefighters and crime-doers wear clothing that stands out from the average civilian's. The problem is that civilian clothing is designed not only for easy urinary access, but also to not cause a heatstroke. The actors playing the Avengers know this very well.
You'd think Thor would have it easy, given his sleeveless look and frequently exposed abs. Nevertheless, the costume gets so hot that Chris Hemsworth has a small air-conditioning unit underneath his armor. Scarlett Johansson has it even worse; her Black Widow costume is basically a giant wetsuit that boils her alive. She's admitted to hallucinating during a particularly intense fight scene on a roof, and forgoing underwear to avoid the heat. In her own words, as soon as the director yells cut, everyone's like "Arrrgh ... god, this thing, get it off me, it's awful!!" (Now guess which part of that interview all the headlines fixated on.)
Keep this in mind when Avengers: The Miami Mission is greenlit and they're all wearing shorts and T-shirts.
Worst of all might be Loki's costuming. Unlike the cheap plastic version you found at the Halloween store, Tom Hiddleston's costume is made of metal and leather and is a ridiculous thing to wear. It weighs upwards of 30 lbs, and the horned headpiece alone weighs about as much as a small child. Hiddleston gets a bit claustrophobic in it, but he's been a good sport. He likes the way it all looks on camera, and has said that he really can't complain, because hey, he gets to be Loki.
Luckily, between scenes, all the Avengers get access to cooling fans, which we're guessing accounted for a significant chunk of the budget.
The Spacesuits In Alien Were Death Traps (And Ridley Scott Put His Children In Them)
The primary baddie in the movie Alien is generally recognized to be, well, the alien. We'd like to posit that it was in fact Ridley Scott. Buckle up folks. Every last one of you who wished you had a cool '70s/'80s movie director for a dad is about to do a total 180.
The stories of how Scott rigged the chestbursters and scared the bejeezus out of even his cast and crew are well-chronicled, but we seem to have collectively forgotten how his dedication led him to nearly bake his own children alive. See, Scott had been busting his tail to make one of the most glorious sci-fi horror films of all time, and he made absolutely sure that every scene in Alien was going to be goddamned worth it. That meant fighting a bunch of people over the inclusion of the creepy-ass Space Jockey exploration scene.
Though given its shape, they probably meant "Space Jockstrap."
The money people at Fox wanted to cut this scene, calling it a waste of time and not seeing the prequel money it was setting them up for. Scott needed the scene, so in order to get it, he built a smaller set and put a handful of kids, including his two boys Jake and Luke, in prop spacesuits. Spacesuits, we should mention, which were lined with nylon and not ventilated in the slightest. They were already filming in a heat wave, and the actors kept passing out. Similarly to outer space, they had to keep oxygen tanks on hand for the actors so they could be revived. Scott apparently saw that and thought, "You know what would be neat? If I put my children through that."
In space, no one can hear you tell mom.
The Original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Costumes Were 60-Pound Torture Devices
We've mentioned before that the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was an extremely cheap indie hellhole of a production. What we didn't elaborate on is that cheap often means painful. The actors inside the turtle suits couldn't control most of the movements, so there was an intricate partnership between them and the puppeteers who handled the animatronics remotely. Such witchcraft took loads of time, which made being in the costumes that much worse for the actors. Seriously, check this nonsense out:
All those animatronics were heavy as balls. Bowling balls. Several of them. Lugging all of them around caused the actors to lose stupid amounts of weight, simply by sweating it off in the North Carolina humidity. At first, the crew would help the actors take off the turtle heads so they could cool off, but they had to stop doing that because it took too long. In the meantime, the costumes would soak up all that sweat, making them progressively heavier/grosser as they filmed.
Eventually, the claustrophobia of living inside the robot shells started getting to the actors. The actor who played Donatello likened the first scene they did to Vietnam. The one inside Raphael, meanwhile, says they'd occasionally lose their shit and go "Take the head off! F--ing take the head off! Take it off!" On the upside, he says he managed to channel all that rage into making Raphael as much of an asshole as possible.
So say what you will about Michael Bay, but at least the actors in the remakes aren't waking up in a sweat every night, seeing flashes of green and hearing the panicked screams of their friends. Probably.
The Actor In RoboCop 3 Could Barely Fit Into The Suit
The much-maligned Robocop 3: The One Nobody Liked has an appropriate 3 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Everything about it is like a cheap, watered-down version of the previous movies: the action, the story, even the RoboCop. Actor Peter Weller had left the franchise after the second movie (as everyone else should have), so Robert John Burke was brought in as a replacement. In fairness to Burke, he did nail one part of the role: the never-ending agony that must come with being a robot-human hybrid. That's because he wasn't acting.
"Dead or alive, you're filming this scene."
Several sites claim that RoboCop 3 reused the suit from the previous movies, which was tailor-made for Weller (as we've covered before, that's the only reason they didn't fire his shiny metal ass). That's an unconfirmed rumor, but what's true is that Burke could barely fit into his costume, which he described as "a torture chamber." RobertCop claims that while Weller's suit was made of rubber and plastic, his was a combination of fiberglass and reinforced steel weighing as much as 150 lbs. Burke called it "acting with somebody on your shoulders" -- specifically, Jared Leto, if celebrity weight sites are to be believed.
On top of that, the suit kept breaking down, and the FX team would add more steel. It got to the point where one day, Burke couldn't put the legs on, so he "went off the set, did a quick steam bath, jumped some rope and lost a couple of pounds on the spot so I could get the daunted thing on." But hey, at least they got a ... movie out of it. It certainly is a movie.
Sam's Pony In Lord Of The Rings Was Two Guys In A Suit
A "panto-pony" sounds like a magical creature from a fantastic faraway land, but no. It's those dopey costumes where one person plays the front of a horse and another, less self-respecting person plays the horse's butt. Anyway, here's one in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings:
Gandalf was three kids standing on top of each other.
Yep, Jackson allowed the LOTR set to become a slightly more elaborate trick-or-treat gag. On a whole bunch of scenes, Samwise's pony "Bill" was two guys in a very nice horse suit. He did this because it would be extremely difficult to work with a horse in rugged terrain, such as a swamp or the mountains. However, it turns out humans are pretty clumsy too -- especially when one of them can't see shit.
According to Jackson himself, "We had a terrible struggle to get the pony to walk through the marshes, because the performers were completely blind, buried in this costume and up to their waists in a real swamp ... Bill would try to walk and then would start to wobble and everyone would have to rush in and catch him before he fell over! There was one hilarious moment where the front legs moved without the back legs and Bill got stretched into a sort of long sausage dog!"
Speaking of long sausages, we hope no other horses tried to "mount" it.
Sir Ian McKellen thought this was downright nuts, too. He remembered one time the real horse wouldn't fit in the helicopter that got the rest of the cast and crew up a mountain in New Zealand's Golden Bay, so they sent the faux-ny instead. This only proves once again that Frodo had it a little too easy.
Isaac doesn't fit well into normal clothes, let alone costumes. Follow him on Twitter.
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