Behind the Mask: These Iconic Movie Villains Look Totally Different In Real Life

Fri Jan 07 2022

No movie would be complete without an interesting storyline, and perhaps the most popular and most-used storyline of all is one that follows the battle between good and evil. And while everyone seems to fall in love with the hero characters, the villains often get left behind. Well, we think it’s time to put an end to that… because villains make the Hollywood world go around.

In many cases, the villains in high-profile movies always get some kind of special effects treatment. They get covered in prosthetics and have CGI added in post-production, and this allows the actor to completely transform into a villainous character. But when you take off the body armor, the scars, the alien-like features, and the masks, you’re left with the actors who look totally different in real life. Yes, this is what they really look like.

Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Gwendoline Christie may go down in history for playing the honorable Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, but she embraced her villainous ways when she became Captain Phasma in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. In fact, within this role, she made history – becoming the very first on-screen female villain in Stars Wars‘ history. Of course, you couldn’t exactly tell it was her.

Underneath all of her armor was the 6’3″ actress we know and love. But this wasn’t just any old armor. Gwendoline noted that “I was actually lucky enough to be given a Couture suit, so the armor was made to fit my dimensions exactly. I just loved that we maintained the practicality of what she was wearing… You put this armor on, and you feel rigid and uncompromising.”

Manu Bennett as Azog the Defiler in The Hobbit

Considering much of New Zealand looks like Middle Earth, it should come as no surprise to learn that huge chunks of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises were filmed in the country. And for The Hobbit movies, New Zealand actor Manu Bennett was given the chance to play the evil villain, Azog the Defiler. You probably couldn’t tell, though, because motion-stop technology turned him into a villainous Orc that looks nothing like him.

Azog is giant, monstrous, and covered in scars – so how did it feel for Manu to step into the shoes of an Orc? Although his appearance was shocking, Manu truly appreciated the opportunity, saying “Being from New Zealand and being chosen by Peter Jackson to play Azog – which is a pivotal bad guy – he really honored me to get a role like that and make a break as a New Zealand actor.”

Bonnie Aarons as Valak in The Conjuring and The Nun

Fans of the actress Bonnie Aarons might know her from happy-go-lucky movies like The Princess Diaries and Accidental Love. But she’s also found herself becoming an icon in the horror genre – especially thanks to her role as Valak the nun in the 2016 movie, The Conjuring 2, as well as the subsequent 2018 spin-off, The Nun. As you can tell by the photo, she was a rather convincing horror movie villain.

With her yellow, sunken eyes, her sharp teeth, and her demonic features, Valak proved to be a terrifying villain that fans couldn’t get enough of. Even other actors who worked on-set with her found her appearance to be all too much. Bonnie’s The Nun co-star Taissa Farmiga has previously noted that “There was a time or two when we were filming in these dark castles… And Bonnie is in full demon nun garb, hair, and makeup, and I had to ask her to just step away for a moment.”

Doug Bradley as Pinhead in Hellraiser

In 1987, the world was graced with a supernatural horror thriller by the name of Hellraiser. And while this movie offered an intriguing story, one of the biggest talking points of the whole film was the character of Pinhead. As the leader of the demonic and sadomasochistic Cenobites, Pinhead became one of the most visually gruesome villains of them all. But it was his own reflection that inspired actor Doug Bradley for the rest of the movie.

Doug has confessed that it originally took five to six hours to get the makeup and the pins just right, and that “The first time I wore it, I sat in front of the mirror trying to make friends with this new face, playing some lines and seeing where they took me. Most of my decisions about playing Pinhead were made there and then. I had a sense of power, of majesty, or a kind of beauty.” Thankfully, he doesn’t have any pins sticking out of him in real life.

Doug Jones as Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro is known for creating dark, mysterious, and oftentimes creepy movies – just like his 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth. This fantastical creation features all kinds of villainous characters, but perhaps the most famous of them all is Pale Man. With his drooping skin, his skeletal shape, and his tell-tale eyes on his hands, Pale Man really was nightmare-inducing. Thankfully, actor Doug Jones is anything but.

What you might not know, though, is that budget cuts meant that Pale Man had to be completely reworked from its original design. One of the makeup specialists on the movie, David Martí, noted that “Sometimes you have to go back and reconsider designs because of your budget, but that kind of challenge gives artists the opportunity to push harder and come up with something new … what seems like a challenge ends up being a real opportunity.”

Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma/Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has been incredibly successful over the years, and while most eyes were on Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann in these movies – nobody can deny that Naomie Harris’ Tia Dalma/Calypso character made her mark. The voodoo mystic sea goddess was dark, mysterious, and certainly a little bit evil after she was imprisoned in the body of a woman.

This character thrust the British actress into the spotlight, but as you can see Naomie looks very different in real life. However, the transformation process “wasn’t that bad.” She noted that it was “You know, a wig. Black lipstick, black eyeshadow, some tribal markings and gold and dirt on the face. The teeth were prosthetic teeth that you just clip in and out. Oh, and I also had to fill my mouth with vegetable dye before each take.”

Tom Fitzpatrick as Parker “Marilyn” Crane/The Bride in Black in Insidious

The Insidious franchise is perhaps one of the most terrifying movie franchises in the world – and if you’re one of the few that can watch these movies without cowering behind a cushion, you’ll know the notorious Parker ‘Marilyn’ Crane/The Bride in Black character. For the second and third movies, this character was played by Tom Fitzpatrick. However, were going to assume that this comes as a surprise.

With an old-style gown, makeup and prosthetics, a large wig, a dark veil, and a candle in front of her, we knew that there was an actor behind the character – but we didn’t think it would be Tom. And it seems as though Tom didn’t think it would be him, either. When he landed the role, he didn’t know that he would be dressed as The Bride In Black until he turned up for the first day of filming.

Bonnie Morgan as Samara in The Ring

In 2017, actress and contortionist Bonnie morgan was given the chance to take on the leading role as Samara in the third installment of The Ring franchise, Rings. But what you might not know is that she’s also starred in The Ring Two back in 2005 – you just didn’t know it. That’s because, while Daveigh Chase was the on-screen face of Samara, it was Bonnie who creepily crawled along the floor in one of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history.

Although Daveigh was originally supposed to utilize special effects to enact this spider walk, the stunt coordinator wanted to make it more authentic. So, they contacted Bonnie Morgan – a professional contortionist who is used to bending her body into all kinds of shapes. And while Bonnie had to wear a wig and cover herself in makeup for the role, she still took it incredibly seriously. Apparently, she stayed in character even when the cameras stopped rolling.

Delphine Chanéac as Dren in Splice

If you’ve ever wanted to watch a movie about genetically modified human and animal DNA, then Splice is the film for you. Beware, though, because French actress Delphine Chanéac portrays an incredibly believable genetic hybrid. However, it’s safe to say that her bald head and alien-like features in the movie are a far cry from what she looks like in real life.

While this movie was released in 2010, it took over 10 years for the production team to come up with the character of Dren. They worked with real geneticists and designers to build up the image of the character, and even after all of that work Delphine had to go the extra mile to become Dren. In fact, she had to shave off all of her hair for this epic movie role.

Jonathan Breck as The Creeper in Jeepers Creepers

In 2001, Jeepers Creepers made its way into the movie world – and fans were instantly bowled over by the horror film. Just like some of the best horror movies in the business, there was one main villain who stuck out like a sore thumb. And it was Jonathan Breck’s depiction of The Creeper that spurned an entire franchise complete with two more sequels. Jonathan’s character instantly became a cult classic, and it’s not hard to understand why.

According to those who worked behind-the-scenes, it took around three to five hours every single day to transform the normal-looking Jonathan into a real-life monster. Not only did they cover his face with prosthetics and makeup, but he also had to wear a custom-made suit that specifically fit his body and made him look three times bigger than he actually was.

Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa in Power Rangers

Any Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fan will know that the original Rita Repulsa from the ’90s was a woman who wore a brown baggy robe. But when the reboot came onto our screens in 2017, the evil villain had become more of a sexy seductress than a weird and wacky baddy. And it was down to Elizabeth Banks to play this modernized version of the Power Rangers’ enemy.

To turn the glam Hollywood actress into an evil villain took around four hours – and that was just for her evil space witch makeup and horns. She confessed that “I wear, at one point, a full-body prosthetic from head to toe. The only thing that isn’t covered by full silicone is like 12 inches of my chest area and that’s it.” Unfortunately, the response to this reboot was a mixed bag, but you can’t deny that Rita’s look wasn’t impressive.

Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel

Any Marvel fan will know that Ronan the Accuser is not a good guy. He’s the ultimate anti-hero within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the blue-skinned Kree certainly has an unusual and evil look about him. From the intense armor to the black markings on his face, it’s clear to see that he’s not the kind of guy you want to mess with. Thankfully, Lee Pace is more of a devilishly stylish guy in real life, rather than devilishly evil.

Yes, Lee had to undergo an intense transformation to become Ronan, and he spent hours in the makeup chair every single day. But it seems as though it was all worth it, as Pace enjoyed his experience immensely. He told CBR that “It was such a privilege to be part of that world. It’s just so creative. [Marvel President] Kevin Feige and the whole team, they just make fun movies. I mean, with big characters in them and real performances.”

Sheri Moon Zombie as Adelaide Hawthorne/Heidi LaRoc in The Lords of Salem

With a name like Sheri Moon Zombie and with a heavy metal rockstar husband on her arm, it should come as no surprise to learn that this actress holds a strong fascination for horror movies. However, with her blonde hair and her girl-next-door, appearance, you might not know it by looking at her. Over the years, Sheri has worked with her husband to make several films – and in 2012 they created The Lords of Salem.

In this supernatural horror, Sheri became Heidi LaRoc, who finds herself entangled with a coven of ancient Satan-worshipping women. For this role, the actress had to put her hair into dreadlocks and wore heavy makeup and fake facial tattoos to create a villainous aesthetic. According to Sheri, these tattoos would take days to fade from her face, which meant she just had to live with them in the real world for a while.

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street

Every horror movie franchise should have a villain, and in A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s case, that villain just happens to be Freddy Krueger. This burned villain is known for his scarred face, his red and green striped sweater, his dark brown fedora, and his infamous glove – complete with razors to kill his victims. And for over 30 years, it was the job of actor Robert Englund to bring Freddy to life. This all started with the original movie in 1984.

However, turning a normal-looking actor into a burned villain wasn’t easy. Robert has noted that “Every day, I was in that [makeup] chair for three to four hours or more. Four hours to be camera-ready with the jigsaw puzzle of twelve or more pieces of pre-painted foam latex glued to my face with the seams blended together.” It’s no wonder he decided not to reprise his role for the 2010 remake.

Sofia Boutella as Princess Ahmanet in The Mummy

Movie reboots are always risky, and critics would say that the decision to bring The Mummy back to our screens was a risk that shouldn’t have been made. But while Tom Cruise’s appearance in this 2017 production helped the film’s plight a bit, many thought that Sofia Boutella’s character of Princess Ahmanet truly stole the show. As the evil ‘Mummy’ herself, this character was based on the original movie’s Imhotep, and the ancient Egyptian goddess, Amunet.

This heartbroken evil villain is unlike many other movie villains we’ve seen in the past. Not only is she both a monster and a woman who has been wronged, but Princess Ahmanet’s appearance is also very different. The moviemakers relied on Sofia’s acting skills to bring her to life. The actress noted that “even though she never became pharaoh, she very much carries herself like one. And thinks she’s a queen…She has that sort of power and strength, so I wanted to find that kind of size and that kind of physicality.”

Tom Hardy as Venom in Venom

Superhero enemies have always been popular villains, and none quite as much as Venom. In fact, Spider-Man’s enemy – who first rose to fame within the Marvel comics – has since been given his own movie and a subsequent sequel. This symbiote binds with human journalist Eddie Broke after landing on Earth, so of course, his gooey and alien-like appearance wasn’t too much of a surprise to superhero fans.

The actor who plays Venom doesn’t look too much like the character in real life though, thankfully. English actor Tom Hardy has often been voted the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by his UK fans – and he seems to enjoy his villainous role. In 2018 he told Entertainment Weekly that “As far as Marvel characters, I have to say for me, Venom looks to the coolest. That sounds a bit shallow! But I appreciate that he has a kind of brazen swagger and a zero foxtrot attitude.”

Andy Serkis as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Thanks to J.R.R Tolkien’s legendarium, we’ve been able to travel to Middle Earth through books, video games, and of course, the movies. One of the most famous villains from the whole series just has to be Gollum – who was once a Hobbit called Sméagol. This monstrous character is known for his animal-like crawl, his bulbous eyes, and scraggly hair. In The Lord of the Rings movies, Gollum was originally created by CGI and voiced by actor Andy Serkis.

This changed in 2012 in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Motion-capture technology was used for this movie, allowing Serkis to jump into a bodysuit with facial markers to act our the movements and the facial expressions of the villain. While many criticized this new decision and stated that the performance-capture-style wasn’t as authentic, Serkis quipped back with “Acting is acting.”

Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok

The Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be complete without villains of some sort. And while some would say that Thor’s anti-hero has always been his half-brother Loki, he was dealt with another villain in Thor: Ragnarok. This time, it came in the form of his sister, Hela. As the Goddess of Death made her way back into the world to claim Asgard for her own, her appearance certainly looked as evil as could be.

With her dark hair, eyes, and a spiky helmet that showed off her power, Hela looked nothing like Cate Blanchett. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s very first female villain, all eyes were on the production department to create a villain to be proud of. And Cate was definitely proud of what they achieved. She’s noted that Hela’s appearance has a “visual journey” as she “becomes increasingly powerful. Her look evolves and calcifies a bit.”

Ray Park as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Solo: A Star Wars Story

Over the course of its impressive franchise, Star Wars has introduced us to all kinds of evil villains. And while the most famous of all is definitely Darth Vader, Darth Maul also had his chance to shine in Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Amazingly, actor Ray Park was just 22 when he landed this role, and he had to train for 15-hours a day in preparation to get his martial arts skills up to the high standard required.

Aside from his martial arts ability, Ray also had to transform his appearance to be more villainous. While in the makeup chair he was given a red face and black face – thanks to the storyline that suggests the markings were from an initiation ritual during which he was immersed in a magic oily bath. Ray loved this look, stating that “I think [with] the makeup and the horns and the lenses and the teeth, you just can’t help being naughty, you know?”

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the Clown in It

Stephen King novels certainly aren’t rom coms, and the movie adaptations aren’t either. So, when fans discovered that a remake of It was coming to our screens in 2017, they knew that Pennywise the clown was going to be a visually terrifying character. All in all, actor Bill Skarsgård had to sit in the makeup chair for two and a half hours every single day to become this creepy villain.

He did the exact same thing for the 2019 sequel, and by that point, he still hadn’t gotten used to seeing the oversized and heavy forehead the sharp teeth looking back at him. Thankfully, he has been able to disassociate himself from the character. He’s stated that “Pennywise looks and sounds so different from me that I could do a rom-com next, and people probably wouldn’t even know I was the same guy.”

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises

Whether you love her or hate her, Catwoman has always been the enemy of Batman – making her a certified villain. Over the years, many actresses have stepped into this feline role, and in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, it was down to Anne Hathaway to bring this character to life. Unfortunately, her appearance was controversial and left many people wanting more – but you can’t deny that she looked the part.

While much of Anne’s face was covered by Catwoman’s iconic mask for this role, her body was on show in her bodysuit, and this came with some challenges. Anne began working out intensely – but not just for aesthetic reasons. She noted that “It wasn’t just about looking a certain way. I had to learn how to fight. I had to become strong.”

Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland

Filmmaker Tim Burton is known for putting a dark and twisted spin on his creations – and he’s also known for casting his ex-partner Helena Bonham Carter into his movies. This was no different in 2010 when he cast Helena as the evil Red Queen in his quirky take on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. While much of this movie was animated, the characters were all live-action – and Helena’s makeup was all real.

Helena’s no stranger to turning herself into villainous characters, but Alice in Wonderland and the subsequent sequel was one of the few where her real features and makeup were mixed with CGI in order to make her head look even larger. The actress seemed to love the creative process of becoming the evil Red Queen, though. She’s noted that “I always like camouflaging myself, basically. She’s just such a strong character.”

Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th is arguably one of the most famous slasher movies out there, and no slasher movie would be complete without the villain doing the slashing. The original movie spurned an impressive franchise, and in the 1988 movie Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood and the later installments, Jason Voorhees was played by Kane Hodder. And all he really had to do was put on the infamous hockey mask.

But what you might not realize is that Kane wasn’t an actor before he bagged this role; he was a stunt coordinator. However, director John Buechler knew that acting talent wasn’t a top property for Jason Voorhees’ character. He got Kane to play the villain “and that worked in my favor because John was like, ‘You can’t have an actor playing a character and then a stunt double doing tall the action. It’s never gonna look consistent.'” So, Kane did both.

Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster

While many movies feature fictional characters and storylines, Charlize Theron became a real-life villain when she starred in 2003’s Monster. This movie saw the actress step into the shoes of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, and the role even earned her an Oscar Award. And while it’s no secret that Charlize doesn’t look like Aileen in real life, she had to put in a lot of hard work and effort into looking like her.

Not only did Charlize herself have to gain 30lbs for the role, but her makeup artist Toni G also had her work cut out for her. Toni noted that Charlize’s skin was too perfect, so “With makeup, I had to create the years of abuse to her skin – all the freckles and capillaries and sun damage – either through hand-painting or working with an airbrush.” In the end, the hard work paid off.