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‘Norbit’

Achievement in Makeup Oscar nominee

Transforming Eddie Murphy into a 400-pound woman with breasts too big for any conventional bra required one thing: the mother of all fat suits.

“Norbit” special effects magicians Rick Baker and Kazuhira Tsuji auditioned more than 100 XXL ladies, all with roughly the right size and proportions for the main female character, Rasputia. “They had to be able to dance, because that’s what she does,” Tsuji explains. After several recalls, one lady was eventually picked, and her figure became the blueprint for Rasputia.

Based on her measurements, a suit was created from foam latex, with painted silicone added on the surface to create the illusion of skin.

Separate silicone hands, like gloves, were also made. Foam latex and nine pieces of silicone were glued to Murphy’s face, creating a new, heftier shape that was then painted over in various tones of red, brown and yellow to normalize the skin tone.

“The greatest challenge for us on this film was to make a believable character,” says Tsuji (whose appliance work on “Click” earned him an Oscar nomination the year before). “Working on fantasy or monsters is easier in a way, because no one has ever seen it before. But when it comes to humans, if something is wrong, people can spot it right away.”

Murphy plays multiple characters in the film, including Mr. Wong, the Asian orphanage caretaker, which posed an additional set of challenges for Tsuji and Baker (who won an Oscar for his work with Murphy on “The Nutty Professor”).

“Eddie has narrow features, and Asian faces tend to be wider,” Tsuji explains. “But we didn’t want to build too much on his face, because that prevents the actor from transferring his expressions.” Once again, silicone pieces were used to create Mr. Wong’s face shape on Murphy, in just the right proportion.

Before these were applied, the team lightened Murphy’s skin tone with a pale foundation. Re-creating the Asian eyelid shape was “tricky,” Tsuji says. “Many times when you see Asian makeup done on people of different races in movies, you can tell whenever they blink that it is a fake eyelid. We created something that closes naturally, like a real Asian eyelid.”

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