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Films have always loved taking advantage of make-up. Making actors seem like twisted creations, or hiding the star power to allow the performance to truly shine through. However, there are cases when characters themselves need to hide their true identity. THN have delved into the depths of movie history (our long term memories and imdb) to find the most deceptive disguises in film. From the masked men of horror to half baked trannies, our top 10 takes no prisoners. Just to be clear, we’re talking man made camouflage, not alter egos. So, sadly, comic book characters are out of the running. That’s for another day, another list.

Count Olaf in LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS

King of the bulging eyes, silly voices and stretch-armstrong face. When it came to appearances, Jim Carrey was seriously multifaceted in this movie. He had fake mustaches on his face and infanticide on his mind. Count Olaf is a feckless thespian and guardian for the orphaned Bodelier children. When out of character, he looks a little like an aged Beetlejuice. Olaf spends the film being trying to bump off his adoptive children for cash. In his campy, inconspicuous quest for the three kids, Olaf moved from fake reptile expert to typecast sailor effortlessly. This wasn’t Carrey’s only shape shifting role. Quintessential 90s ham, THE MASK set the bar pretty high for on screen avatars (as well as causing many a wet dream via young Cameron Diaz). That hubba bubba face and those oversized teeth transcend any CGI disguise. But for sheer costume versatility, the top spot goes to Olaf. See classic Carrey over-acting it up in the trailer, here:

Jacques ‘The Man of a Hundred Faces’ Mesrine in MESRINE: KILLER INSTICT

The story behind the felonious french mastermind. He was a brazen kidnapper, bank robber and alleged murderer, but when the chips were down, Jaques Mesrine was also a fame hungry self-publicist. The two part film was based on his own unfinished autobiography L’instinct De Mort. His doppelgangers weren’t fantastical. Mesrine opted for the Clark Kent approach, subtle changes-the glasses, the hair-but despite his face being plastered across the French media, he marched on, unphased by public places. Ruthless, relentless and strangely attractive, Vincent Cassel was utterly brilliant as Public Enemy No.1

V in V FOR VENDETTA

From the mythical mind of Alan Moore through the eyes of James McTeigue, V FOR VENDETTA is a dystopian thriller that hails true king of anarchy, Guy Fawkes. In a society of big brother oppression, V infiltrated the system through destruction. But it was his costume that grabbed peoples attention. The V apparently stood for viral, sending his Fawkes mask across the city to bring his message to the people’s doorsteps. V’s disguise was not about deception, it was about symbolism. Something about those plump cheeks, that open mouthed maniacal smile-it captured the film’s ethos entirely. Without even changing his expression, Hugo Weaving gave one of the most powerful performances of his career as the mildly mad activist. See the trailer here:

Michael Dorsey in TOOTSIE

TOOTSIE is on of those renegade movies you recognise, but never manage to see. The sophomoric plot is a turn off, but it’s a surprisingly great watch. Hoffman plays a disgruntled performer who has become an acting pariah. When everyone in town refuses to hire him for his ‘difficult’ behaviour, he trannies up and auditions for a female part in a soap opera. He gets the part, he wins hearts and hurrah-hilarity ensues. Hoffman makes the list for just playing a woman with such effortless ease. The bouffant red hear, soft southern accent and strangely feminine face create the perfect cross-dressing combination. Tootsie would beat Ms.Doubtfire in a handbag brawl, hands down. See the ridiculously downbeat trailer here (look out for the Seaseme street-style end credits):

Luke Skywalker & Han Solo in STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE

It’s a timeless movie move stolen across generations. You ambush the enemy, steal their gear and walk amongst them like nothing as happened. When Skywalker and Solo boarded the Death Star to rescue Princess Leah, they had to bring down a couple of Stormtroopers and strap on that big white codpiece. They risked their lives to get to the Princess and what did she have to say when she saw her saviour? Nothing but a sarky comment, “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?” I guess there’s no pleasing royalty. See the original trailer here:

Leonard Zelig in ZELIG

ZELIG was one of the first mockumentaries ever made, housed in the surreal setting of the roaring twenties, complete with spinning newsreels. The mockumentary ‘subject’ was Leonard Zelig, a man so immersed in social sycophancy, he transformed to fit any group he came into contact with. He was a medical marvel, assimilating not just personality, but physical attributes of those around him. When placed with obese men, his belly would bloat, standing beside clique of Rabbi’s, he would spout facial hair. He even grew chinese facial features after getting trapped in a opium den. A male chameleon, his only personality was sponged from those who came close. But through intensive therapy and support from his psychiatrist, played by Mia Farrow, Zelig becomes his own man (minus the coming-of-age rhetoric, it’s a Woody Allen movie after all). For a deeper look in to the faux patient’s issues, see this fan trailer:

Aldo Vanucci in AFTER THE FOX

A farce of an ‘Italian’ comedy with Peter Sellers at his best. It’s camp, slapstick and profoundly stupid, but it’s hard not to love AFTER THE FOX. With similar clot comedy to The Pink Panther, Seller plays The Fox, an elusive criminal with a penchant for costume changes. After a classic gold heist takes place from a security van in Cairo, The Fox escapes from prison to get his hands on the loot. The film has become a cult must-have for it’s slow-burning satire against the money grabbing film industry, in particular, it jibes at the growth of ‘pretentious’ directors like Frederico Fellini. But AFTER THE FOX shows Sellers doing what he loved, ham, funny faces and ridiculous voices. It’s hard to believe this was a once credible trailer:

Daniel Hillard in MRS. DOUBTFIRE

Those of us that have grown up with this gender-bending movie are just about ready to revisit it. A serious Doubtfire burn out ruined it for most of us after constant reruns on terrestrial throughout the 1990s. But for all Robin Williams’ face pulling and annoying accents, we cannot deny him a master of disguise badge for this movie. Back when film make up was in it’s rudimentary rubber-face phase, Williams transformed into post-menopausal  woman from the highlands. If anything, he belongs on the list for putting the spotlight on the grueling process behind the facade. Williams screen time was spent wriggling into tights, pasting on foundation and strapping on quilted boobies. Who could forget the improvised icing-facemask? Now that is a guerrilla disguise. Hats off Doubtfire.

Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

A cut and paste mask made using the skin of his victims. ‘Nuff said.

Frodo Baggins & Samwise Gamgee in LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

As the bitesized Hobits amble their way through Mordor, they run out of options for avoiding the army of Orcs. In a Skywalker-Solo move, they steal Orc armour and start to move with the hoard. It’s a tense moment for anyone that got themselves invested in the trilogy (so many lost weekends, but not a single regret). Despite the suspense, THN have no choice but to bump them to the bottom of the list for a couple f fatal flaws. Frodo and Sam are 3 feet tall, half the size of any regular Orc and in every other scene except for this, the enemy can sniff them out. Funny that. I’m just glad our Goonie didn’t get eaten. See this video to relive the scene:

*THE WILD CARD*

 Fessal in FOUR LIONS

FOUR LIONS was close to the bone comedy with a lateral look at the ‘berks’ that back religious terrorism. Four cultural misfits from Leeds create befuddled ideologies behind their martyrdom as they plot to bomb a McDonalds or Boots or ‘somewhere with white slags and that’. Fessal is a doe eyed group member who just plods behind the rest, seemingly because he has nothing better to do. His job is to collect bleach for the ’cause’. To help curb suspicion from his local corner shop, Fessal uses improvised disguises. Sometimes he does the IRA voice, but has a nifty lady voice on hand for buying liquid peroxide. Watch the video below to see why Fessal gets our WILD CARD for the world’s worst master of disguise:

  • Paul

    Good choices from the queen of the Top Ten’s. Especially like Zelig and Fessal, the best IRA terrorist.

  • Me

    seriously? this type of list and not only that you didnt include keyser soze/verbal kint but he was w/o a doubt supposed to be #1

  • Patmcsnoo

    I agree Keyser Soze should be No.1… If it was a feature about top ten masters of deception but its not.

  • Martin McDonagh

    Awesome stuff. Lemony Snicket is a hugely underrated film. It scared me a little –  and I was 20 years old when I watched it!

  • Martin McDonagh

    Awesome stuff. Lemony Snicket is a hugely underrated film. It scared me a little –  and I was 20 years old when I watched it!