Adrien Morot, the Montreal-born makeup artist on "The Whale," says his first Oscar wouldn’t mean as much if his friend Brendan Fraser didn’t come away with some hardware of his own.
"If I would have won and Brendan didn’t, in some ways, I would have felt like I failed the movie," said Morot on Tuesday, speaking from his Los Angeles studio after painting a pair of prosthetic hands and feet for another project.
"The makeup would have become a technicality — this is a movie with heart and it’s a movie about the performances of all the actors, the great direction of Darren Aronofsky, and sharing the Oscar with Brendan means the world."
Morot won best makeup and hairstyling at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night for his work on"The Whale," alongside makeup artist Judy Chin and hairstylist Annemarie Bradley.
Meanwhile Fraser, who was born in the U.S. to Canadian parents, earned a best actor win for his turn as Charlie, a reclusive and morbidly obese English teacher who attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter.
To create the character's appearance, the prosthetics team glued several thick pieces of silicone onto Fraser’s face and body, before applying makeup.
While "The Whale" has received awards attention, the film has also been criticized for the decision to put Fraser in a fat suit, as well as its depiction of Charlie and his weight, which some critics have called fatphobic.
Morot acknowledged the complaints, saying that while he anticipated the negative reaction during production, as a professional with decades of experience he was only driven by his mission.
"I don’t have a political agenda at all. The only thing I want to do is do my work to the best of my abilities and fulfil the requirements of me that are asked," said Morot.
He's also proud of the fact that his makeup and prosthetics work resonated with the Academy and audiences because it performed the function it was meant to carry out.
"The makeup did its job in depicting the emotional character that needed to be on screen, but it didn’t steal the show and allowed Brendan to shine through the pieces of rubber that were glued on his face," said Morot. "My goal when I create the character makeup is to provide a tool for Brendan to portray Charlie the way he wanted without restrictions."
Morot referred to the process of prosthetics design as "super demanding" but necessary to help the actor get into the mindset of the character. Morot also wanted to recognize two other members of the team — Kathy Tse and Chris Gallaher, who weren't on the Oscar ticket but assisted him with the application.
Although cosmetic computer-generated effects in film are sought after and capable of transforming the way actors appear on screen, Morot said in this case wearing the suit helped Fraser understand how Charlie moves and feels.
"Yes, it might be easier for an actor to not have to wake up at two in the morning to come to the movie set and apply makeup, but they also won’t have the tools to create the performance," said Morot. "You wouldn’t get that with special effects and that’s just a truth there."
For example, Morot said, earlier in the filming processFraser was given a lightweight version of the suit compared to a heavier version designed to be 250 pounds, but chose the heavier design to help him understand Charlie better.
"Aronofsky asked me to create a design that was not only authentic in terms of looks but he also said, ‘I want you to help Brendan with his performance,'" said Morot. "That’s when we created something to the weight of a real person of that size.
"I’ve been doing this job for over 30 years and I’m truly a stoic guy and unemotional on set, but twice, on that movie set, I had tears in my eyes watching Brendan act," said Morot. "He truly owned that job."
"The Whale" is Morot’s fifth collaboration with Aronofsky following "Mother!," "Noah," "The Fountain," and "White Boy Rick."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023.