To play Baron Harkonnen in Dune, Stellan Skarsgård had to face significant technical and physical challenges. Take a look back at this incredible transformation.
Head of House Harkonnen and sworn enemy of House Atreides, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is a major antagonist in the universe of Dune, once again adapted for cinema. In the version of Denis Villeneuve, currently in theaters, it is Stellan Skarsgård who had the heavy task of slipping into the skin of this character.
To play the terrifying baron, the Swedish actor first reread Frank Herbert’s cult novel to immerse himself in this character “who [l]’seduced “ and “whose physical presence is so strong that it leaves its mark on the film”, an element that he finds “essential for a villain”.
Seven hours of preparation per day
Virtually unrecognizable in the film, Stellan Skarsgård had to spend seven hours a day before filming in the hands of costume designers, makeup artists, hairdressers and prosthetists to transform:
“Psychologically, I could handle it because it was interesting watching prosthetists working. But physically, it was difficult: you had to stay still for seven hours. There were layers and layers of makeup. to apply.
Most importantly, it was the face which required extremely delicate work. Then, it was necessary to put on the prosthetic suit covering the entire body, the cooling vest underneath and sometimes a harness for rope work. It was necessary to paint the spaces between the fake skin of the face, the hands and the costume. It was very complicated. “
Stellan nude and a bespoke jumpsuit
Donald Mowat, the head makeup artist, was inspired “of the character played by Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now and The Island of Doctor Moreau, a sort of thick and cruel brute” for the baron. He called upon Swedish prosthetic artists Love Larson and Eva von Bahr, and the creation of the suit was long and difficult.
First, a cast of the actor’s body was made, including face and head, which allowed Love and Eva to create a huge clay model, “on which we could distinguish the muscles under the fat” :
“It was a huge task, as Stellan Skarsgård is in a full body prosthetic jumpsuit, which represents him ‘naked’. With such a character, the makeup can go in the wrong direction in no time. It can get laughable. , because as soon as we put an actor in such a costume, we think of [la série] Little Britain or Austin Powers “.
This look when Baron Harkonnen was naked pleased Denis Villeneuve and Stellan Skarsgård but surprised the team. According to Love Larson, “the costumers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan therefore designed new outfits with a finer material that showed her body”.
The challenges of the wetsuit in the water and in the air
In total, six costumes were made in the Stockholm workshops with the help of two sculptors from Spain to complete the molding of the body. The most important challenge for these famous combinations was the sequences in the bath, as evoked by Eva von Bahr:
“We did some tests with the entire suit in the water and we quickly found that it floated too much and that it would be frankly difficult to get it to go underwater. There was also another problem with it. managed to put it in the water: the suit acted like a sponge, it absorbed too much liquid and became so heavy that it was almost impossible to get it out of the water! “
Another major challenge: to float the baron in the air! It took almost seven hours for the actor to put on the entire suit, and the team devised a system to make this step as comfortable as possible:
“It was very hot in this costume so that he first put on a cooling jumpsuit, which relieved him a little. We then started fitting his prosthetic head to hide his hair, then that of the neck and finally that of the face. which is added to the rear, this one being one of the largest.
Then we added the chin, followed by each cheekbone separately and finally the earlobes. The next step was to secure the prosthetic hands over her knuckles, which weighed almost 4 kilograms. Finally, he was put his muscular sub-combination followed by the one imitating the skin “.