Stephen Prouty worked his magic on changing the 40-something Johnny Knoxville into an 86-year-old man in Paramount’s Jackass: Bad Grandpa over a 10-month period through different seasons. That, in itself, presented a challenge “because we started in the fall in Ohio and we had to adjust our procedure as we went into warmer weather,” said Prouty. Under the silicon prosthetics (which move easier but does not allow the skin to breathe), they not only used sweat stop — an antiperspirant for the face — but also ended up including sweat channels in the back so that the actor wouldn’t end up wetting himself (no, not that way).
Bad Grandpa, directed by Jeff Tremaine, is a hidden-camera cross-country road trip about a grandfather who takes his grandson back to see his real father. Although it took 10 months, the shoot lasted 61 days total. “Each trip was two or three weeks long before Knoxville would come back to L.A., so we would be down two to six weeks,” explained Prouty. “The story, as we shot it, changed over the course of that time. It was very fluid and loose and evolved each time we went out. And Paramount was cool about not having a printed script and letting it make its own story as we shot.”
The 11 pieces that were created to transform Knoxville into the octogenarian had to be thin enough to allow for natural, expressive and realistic movements. Prouty had been working on the sculptor work with Tony Gardner in Alterian Inc. on the previous Jackass films, but for this one, he says, “we were trying to streamline the processes and give [Knoxville] complete freedom to express his character. In doing that, we had to reduce the thickness of the piece and break it into more pieces.” It had previously been almost an entire hood piece that was put over Knoxville’s head, but with the new look, they used small pieces to give the throat, cheeks, chin and eyebrows the ability to move in an authentic way. He said they concentrated on the special movement areas around the mouth to allow Knoxville to be as expressive as he naturally is. They used silicon as it allowed for more movement and expression. They also had to paint every piece of the body that was visible. The hair was super, super thin to make the texture believable. Prouty and Gardner won Best Special Make-up Effects from their peers at the Make-Up Artists and Hairstylists Guild on Saturday.
The first day, the application of the prosthetics took a team of three – Prouty, Bart Mixon and Will Huff (later replaced by Jamie Kelman, when Huff went to work on the Natalie Portman starrer Jane Got a Gun) – a total of 3 1/2 hours. After the first week, they got it down to under 3 hours. For the film, Knoxville — in full dress and makeup — had to be believable as he confronted ordinary people on the street. In fact, the day’s shooting was contingent upon whether people believed he was really an old man. “There were definitely some nervous days. There was a lot of pressure to get this right. Some days there were people inches from his face and we were in the minivan sitting there watching and saying, ‘Oh my God, we hope we pull this off.’” Prouty, who began working in makeup 27 years ago, grew up in Atlanta and credits Bob Shelley (Zombieland, The Notebook) for giving him his start. Shelley initially hired him to make stunt dummies. “So I made very crude stunt dummies, and luckily for me it was a wide shot,” Prouty joked. “It was a great learning experience.” And how was it working with Knoxville? “It was a real treat,” said Prouty. “He was such a professional. Here’s he’s completely covered with makeup and also has to introduce the narrative of the story in it. It was super-impressive.” So was Prouty’s Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Make-Up and Hairstyling.