How Mila Kunis got out of filming by ripping her nose off

Make-up artist Howard Berger explains why everyone went home from Oz the Great and Powerful with various pieces of Mila’s face

Mila Kunis learned a handy trick from renowned make-up artist Howard Berger while filming Oz the Great and Powerful– when they say cut, rip your nose off.

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It’s a trick Howard carries with him from his days working with Robert Englund who he turned into Freddie Krueger day after day.

“Way back when I used to do the A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, Robert would shoot a full day and they’d say, ‘OK, Robert, that’s a wrap.’ Then he’d go to walk away and they’d be like, ‘No, no, no Robert come back, we’ve made a mistake.’ So he got wise to it and as soon as they’d say it’s a wrap, he’d tear his nose off so they couldn’t continue shooting.

“So I taught that to Mila. As soon as they’d say ‘Mila it’s a wrap’, she’d reach up and tear the witch’s nose off and then there was no way she could work the rest of the day,” Howard explains.

It didn’t end at the nose either. Mila would hand out the nose, then tear off the chin and give that to somebody else. As Howard notes, “Everyday somebody would get a piece of Mila’s face.”

Ironically, the intense costume and make-up was a decision Mila entered into voluntarily. From minimal paint on her skin up to a full face of appliances (rubber or foam sections painted and used to change the shape of the face) Mila was asked her opinion and chose the most extreme.

“She loved it,” Howard explains, who has worked on huge character projects such as Hitchcock and Narnia (for which he won an Oscar). “Mila has a very specific laugh – almost like a cackle. She saw the whole get up and just loved it. Really thought it was fun and played with it a fair bit. It really came to life.”

Howard, in his position of basically turning the world’s sexiest woman into an ugly witch, was keen to retain the most recogniseable features of Mila’s face – her lips and her eyes. For that, many men no doubt thank him. So although Mila wore contacts, her lips are the only part of her face that is not covered in rubber.

Howard explains, “I really wanted to create something that still kept the essence of Mila Kunis without restricting her in any way, as far as her performance goes.”

How many rubber appliances to use wasn’t Howard’s only consideration. Getting the right shade of green for the Wicked Witch proved problematic due to Disney’s ownership of the book’s rights.

Eventually Howard and the team settled on a pastel green, similar to that used in the movie Frankenstein.

“We had a lot of paint. Gallons of it. We ended up doing that make-up on Mila over 30 times. Every time we’d be using a different prosthetic and the eyebrows had to be hand punched one at a time, rather than laced. It was a lot of work.

“It took about an hour and a half every day to make Mila up as I also had to paint her neck and her chest and her back. The hands were gloves, we tried it with paint, but it kept coming off, so we made it so Mila could easily take her hands on and off,” notes Howard.

So was Mila the quiet, patient type, happily sat for hours at a time while Howard got to work? Er, no…

“I would have loved that if Mila had been a little quiet during it, but er, Mila’s a very bouncy person and she has a great personality and so sometimes it was like a moving target, which makes it a little difficult for me.

“So sometimes I have an actor who’s very patient and quiet, it goes a little easier. Sometimes I get a bouncy actor and it still goes fine. But I can’t say enough good things about Mila Kunis. She’s such a lovely person.”

Watch Howard at work here…

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Oz the Great and Powerful is out on DVD from July 1 2013