Movie Article

Kind of a Drag

How the Wayans brothers became ''White Chicks.'' The movie's makeup wizard reveals what the undercover brothers and Halle Berry have in common, cosmetically speaking

Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, ... | PHAT 'CHICKS' (Top, from left) ''Brittany'' a.k.a. Shawn and ''Tiffany'' a.k.a. Marlon (Bottom, from left) Make-up artists Will Huff and Cannom work on transforming Marlon…
Image credit: White Chicks: Joe Lederer
PHAT 'CHICKS' (Top, from left) ''Brittany'' a.k.a. Shawn and ''Tiffany'' a.k.a. Marlon (Bottom, from left) Make-up artists Will Huff and Cannom work on transforming Marlon while producer, Rick Alvarez, rear center, watches on

When Marlon and Shawn Wayans imagined themselves playing FBI agents who pose as blond, blue-eyed hotel heiresses in ''White Chicks'' (opens June 23), they had no idea what they were getting into. ''I just thought it was a funny idea,'' says Shawn. ''I wasn't even thinking about the makeup when we first came up with it.''

Bad idea. Transforming the African-American actors into ersatz Hilton sisters took up to seven hours a day, buckets of acrylic paint, and contact lenses so painful ''they should be the s---- that they use over in Iraq to get information out of al-Qaeda,'' says Shawn. EW.com talked to the Wayanses and special makeup creator/applicator Greg Cannom (''Van Helsing,'' ''The Passion of the Christ'') about the pain and the passion required to turn the brothers into girly men.

CASTING CALL One of the first steps in the Wayanses' extreme makeover was making plaster casts of their faces. Oddly enough, the key to softening their strong jaw lines and cheekbones was making their faces bigger with layers of foam latex. ''By building up their jaw, I'm able to round off the sharp edges. Their faces actually seem smaller because of the softer shape,'' says Cannom. ''I built up their noses by a quarter inch or more, because that made the sides of their noses disappear. Then I was able to put a smaller, thinner nose on top of the layer of foam.''

Cannom and ''Van Helsing'' sculptor Glen Hanz created four separate foam ''appliances'' covering the entire face (except for the bottom lip) of each actor. ''I chose to work with foam latex, because it's stiffer than silicone and shrinks up a bit, so it functioned as a facelift,'' says Cannom. ''It pulled up the skin under their necks and on their foreheads, so it was really hard on their skin.'' But a small price to pay for a little non-surgical lift.

IN LIVING COLOR Not surprisingly, turning the Wayans brothers white was no easy task. ''We tried everything and it all looked ashen on their skin. Nothing worked,'' says Cannom. ''So we developed a water-based acrylic paint in a bright orangey-red that we airbrushed on them to cancel out the ash tones.'' And, over that, Revlon Color-Stay foundation, which was used in 50-gallon drums. Why the regular dime-store makeup? ''The paint alone was too shiny, so the Color-Stay matted it down to a soft finish,'' says Cannom. Hey, if Revlon works for spokeswoman Halle Berry, who are we to argue?

SCREAMING THE BLUES Anyone can get color contacts these days -- but the ones used for ''White Chicks'' weren't exactly typical. ''[These] covered the whole eye,'' explains Cannom. ''We needed to do that so that the whites of their eyes looked bright enough.''

HAIRY SITUATION The brothers' straight blond wigs were more than just a fashion statement. ''The wigs were very important in hiding the sides of their faces and their necks,'' says Cannom. Length, not height, was key: ''What we realized was, the more eye makeup they wore and the more hair we put in the top of their heads, the more they started looking like big-haired drag queens. And the one thing Keenan [Ivory Wayans, the director and the actors' older brother] didn't want was a drag look.'' And not just because ''Connie & Carla'' was a box office flop.

TIME IN A BOTTLE According to Cannom, it took six weeks of testing to perfect the body makeup alone. Although he was able to fine-tune the process of turning the guys into girls each day, he was only able to cut the laborious process down to five hours from a whopping seven. ''We did 60 days of this, and it was grueling for them and it was grueling for us trying to recreate it each day,'' sighs Cannom. ''You get one piece of foam an eighth of an inch off-center and it screws up everything, and I mean everything. If they ate or drank anything, they had to be touched up. They were hardly getting any sleep between the makeup and working all day, but they were amazing, mugging around and joking.''

THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE So, who was the better girl at the end of the day? ''Shawn was much more difficult because he has such a strong jaw,'' says Cannom. ''But Marlon had a perfect face for it, and his makeup turned out great.'' Marlon couldn't agree more: ''I make one hell of a sexy white woman, if I do say so myself,'' he crows. ''I might not be an impressive black man, but as a white woman, I'm something else!''

Originally posted Jun 23, 2004
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