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    11 Times TV Shows And Movies Used Unnecessary Prosthetics Instead Of, You Know, Casting An Actor Who Actually Fit The Part

    When fans discovered that Chris Sullivan wore a fat suit to play Toby on This Is Us, many expressed their disappointment. When he mentioned the suit on a talk show, he joked, "Something on television is a lie?"

    Certain TV and movie roles call for an actor who looks a specific away, especially in biopics and other projects based on real-life people. However, oftentimes, it seems like networks and studios would rather cast a big-name actor and use makeup, etc. to change their looks rather than booking a lesser-known actor who fits the part. Sometimes, it's a simple, logical change, like having an actor dye their hair or grow a mustache. Other times, though, they go a little too far.

    Here are 11 times TV and movie studios were criticized for using prosthetics or fat suits:

    1. To play composer Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming biopic Maestro, Bradley Cooper wore a fake nose. Once the trailer dropped, the prosthetic was criticized as "antisemitic" and a "Jewish stereotype."

    closeup of his profile as he smokes a cigarette

    In a joint statement, the composer's three children, Jamie, Alexander, and Nina Bernstein, said, "Bradley Cooper included the three of us along every step of his amazing journey as he made his film about our father. We were touched to the core to witness the depth of his commitment, his loving embrace of our father's music, and the sheer open-hearted joy he brought to his exploration. It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts. It happens to be true that Leonard Bernstein had a nice, big nose. Bradley chose to use makeup to amplify his resemblance, and we're perfectly fine with that. We're also certain that our dad would have been fine with it as well. Any strident complaints around this issue strike us above all as disingenuous attempts to bring a successful person down a notch — a practice we observed all too often perpetrated on our own father."

    Bradley told CBS Mornings, "I thought, 'Maybe we don't need to do it. But it's all about balance, and, you know, my lips are nothing like Lenny's, and my chin. And so we had that, and it just didn't look right [without the prosthetic]."

    2. Helen Mirren faced similar backlash for wearing a prosthetic nose to play Golda Meir, the former Israeli Prime Minister, in the 2023 biopic Golda.

    closeup of her in the film with a larger nose

    On Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, she said, "I think I can see, but sometimes I can't see because I can't see who in this room is Jewish...I think the whole question of assuming a certain physiognomy because you're playing a particular race, there is something offensive about that. On the other hand, if you're playing Leonard Bernstein, and this is really what Leonard Bernstein looked like, you know, maybe it's a good idea. It's a very delicate balance."

    3. The 2022 film, The Whale, was criticized for its anti-fat premise as well as for the fat suit and prosthetics that lead actor Brendan Fraser wore. Its Oscar win for Best Makeup was met with backlash.

    an oversized and made up brendan fraser sits on a couch in the film

    Brendan told People, "I think [transforming for a role is] one of the more exacting ways you can create a character and body, and in this case the mandate that Charlie's costume would respect the laws of gravity and physics as opposed to the many ways that we've seen that character depicted in films before as really a one-note joke, and in a costume that's just unfair. That's a personal view, but we felt an obligation to ensure that it was cumbersome. It was accurate, that was what we strived for."

    4. On Friends, Courteney Cox wore a fat suit and prosthetics in flashbacks as "Fat Monica." The gag has been criticized as "incredibly lazy" and called out for promoting harmful stereotypes.

    monica in a fat sui leaning against a wall

    In 2020, she told Ellen DeGeneres, "I loved playing overweight Monica because I felt so free. I could dance, like, just sit up and dance and have no problem at all. And I did love it. Those are really good episodes."

    5. In 2016, Zoë Saldaña wore a prosthetic nose and skin-darkening makeup to play Nina Simone in the unauthorized biopic Nina.

    closeup of her wearing a headwrap and large earrings

    When rumors of Zoe's casting began circulating, Nina's daughter, Simone Kelly, released a statement on the singer's official Facebook page, which said, "My mother was raised at a time when she was told her nose was too wide, her skin was too dark. Appearance-wise, this is not the best choice."

    During a 2020 Instagram Live, Zoe apologized. She said, "I should've never played Nina. I should've done everything in my power — with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless — I should've tried everything in my power to cast a Black woman to play an exceptionally perfect Black woman. I thought back then that I had the permission because I was a Black woman. And I am. But it was Nina Simone. And Nina had a life, and she had a journey, that should've been, and should be, honored to the most specific detail because she was a specifically detailed individual — about her voice, and her opinions, and her views, her music, and her art. And she was so honest, so she deserved better."

    6. When fans discovered that Chris Sullivan wore a fat suit to play Toby on This Is Us in 2017, many expressed their disappointment. When he mentioned the suit on The Real, he joked, "Something on television is a lie?"

    closeup of his character

    A few months later, he told People Now, "You know, there are different requirements for an actor for different roles,” he says. “As you'll find in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, I'm not actually a space alien. As you'll find for Milo Ventimiglia, he's not actually a father. And I think that if people actually had a problem with the way that I was representing this character, or had a problem with the integrity of the character, or the way I was treating this character, then I would really like to have a conversation...I can understand that it's shocking, and that it might be a little hard to understand. But it's also a logistical thing. You have to understand that this show jumps back and forth through time, and Toby wasn't always this size, and who knows, maybe they need me to look this way at one point. Maybe we change the size of him. There's some stagecraft involved."

    7. In 2021, Sarah Paulson faced criticism for wearing a fat suit to play Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story. She reportedly gained weight for the role and wore padding.

    her character in a suit

    She told the LA Times, "It's very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses. There's a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one. I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. But that entire responsibility, I don't think, falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably — and I’m talking about from the inside out — the challenge of a lifetime...I also know it's a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn't have. Should I have known? Abso-fucking-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn't make the same choice going forward."

    8. When Renée Zellweger played Pam Hupp in the true crime miniseries The Thing About Pam, she also faced criticism for wearing body and facial prosthetics.

    closeup of her character as she walks outside

    She told Entertainment Tonight, "The idea is to be accurate, the idea is accuracy. I think, especially in the case of telling this story, it was really important to as closely resemble Pam Hupp as we possibly could, because she seems so familiar, she seems like someone that we recognize, and we know. In order for you to better understand how possible it might be that people would project onto her who they are sure that she might be or what kind of person she might, it just seemed really important that we got as close to that as we could."

    9. When Gwyneth Paltrow played Rosemary in Shallow Hal in 2001, she wore a fat suit and prosethetics, and she had a body double. In 2020, she told Netflix that the widely criticized movie was a "disaster."

    closeup of her in a fat suit

    In 2001, she told W Magazine, "The first day I tried [the fat suit] on, I was in the Tribeca Grand [hotel in New York City], and I walked through the lobby. It was so sad; it was so disturbing. No one would make eye contact with me because I was obese. I was wearing this black shirt with big snowmen on it. For some reason...the clothes they make for women that are overweight are horrible. I felt humiliated because people were really dismissive."

    In 2023, Ivy Snitzer, who was Gwyneth's body double, told the Guardian that she was made to "feel really comfortable" by the cast and crew, but "it didn't occur to [her] that the film would be seen by millions of people."

    She said, "It was like the worst parts about being fat were magnified. And no one was telling me I was funny..." She "got really scared" by the responses to her promo interviews, which ranged from someone sending her diet pills to someone sending her love letters. Two years after the movie came out, Ivy was "technically starving to death" after a complication with her gastric band surgery. 

    She said, "I love that [the movie is] a cool thing I did one time. It didn't make me feel bad about myself. Until you know, other people started telling me I probably should have felt bad about myself."

    10. In the 1994 Saturday Night Live sketch "Blossom," Melanie Hutsell wore a prosthetic nose to parody Mayim Bialik's titular role in the sitcom. She later said she was "absolutely horrified" that they wanted her to wear it and that she "knew it was wrong."

    closeup of her with a larger nose

    In 2023, she told Entertainment Weekly, "I remember so clearly that when I expressed that I did not want to wear the prosthetic nose for the sketch, I was told if I refused, I would be fired. And keep in mind, many of the people who had a hand in creating the sketch were Jewish. Although I had and have always had a strong moral compass, I didn't have the strength to refuse to do the sketch after I was told I would be fired...If I could go back and change history, I would have refused to wear the prosthetic nose and taken the risk of losing my job...The whole situation haunted me for years, but thankfully I had an opportunity at an audition about 10 years after the fact to look Mayim in the eye and apologize for what I did, to which she responded, 'I release you!' I took that to mean that she accepted my apology, and that meant more to me than she will ever know."

    Responding on Instagram, Mayim said, "Thank you Melanie Hutsell for this — I did not intend to disparage you or SNL, and I really appreciate your thoughtfulness around this! It made for an interesting essay (which I was asked to write many months ago on the topic of antisemitism) and with everything going on in the world, I’m virtually hugging you and appreciate you very much!"

    11. And finally, to play Ms. Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical, in 2023, Emma Thompson wore a fat suit, which was called out for being a "dehumanizing punchline."

    her in a military uniform over a fat suit

    Commenting on the trailer on Good Morning Britain, Queen MoJo said, "When you're plus-sized, there is a beauty to that. When you walk into a room and carry that weight, there is an energy that sometimes actors can't bring to that. That needs to be highlighted, if there was someone that was perhaps less able-bodied or have a different gender to us, we represent those on screen. Why are fat people's bodies not as important to do that?"