Inspiring drama, Wonder, tugged at the heartstrings of movie-goers in 2017 with its tale of a 10-year-old boy afflicted by the facially disfiguring disease, Treacher Collins Syndrome. The film’s central character, Auggie Pullman, was played by 10 year-old Jacob Tremblay. And to play the part, the child actor had to go through an extraordinary transformation made possible by cutting-edge prosthetics.
Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R. J. Palacio, the movie follows the trials and tribulations of the young Pullman as he starts at school. Previously, he’d been educated at home, so going to a mainstream elementary with his severe disfigurement has its problems. These include Pullman being both excluded and bullied because he’s different. However, the film ends on a high note with the youngster winning a school award and the hearts of his peers.
In order to play the role of Auggie Pullman, Tremblay had to spend a grueling two hours in makeup every day. Describing the experience to ABC News in 2017, Tremblay recalled, “They had a neck piece, a face piece connected to a mechanism to make my eyes droop, contact lenses, dentures and a wig. Wearing the prosthetic helped me to become the character.”
The sheer skill and hard work required to get the prosthetics and makeup right were recognized with a fistful of awards nomination. One of the makeup team, Arjen Tuiten, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hair. While there was another nomination from the British Academy Film Awards for Best Makeup and Hair for Tuiten and two of his colleagues.
Tremblay himself was in no doubt about the crucial part makeup and prosthetics played in the way he approached the role. Paying tribute to the technicians who worked with him, he wrote on Twitter, “I could have never been able to portray Auggie without the incredible vision, talent & patience of my friends Arjen Tuiten, Robert Pandini & Michael Nickiforek!” And you only have to compare photos of Tremblay with and without the prosthetics to appreciate the phenomenal metamorphosis that the young actor went through.