How Ashton Kutcher Became Steve Jobs

The makeup artist behind the transformation explains his process

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Glen Wilson / Open Road Films

During his life, Steve Jobs’ face was as familiar as a movie star’s — even Ashton Kutcher’s.

Of course, Kutcher plays the now mythic Apple founder in the buzz-generating biopic Jobs, in U.S. theaters Aug. 16. And while the actor does share some basic features with the entrepreneurial genius — gender, race, hair color, lankiness — the two don’t immediately spring to mind as doppelgängers. The transformation (most astonishing in the one scene in which Kutcher appears as an older Jobs, the face we most likely best remember) can be credited to Louis Lazzara, head of the movie’s makeup department.

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The transformation starts with research. “A lot of research,” says Lazzara. It used to be that a makeup or costume designer would use reference books to create both specific faces and the appropriate degree of aging, but today the research is facilitated by a tool you’ve probably used: Google’s image search.

But the elements of a face that an untrained person might find useful aren’t the ones Lazzara hunts down. He’s scrutinizing the little things that make a person’s face unique. “I’m looking for the similarities and the differences, and going toward the similarities,” Lazzara says. “Ashton’s nose was going the right way, but the shape was wrong. His eyebrows I had to completely redo.” For the young Jobs, Kutcher’s natural hair was helpfully floppy — and ’70s costumes helped too. (Also, Kutcher’s attention to Jobs’ gait will be immediately obvious to viewers.) For the more recent, grizzled Jobs, Lazzara stuffed that hair into a silicone cap and added a prosthetic nose piece.

Not every makeup element can be used in the movie — there were some fake Jobs teeth, but after rehearsing with them, Kutcher nixed the idea — and not every natural element ends up proving useful. For Jobs’ beard, the makeup team started out by using Kutcher’s facial hair shaved into the style of the time. That plan didn’t last, however, when scenes had to be shot out of chronological order; the actor ultimately shaved off his facial hair and wore a fake beard.

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Even though Kutcher’s face was the one that had to become a well-known other face, he wasn’t the only challenge for the makeup department. Almost every character had extensive makeup, partly because of the long time period spanned by the movie.

“Josh Gad’s beard was the hardest one,” says Lazzara. “It was fake for the whole movie. A fake beard is tough, but as long as you have time, you’re O.K.”