Lola VFX Takes Decades Off Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

For years, beauty work ‘ removing wrinkles, blemishes and giving a glow
to the skin – has been common in music videos. Less drastic beauty work
has recently become more common in movies to make actors appear more
vibrant and attractive. But visual effects company Lola took this to
new heights on X-Men: The Last Stand by making
actors Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart appear 25 years younger.
“On music videos, the beauty work is just a blurred grain that gives
you that porcelain, perfect skin, Britney Spears look that’s been done
for years," explains Edson Williams, visual effects supervisor/co-owner
of Lola. “But on feature films, they want to maintain the texture of
the skin so it’s a bit trickier to keep the texture while trying to
make it look younger.”
But the X-Men required no ordinary beauty makeover but more like major
plastic surgery. In fact Lola did consult with two different plastic
“That was extremely helpful because they are very specific about what
needs to be fixed and come at it from a very scientific point-of-view.
Our work probably got 30 percent better after consulting with them.
After working with them we added one of them to our staff as a
After doing tests reassuring the production that they would be able to
make the actors appear decades younger, Williams showed up on set the
day they were shooting the ‘younger’ scenes.
“We’d asked them to do very light makeup on the actors so we didn’t
have to deal with them looking pan-caked,” recalls Williams, “and also
to have McKellen’s hair darkened because hair is very challenging. But
the hair people said McKellan didn’t want his hair dyed and they just
started shooting without it. So that was another thing we had to
So how did they make them look younger without just blurring out the wrinkles?
“Essentially we did two things: we manipulated the lighting and the
bone structure. First we stripped away all the original lighting,
removed all the shadows on their faces and then rebuilt the lighting.
That basically removed the wrinkles.”
But the effects of aging are a lot more than wrinkles.
“As you age you start to droop. Your nose starts to dip, your ears get
a little bigger. Your top lip becomes thinner, your eyelids starts to
droop. So the second thing we did was using mesh warpers in Discreet
Inferno we literally moved the bone structure and tissue mass. We did
some 3D models for lighting reference but other than that it was a
2-and-a-half D solution. We did 3D tracking because the actors’ heads
move or there is a camera move and we had to track our digital
band-aids. Boujou was used for some of the 3D tracking and Maya as