Everything Patricia Arquette Changed for Her ‘Escape at Dannemora’ Role

Patricia Arquette speaks onstage during the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards. | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

No one who watches Escape at Dannemora can complain about the commitment of the actors. The Showtime limited series, which wrapped up December 30, features three leads who went through various types of transformations for their parts.

With Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano, the changes seem to be mostly in body weight. But many viewers won’t recognize Patricia Arquette right away as Tilly Mitchell, the woman who helped the prisoners escape.

To become Tilly, Arquette also gained her share of weight. However, the show’s makeup artists took Arquette’s look to another level — and did so without the use of prosthetics. The result was a look that could unsettle fans of the Oscar-winning actress. Here’s everything Arquette did to get into character for Escape at Dannemora.

Putting on lbs. the old-fashioned way

Fans of Arquette have seen the actress in roles that called for a more voluptuous character than she played in, say, True Romance (or as a younger woman in Boyhood). On the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, Arquette’s Sally Wheet certainly wasn’t wafer-thin. Yet her interpretation of Tilly Mitchell in Escape at Dannemora called for adding on what Arquette described as “a bunch of weight.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she mentioned going to a nutritionist in search of “a healthy way” to pack on the extra pounds. Apparently, there is no such thing. The nutritionist recommended milkshakes and Arquette made sure to add bread and beer to the diet. That took care of one side of the transformation.

The other (arguably more important) changes to her appearance came courtesy of the makeup department on the job.

Changes to Arquette’s jaw, teeth, eyes, and skin

Patricia Arquette as Tilly in ‘Escape at Dannemora’ | Chris Saunders/Showtime

With the weight added on, the show’s makeup artists, led by Bernadette Mazur, got to work. In a report by Variety, Mazur said her goal was to deaden the natural radiance in Arquette’s appearance and emphasize the character’s state of depression.

To get started, the team dulled Arquette’s skin with freckles, age spots, and the appearance of popped blood vessels. They also figured out a way to make her eyes appear more sunken. But giving Arquette brown contacts was a game-changer. In the Hollywood Reporter, Arquette described talking to David Morse (who plays a prison guard) after she first put in the contacts. Morse was unable to recognize her.

Mazur’s team continued the transformation on the bottom half of Arquette’s face by moving her jaw forward. Then they made false teeth to give her an overbite and added stains on the front teeth for good measure. Finally, they lightened the area under her eyes to make her face look rounder.

In a year of transformations — see: Bale, Christian for Vice  — Arquette’s makeover for Escape at Dannemora still stands out. However, changing Arquette into Tilly did’t require a lot of time. According to Mazur, the process only lasted about an hour. Arquette took it from there.

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