‘Harry Potter’: Voldemort’s Makeup Was Made With a Basic Pantry Ingredient
Aside from the Dementors, few Harry Potter characters struck fear into people like Lorde Voldemort. Seeing his face on-screen from his first appearance to his last as a shriveled remnant of a dark soul was a bit daunting — and intentional.
Ralph Fiennes captivated as Voldemort with his steely glare, pasty skin, and intimidating voice. One of the wizard’s most pronounced facial features is his reptilian nose. To create his frightening look, the movie‘s art masters used a combination of makeup, special effects, prosthetics, and a common household ingredient.
‘Harry Potter’ artists used gelatin to create Voldemort’s upper face
He Who Must Not Be Named went through various physical changes from the beginning of the Harry Potter film series through Deathly Hallows. Ralph Fiennes endured face molds, tattooing, and hours of makeup application to achieve his Voldemort look.
In a Warner Bros. behind-the-scenes clip, it’s noted how accentuated his eye sockets and forehead are in the film. The makeup team used gelatin to create his eyebrow-free forehead as part of his unhuman appearance in Deathly Hallows Part 1.
“We’ve replaced the forehead so that the forehead is actually made of gelatin — basically ordinary household gelatin — which is translucent. But it enables us to cover up his eyebrows because he would not want to shave his own eyebrows off, and it enables us to create more of a socket in the eye,” said Nick Dudman, makeup designer.
Fiennes didn’t want Voldemort nose-less
In a separate Harry Potter featurette, Fiennes shared that the artwork for the films lured him in for the role. Something about Voldemort’s look intrigued him. When it was time for Voldemort to take on a corporeal form in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he and director Mike Newell did not want to see the villain without a nose.
“There were a lot of tense discussions about his look,” said Newell. “To his great credit, David Heyman the producer said, ‘You’ve got to make his face weirder than just a human face, and that’s going to take you doing something with the nose.’ — Which Ralph and I were both vehemently opposed to.”
After seeing some sketches, Fiennes warmed up to the idea of the snake-like nose slits. At first, the production team considered using a prosthetic nose, but it wasn’t practical. It made more sense to transform Fiennes’ face with CGI.
On set, Fiennes terrified a child
While Fiennes’ castmates understood his frightening makeup job turned him into Voldemort, one unsuspecting child didn’t realize it. He once shared a story on The Graham Norton Show about scaring a kid on set. Rocking Voldemort’s bald head, sharp teeth, and menacing eyes, he casually strolled around.
“I passed by the script supervisor’s son — four or five years old,” Fiennes recalled. “I passed by this little child, I just looked at this boy, and he just burst into tears.” He added that he hadn’t worked with prosthetics since the series.
To relive the chills that Voldemort sent down everyone’s spines, stream all eight Harry Potter movies on HBO Max.