How Paul Bettany Got His Extreme ‘Vision’ Look for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’

Gwynne Watkins
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A character poster for Vision, played by Paul Bettany in ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (Disney/Marvel via AP)

Vision, the character played by Paul Bettany in Avengers: Age of Ultron, is an all-powerful android with human features and a decidedly alien skin tone. Unlike Ultron, the evil robot of the title, Vision was created more with traditional makeup and prosthetics instead of computer effects (though some CG was involved as well). In a new feature for Make-Up Artist Magazine, Age of Ultron makeup artists Jeremy Woodhead and Nik Williams explain the process of designing and achieving Vision’s unique look.

Initially, the most difficult part of crafting Vision’s makeup was determining his skin’s exact hue. “The red color was actually the hardest thing to figure out, because we didn’t want him to be a bright scarlet, which would look slightly absurd, so we ended up with a color that’s hard to describe,” Woodhead told the magazine. “In some light, it looked pink and in others, red; it was like a red cabbage or beetroot color, a purple-pinky red.”

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A test shot for Bettany’s Vision makeup shows the special effects tracking dots of his face. (Jay Maidment MVLFFLLC, TM and Marvel via Make-Up Artist Magazine)

On top of that base coat of pinkish-purple, Woodhead and Williams added facial prosthetics — though not as many as they’d initially planned. “Paul has delicate features, so any prosthetics on top would take away from them,” Woodhead explained, “so we just ended up with a prosthetic forehead, back-of-head and neck, leaving the face free, which I painted to match the prosthetic. I also put on the tracking markers so the visual effects people could add digital sculpting to those areas in post-production.” (The digital details, as explained in this article, include the tiny lines on the front part of Vision’s face.)

In order to create facial shapes as streamlined as a computer might design, the artists created their make-up pieces on a computer (using a scan of Bettany’s head), then printed them in clear plastic on a 3-D printer. Woodhead then painted underneath the pieces, rather than on the surface, so that they would appear translucent.

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Jeremy Woodhead does touch-ups on Paul Bettany as Vision (MVLFFLLC, TM and Marvel, via Make-up Artist Magazine)

In the end, applying Bettany’s makeup was a two-hour process. A bald cap and a coat of face paint came first, followed by the prosthetic cowl and facial piece, then more makeup on the face and hands — including, says Woodhead, “a lot of M.A.C. blusher to bring it up to that level of slight iridescence and metallic feel that the prosthetic had.”

While promoting Avengers: Age of Ultron, Bettany — who previously voiced Tony Stark’s computer J.A.R.V.I.S., the least makeup-intensive Marvel role ever — admitted that his demanding Vision makeup regimen made the job challenging. “It was the sitting in it,” he told Business Insider. “The first day was OK, and it wasn’t even the second day really, but the third day in a row and the fourth and the fifth day was … you had to really get kind of Zen about it, and meditate on the line of 1,000 actors behind you that would like to be in your position, you know?“

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An early sculpt of Vision’s prosthetic cowl (Nik Williams, courtesy of Marvel via Make-up Artist Magazine)

However, he also told BBC One that his young daughter loved his superhero look. “At the end of the day when I took [the makeup] off she had the first meltdown I’ve ever seen her have,” Bettany recalled, “and she went, ‘No, I want purple daddy!’”

According to Bettany, Vision will reappear in at least one future Marvel movie. To read the full article at Make-Up Artist Magazine, go here.