Famous Fake Teeth That You Didn't Know Were Used in Classic Films
Hollywood is big on prosthetics. It’s not all about camera trickery and CGI. Modern filmmakers still look to prosthetics whenever they want to transform an actor’s appearance, adding plastic, silicone, and copious amounts of makeup to make A-listers completely unrecognizable.
Gone are the days when they just grabbed some plastic and comically oversized teeth and then hoped that the grainy pixels would do the rest of the work. Prosthetics and makeup are big business in modern filmmaking, and in this guide, we’ll look at some of the biggest silver screen transformations that were made possible by dentures.
Charlize Theron in Monster
Charlize Theron is one of the most beautiful women in the world. When she was slated to take the starring role in Monster, playing the infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos, few thought she could pull it off.
One of the makeup artists tasked with transforming Theron into the convicted murderer initially thought that “Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos was a bit of a stretch.” But he soon changed his mind when he realized how dedicated the South African-born actress was.
Theron gained 30 lbs. for the role and underwent some extensive hairstyling to make her golden hair dry and frizzy, giving it the appearance not of A-list style but hair that was split, dry, unwashed, and unkempt. The fact that she could have worn a wig is further testament to just how dedicated she was, as she wanted it to be authentic.
Her eyebrows were shaved and bleached, with the makeup artist working to creating brows that arched into an expression of constant displeasure, bordering on anger.
They hand-painted and airbrushed her skin to make it look broken and damaged, and they finished everything off with dentures.
The dentures were prepared a month in advance, as the production team had to give Theron time to get comfortable. She needed to wear them as if they were her own and to talk freely.
As any denture wearer will tell you, those first few days can be uncomfortable and weird. The teeth don’t feel like they are yours and you’re constantly fighting the fear that they’re going to fall out. They also change your voice and even how you smile, and so those extra weeks were enough for Theron to get acclimatized.
The teeth needed to be thin enough to slip over her real teeth, but they also had to stand out and look decidedly different to her real teeth. A lot of care and attention went into making the teeth look perfect, and the end result was worth it.
Theron won an Academy Award for her role, and in doing so she cemented herself as one of the best and most committed actresses of her generation.
Not only did Charlize Theron look spookily like the real Aileen Wuornos, but it’s hard to imagine that she’s hiding underneath that scowl, showing you just how powerful the combination of a skilled makeup artist and a great actor can be.
Rami Malek is another actor whose prosthetic teeth helped him to win an Oscar.
The American actor player Freddie Mercury in the 2018 biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. He perfectly mimicked the legendary rock star in every way, right down to his overbite, which was accomplished via an upper denture.
Freddy is said to have been embarrassed by his overbite throughout his life, but in the script of the aforementioned film, his fictional counterpart suggests that it gave him extra space in his mouth and afforded him a singing voice with more range.
The overbite was actually caused by four extra teeth in his upper jaw. Known as supernumerary teeth, they pushed the other teeth forward and created the iconic overbite.
It may have made it difficult for him to eat and caused him other problems, as well. However, the fact that it could have been fixed with some expensive dentistry suggests that he either wasn’t as embarrassed as claimed, or he really believed that it helped his voice. In any case, it’s an iconic look from a much-loved music legend and it was one that Malek mimicked perfectly in the aforementioned film.
Austin Powers and Bad British Teeth
If you run a Google search for “countries with the best teeth”, the United Kingdom is usually in the top ten. It has a free health service that provides struggling citizens with free dental care and ensures that it’s available at an affordable and fixed cost to everyone else. It also has some of the best dental schools in the world, as well as highly skilled technicians from across Europe and Asia.
But despite all of this, one of the most prevailing stereotypes is that Brits have terrible teeth. Ironically, it’s a stereotype perpetuated by a Brit living in Los Angeles, albeit inadvertently.
Gary Archer is a British-born, LA-based dental technician that often answers Hollywood’s call for prosthetics. He has worked on some of the biggest films and most iconic dentures in history, including the famous teeth from Mrs. Doubtfire, best remembered for the “seize the teeth” scene.
He also created the yellowed and wonky teeth worn by Austin Powers.
Archer spoke about his work for Little White Lies, in which he recalls Mike Myers asking him for “really bad 1960s British teeth”. He said that he modeled the teeth on a few people that he used to drink with down the pub, and after seeing the teeth, Myers fell in love with them.
As a result, a generation of Americans have set the benchmark for British teeth based on a fictional denture model by a few Londoners. But the British seem to take it in good jest, and everyone loves Austin Powers, so there’s no harm done!
Incidentally, Archer seems to make a living from designing teeth for Hollywood productions, and he has produced some amazing works of dental art over the years. In addition to Austin Powers and Mrs. Doubtfire, he also designed veneers for Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street, gold grills for James Franco in Spring Breakers, and fangs for most of the cast of Interview with the Vampire.
He states that his work on Nixon, where he created teeth for Anthony Hopkins, is one of his proudest moments.
We have written about Emma Watson in the past, including her in our guide on celebrities that wear dentures. We noted that she is often included in such lists and that, in doing so, many people now believe she wears dentures.
It’s like playing the telephone game. It all begins with someone clearly stating that Emma Watson wore dentures just for her role in the film, and then the idea is copied and elaborated upon, with some news sites getting their info mixed up and others just outright lying about everything.
After the information is passed on a number of times, you eventually get people who claim that she is a denture wearer and that she somehow lost all of her adult teeth when she was a preteen.
It didn’t happen. Emma Watson doesn’t wear dentures. However, it’s true that she wore them for the Harry Potter movies, and it underlines one of the problems of working with children during such a critical age.
The Harry Potter films were based on a series of books, one where the characters were described as looking and talking a certain way. But films take a long time to shoot, and if you have multiple films to shoot and kids who aren’t even teenagers yet, you’re going to see a lot of changes, from voices breaking to baby teeth falling out.
In Watson’s case, she began losing her baby teeth during the early shoots and as her character was described as having a big smile and a mouthful of gleaming teeth, it was an issue that had to be fixed.
Dentists created a prosthetic that she could wear to fill in the gaps. That way, Watson could consistently have a big smile and pearly-white teeth, and they wouldn’t have to worry when another one of her baby teeth fell out.
Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Deep sported a mouthful of gold teeth during his famous role as the drunken hero Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. It was another piece of dental mastery and it helped to bring out the character and allow Depp to showcase his method acting talents.
Although it might seem a little farfetched for a drunk and often penniless pirate to have gold teeth, it was actually quite common in dentistry during the Age of Exploration. Gold was stable and malleable, making for the ideal metal. Of course, it was still expensive and there were other options available, so it’s debatable whether or not a pirate like Jack Sparrow would have been fortunate to have so many metal teeth, but it’s certainly not unfeasible.
What’s more, many pirates had really bad teeth back then. Not only didn’t they have very good dental hygiene, but they also had terrible diets. The fact that they were at sea for many weeks and even months at a time exposed them to all kinds of diseases, including scurvy, which was caused by a lack of vitamin C.
Scurvy can have a seriously detrimental effect on the immune system and can also lead to tooth decay and tooth loss. It can be fixed with a regular dose of vitamin C courtesy of some lemons or limes, but it took many hundreds of years of long-distance sailing before they finally realized that.
As an interesting tidbit, the reason Brits are known as “limeys” is that the ships would carry crates of limes around to prevent scurvy. By that time, they had realized what the issue was and as limes were grown throughout the British colonies, they began carrying them around and using them in their grog.
Ironically, those limes didn’t actually do them much good. Initially, they used lemons, which were very potent and packed with vitamin C. But then they switched to limes, which don’t contain as much vitamin C. What’s more, the way that the fruits were processed and stored destroyed much of the vitamin C content.
We like to think that if Captain Jack Sparrow had lost a few of his real teeth to Scurvy or other dietary issues, and he was in dire need of replacements, he probably would have done all he could to get gold teeth. Maybe that’s what Depp and the makeup artists had in mind.
True Blood Vampire Fangs
It’s not just the film industry that has benefit from the introduction of skilled dentistry. The TV industry has also seen a wealth of high-quality prosthetic props and has used these to recreate historical figures and fictional ones.
True Blood is a great example. As part of a new wave of vampire stories, True Blood positioned vampires as a race that live among—and look like—humans. Far from the old, decrepit, and ugly vampires of old legends, they are young-looking and handsome, and so they needed fangs that looked like the real deal.
The fangs in the show actually appear through real teeth, as if popping out. It’s a trick used by many other films and shows and means that the vampires can prepare their teeth as and when they choose, just like a cat’s claws.
But there were no high-tech mechanisms involved here, just simple camera trickery. The actors were filmed in two different shots, one with their real teeth and one with the fake teeth. These shots were then merged together before the sound effects were added, making it look like the fangs suddenly appeared.
Vampire films and TV shows actually seem to provide the industry with a lot of work. After all, if you’re shooting a flick that features dozens of vampires, you’re going to need dozens of dentures.
All teeth created for the film and TV industry, just like the teeth created for individuals, have to be custom made. They need to fit the shape of the wearer’s gums and mouth, and if they are partial dentures, as many fangs seem to be, they also need to fit the shade of their existing teeth.
That’s a lot of work, and it’s probably a big expense, as well.
Toothless Man, Deliverance
Deliverance was one of those rare films that was both brilliant and difficult to watch. It featured a “unique” cast of characters and introduced many phrases to pop culture, ones that are still repeated to this day. One such phrase, “He’s got a real pretty mouth, ain’t he?” was spoken by Herbert Coward, credited in the film as “Toothless Man”.
If you’re expecting us to tell you that this Southern gent really had a mouth full of pearly whites and that the producers just found a really good dentist, prepare to be disappointed. Those were Coward’s real teeth, or rather, his real gums, as he’s best known for missing his front two teeth.
He was actually working as an actor when he lost his front teeth. He had been hired to act as an outlaw in an Old West ghost town when an accident with a prop gun left him “toothless”. Burt Reynolds later appeared in the same amusement park and that’s where he met Coward. Coward was put forward for a role in the film when production began and he got it, earning his first major acting credit.
We’re finishing with Coward because it’s an interesting story but also because it shows you how far the industry has come.
If the film was shot in the 2020s, you imagine that the role of “Toothless Man” would have been performed by a hardened movie actor wearing a set of prosthetics. They may have even adopted a method previously used by Ed Helms in The Hangover and Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber when they removed real crowns to expose the gap underneath and work it into the story.
But for a relatively low-budget film shot in the early 1970s, that just wasn’t an option.
Herbert Coward still seems to be alive at the time of writing, which is great to hear, but he didn’t feature in many productions after Deliverance. His IMDB credits only list a 2007 film called Ghost Town and a brief appearance in the TV show Hillbilly Blood.
Summary: Dentures in Hollywood
When filmmakers need high-quality dentures and other prosthetics, they go to the same dental technicians that your local dentist uses. It might not be the exact same company or technician, but the process is the same. They work to create dentures that feel natural and look a certain way.
In your case, you want something that looks like your real teeth or gives you a Hollywood smile. In the case of makeup artists for Hollywood productions, it’s often about achieving a specific aesthetic, but the tools, methods, and technicians are the same.
It gives you a newfound respect for the people who make your dentures and for the impact they have on the entertainment sector, as well as your dental health!