Warning: minor spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are ahead!
Kurt Russell spent the majority of his time as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 looking like his usual self, complete with glorious beard. However, out first glimpse of the character in the movie came in the flashback set in 1980, where he was courting Meredith Quill on Earth. Seeing Russell convincingly look just like he did in the 1980s was a tremendous feat, and the actor said that this was "90%" done through makeup. However, director James Gunn has revealed that there was still quite a bit of digital work done to Russell's face to make him look like he was about to start shooting Escape from New York. Gunn explained:
A company named Lola did the effects, and they did an incredible job. First we film every scene with Kurt. A young actor, Aaron Schwartz - who has a lot of similar facial features to Kurt - watches everything he does. He then goes in and mimics exactly Kurt's actions. We then take Kurt's acting and general face and body and place Aaron's skin onto him. It is a long, painstaking process that took many, many months to accomplish.
After posting a Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 behind-the-scenes look to his Facebook page of how one of Zoe Saldana's scenes was shot, James Gunn responded to some fans in the comments section. One person asked for a behind-the-scenes video of Ego's road trip with Meredith, and Gunn provided the above explanation for how the effects were handled in that sequence. While Kurt Russell's makeup no doubt helped with making his youthful transformation possible, it was Lola's digital work and having actor Aaron Schwartz around during principal photography that perfected the process.
This isn't the first time Marvel has de-aged one of their actors. Michael Douglas almost looked exactly like he did in Wall Street in the Ant-Man flashback where Hank Pym confronted his S.H.I.E.L.D. superiors, while Robert Downey Jr. was turned into his early '90s self in the Captain America: Civil War scene where Tony Stark spoke to his parents for the last time. However, those were primarily accomplished through digital movie-making magic, whereas with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, there seems to be a closer split between the visual effects and the makeup. That said, despite what Russell's insistence, there's only so much that makeup can do, so it's fortunate we live in an age where these techniques are not only readily available to blockbuster filmmakers, but the end results look so accurate.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now playing in theaters, and be sure to browse through our 2017 movie guide to find out when this summer's other eagerly anticipated blockbusters are arriving.